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James LaBrie - Static Impulse CD (album) cover

STATIC IMPULSE

James LaBrie

Progressive Metal


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3 stars Static Impulse is a collection of 12 powerful melodic metal songs - made more interesting by a very strong vocal delivery from LaBrie and by the unexpected melodic-death-metal / metalcore influences courtesy of drummer Peter Wildoer of Darkane.

The product works well, and is genuinely surprising at first - especially given that is LaBrie we're talking about: 20 seconds into "One More Time" and you actually think you are playing the new In Flames! The musicians are obviously skilled (LaBrie vocals are excellent throughout the album) and the production is very good as well. The melodies in the choruses are strong and will stick in your head, the verses are slightly less interesting but good stuff nonetheless. Having said that ? the pitfall of Static Impulse is the lack of originality in the songwriting (seriously, this is all stuff we've heard already somewherelse - and at times this sounds really too much like In Flames with better clean vocals). Also, there is too much of the same thing here. Note: I am not complaining that Static Impulse is not "progressive" enough ? in fact after a lifetime in prog metal it is actually a good thing that LaBrie shows that he can do other stuff. The fact is that if you pick any of the 12 songs on the album chances are that it will sound exactly the same as the song before it and exactly the same as the song after it (same structure, same pace, same sound, same mood).

Don't get me wrong: this is a very solid piece of work, and there's not a single song on the album that I dislike. At the same time, I also struggle to find songs that stand out or are truly impressive. So, I think 3 stars is a fair rating: good stuff, you'll enjoy playing this ? but I bet it won't last in your playlist for more than one month.

Report this review (#304502)
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really like this album, which is more hard-hitting that one might expect from Dream Theater's frontman. And that's exctly what I like about it. It is essentially less complex progressive metal fused together with Gothenburg melodeath and it works brilliantly.

I really like how the styes go so seamlessly together and there are even growled and harsh screamed vocals on this album (not sung by LaBrie) which work well in conjunction with LaBrie's melodic vocal lines and unique voice. In addition to melodeath and semi-thrashy elements, there are even a couple of, yes, blastbeats in some of the songs.

Tracks like "One More Time", "Jekyll or Hyde", "Mislead", "I Need You" and "Who Do You Think I Am" are very much in the vein of Gothenburg metal with certain progressive elements injected into them, and "This Is War" is, I guess, and all out melodeath track with blastbeats to boot. Brilliant!

"Over the Edge", "I Tried", and "Superstar" are more in the vein of traditional heavy metal, and all are solid tracks.

"Euphoric" is more of a ballad which manages to do what Dead By April failed miserably to do: combine melody and pop sensibility with the mighty gothenburg sound. The Same applies to "Just Watch Me". "Coming Home" is a mellow ballad which, without bursting the cheese-o-meter, is soft and emotional enough to constitute a nice emtional listening experience.

I really like this album, and I am very tempted to just give it five stars. I think it will resonate well with fans of Swedish melodic death metal and American melodic metalcore. Fans of progressive metal, I think, will also appreciate it, and of course Dream Theater fans should have an interest in this release too.

(review originally posted on metalmusicarchives.com and progfreak.com)

Report this review (#323492)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars James Labrie's solo album is a surprisingly heavy album, perhaps heavier than Dream Theater at times, due to very coarse gravelly death metal vocals by Matt, scattered in places. Labrie sings exactly as Dream Theater fans have heard him over the years and he is joined by those death growls in tracks such as Mislead, and One More Time, Jekyll and Hyde. The metal is melodic and fast with the traditional galloping riff, the lead breaks are well executed, and the rhythmic drum patterns are standard metal. It is very standard, each track sounding similar, not as complex or intricate as a Dream Theater album but it allows Labrie to let loose with all guns blazing.

Each track is a raucous blaster until we get to the ballads such as the heartfelt sorrowful Coming Home (not a Scorpions cover). There are some proggy moments, Just Watch Me begins with a beautiful piano intro, then some crunching riffs follow, Labrie sings in his ballad voice, and it builds to an epic chorus; "no promises broken that's for sure, no wishing and hoping I've finally found a cure, this time I'll do things differently, this time I will do it, just watch me." The lead break that follows is very well played, with fast hammering and speed sweeps. Then it settles back to the minimalist piano and finger picking guitar.

Jekyll and Hyde has a proggy instrumental with cool keyboard swirls and blastbeats of metal distortion.

Euphoric begins with quiet guitar and atmospherics on keyboards, Labrie sings gently but there is an ominous lead guitar heard, it builds to a crunching riff and chorus. Labrie sounds excellent, hitting every note, and at times it sounds like Dream Theater, though there are no long songs or any lengthy instrumentals.

The album will grow on you after a few listens but there are no brilliant tracks, nothing really stands out as a classic, and therefore not to the standard of Labrie's other work. Overall I enjoyed the album, it was heavy with some brutal riffs, solid lead breaks, and as far as melodic metal goes it delivered. 3 stars.

Report this review (#418570)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When i first heard of this album, and that it was gonna feature 'growling' i laughed, really, i thought 'well this album is gonna be completly ruined' not that i hate death metal vocals or anything, i love them, just within the right context, but when i heard this album they just felt right, this is a brilliant wee album chocked with 12 highly melodic songs, some progg (ish) and some settle nicely within the 'melodeath' genre which i have to admit im a fan of. The second i heard the intro ONE MORE TIME i was floored, very powerful chorus as does over 80% of these songs, other examples include EUPHORIC, I TRIED and THIS IS WAR, the final track COMING HOME is a beautiful accoustic song and kinda ends the album on a slight downer, but a good downer in the least, La Brie's voice is the most powerful its been in years as well;

One More Time - 10/10 Jekyll Or Hyde - 8/10 Mislead - 8/10 Euphoric - 10/10 Over The Edge - 9/10 I Need You - 8/10 Who You Think I Am - 9/10 I Tried - 10/10 Just Watch Me - 9/10 This Is War - 10/10 Superstar - 8/10 Coming Home - 10/10

CONCLUSION; a solid solid release by the Dream Theater frontman and highly enjoyable

Report this review (#428121)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars James LaBrie's 2005 album Elements of Persuasion showed that when it comes to modern sounding proggy metal, he's a force to be reckoned with. In 2010 LaBrie returned with a new album Static Impulse, this time with a bit different sound arsenal.

Retained from EoP was his writing partner Matt Guillory and the Italian guitar prodigy Marco Sfogli, giving some continuance to the overall sound. Especially Guillory with his guitar-like keyboard solos is as much a part of the sound of LaBrie albums as LaBrie himself. The new boys this time are the Swedish drummer/vocalist Peter Wildoer who along with the drumming also handles the growl vocals (!), and bassist Ray Riendeau.

And what about the music then? Well, 12 tracks of melodic metal, with some prog and death metal thrown in to spice things up. At the same time Static Impulse manages both to follow its predecessor and be different enough. LaBrie's singing is top notch, and Wildoer's growls seem to fit very well into the tapestry, which I really didn't expect. The instrumentation overall is of expected quality, and the stars (like with EoP) are Guillory and Sfogli, creating some very memorable solos.

In the end we are left with 12 quality songs, with strong, good melodies and enough crunch to satisfy us who like metal. It might not be a very complex album, but it's not just any straight metal either. 4 stars.

Report this review (#506792)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Even though I usually spent a lot of time on the computer, I seem to have run out of things to do on here lately, for I actually managed to get all of my day's homework without actually touching my computer or the desk it's sitting on.

No applause, please, just some nice feel good music.

Obviously this record won't be the first on everyone's mind, but in reality, this record reminds me of BMW's X6; it shouldn't work. The car itself is a frankenstein, a sporty SUV trying to look like a coupe. In fact, Mike Portnoy even stated in a "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" interview that he wanted a death metal-esque growl on "A Nightmare To Remember". While I would've loved that instead of Portnoy's "roooaaar"-ing sound, the other members didn't think it worked. I'm guessing the blastbeat at the end (first and only time Portnoy ever did that on a DT recording) was compensation.

Judging from that interview, you'd think LaBrie of all members (maybe Rudess) would be anti-metal. Yet, what do you get once you start up "One More Time"? Screaming, bone- crushing riffs, and a blastbeat at the end (sort of, although it's definitely more pronounced on "Mislead". "Jekyll And Hyde" starts off in similar fashion, almost sounding like a dark power metal group. Yet, even with this sharp change of direction in sound, it, well, sounds...normal. Actually, though. Maybe I'm just used to screaming and death metal growls (not the genre in general), but it kinda makes sense.

Maybe this was just further development in that dark ominous, heavy sound DT had developed since "Train Of Thought" and continued with "Systematic Chaos" and BC&SL. In fact, there are many elements from LaBrie's debut solo record (3rd if you're counting the Mullmuzzler albums) that foreshadow a heavier approach, especially "Crucify" (containing one of the most epic guitar solos ever).

"Mislead" almost definitely sounds like something Divinefire would create. It's fast in that power metal aspect, yet it contains that dark, ominous, symphonic element that provides depth and atmosphere to an otherwise heavy and brutal (somewhat) track, yet LaBrie sounds at home here (although I think the screaming here is overdone), which is quite unusual since LaBrie is really one of the more anti-metal vocalists you'll ever see. I always considered him as the "Geddy Lee" of prog metal, simply because he's infamous for his falsetto and an amazing voice (at least for prog metal, because he really doesn't pull off most cover songs well at all).

Even though you don't hear it immediately, Marco Sfogli is really good. You can definitely hear on "Crucify", but he continues to make an impact on this album (is it me, or does LaBrie really like to work with guitar masterminds?). Sfogli managed to make enough noise working on LaBrie's solo work that he even had enough momentum to release a solo record of his own (and a pretty damn good one at that).

Then I get to Euphoric. This seems completely foreign to me, as LaBrie goes for an alternative metal approach right from the start. No long intro, no complex rhythms or time signatures, really nothing of interest for a prog metal fan. Yet, it still seems to work, but why? Well, LaBrie isn't unknown to this genre as he has recorded similar songs (most recently "Wither" on "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". The heavy approach is there, but Matt Guillory saves the day with his keys, which almost remind me of Kevin Moore's playing style (which fits for this song, as it's a light string midi sound, quiet, almost haunting throughout the entire track). What in most cases would turn into a disaster has managed to be diverted by LaBrie himself, which is why he's one of my favorite prog vocalists of all time.

"Over The Edge" is another sharp blade of metallic force that once again comes equipped with clever and fantastic lyrical performances by LaBrie. It's another heavy song that, while it is short like just about all his other stuff, imstrumental performances are still abound, highlighted by Sfogli once again. Same can be said for "I Need You" which once again starts out in a modern power metal fashion, this time resembling more like Masterplan, it just seems like old hat this time around, so it's really not a favorite of mine, especially the sporadic screaming and stop-and-start drum patterns (although the chorus is fabulous as always).

"Who You Think I Am" is a quite heavier track than normal, not necessarily more metal. It really sounds like it should be on "Elements Of Persuasion", as that record is more of that heavier, ominous sounding metal, while this record is straight up metalcore, alternative, catchy lyrics, catchy choruses and, in my opinion, more accessible. Even though both records are similar, Sfogli seems to have more showtime on "Elements" even though he still shines on here. Peter Wildoer actually gets some action on "Who You Think I Am", a little breakdown of complex rhythms and spastic punk, although I prefered Mike Mangini who lit up on "Elements" (which could make perfect sense on why he replaced Mike Portnoy for DT's drummer. Or, maybe the band just likes drummers named "Mike".)

Guess I'll never get an opportunity to audition for Dream Theater now. :(

Now, even though LaBrie will forever be known as a progressive metal singer, "Static Impulse" broadens the genre, whereas "Elements" still maintained a significant element of prog metal in there. Here, the fiercesome fury of metalcore is unleashed on "This Is Was" (with another blastbeat by Wildoer) and "Superstar", while LaBrie's softer side comes out on "Coming Home" and "Just Watch Me", while a third side, evidence of alternative metal, is creeping in on songs like "I Tried".

All in all, though, LaBrie hasn't lost a beat in almost twenty years, and the high notes he hits on "This Is War" is almost positive evidence that's still healthy enough to make more music, and easily explains why he, like the rest of Dream Theater (except Portnoy), wanted to continue making music and head to the studio again. Now, while this record is not exactly "Six Degrees Of Separation", this record defines LaBrie as one of the best singers in the music business today.

Move over, Kesha. Disco balls and cocaine can't kill a psychotic madman like James LaBrie.

Report this review (#517676)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2011 | Review Permalink

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