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James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance CD (album) cover


James LaBrie

Progressive Metal

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4 stars For those who don't know who this guy is, he's basically the lead singer of one of the biggest unheard of band's on the planet. Now, I know that is a paradox, but let me explain. Dream Theater in the prog world are one of the biggest bands in history, but in the mainstream world, they are barely anything. They got nominated for a Grammy last year, and even then people where wondering who these guys where.

The best way I can describe James' solo career is much like Bruce Dickinson's solo career. It is very odd to learn, but yes, these two do have solo careers, even though they are the voices of 2 of the biggest metal bands on the planet. But instead of basically doing what there previous bands are doing, they offer something a little bit different to the table.

I was shocked to read the linear notes of the album and discover that in fact a lot of the songs where not even written by James himself, and instead most of the songs where written by writing partner Matt Guillory. I'm not sure if this is 100% correct, but either way I'm not too phased by it, because it doesn't take away the impact of the material.

Now, musically James has now been able to create a new sound and a staple for himself. The last album "Static Impulse" did flirt with melodic death metal ideas and bringing in death growls from Peter Wildoer did give the album a certain flair, but on this album those ideas have been melded with a bigger focus on songwriting, giving the album a more pop laced feeling. I mean it, the best way to really describe this album is a weird hybrid of Soilwork and One Direction.

The albums lead single "Agony" is one of the main highlights. Whenever this got released, I was so surprised at how much I liked this song. Having not not read the lyrics to the song, I was just enjoying it for the catchy moments, but after getting the album and having a read...yea...pretty dark stuff (it's about domestic abuse by the way).

"Back On The Ground" could easily be a One Direction song. I really mean it, this song is so poppy and catchy that James & Matt could have easily sold this off to Simon Cowell. The guitar sound is surprisingly heavy as hell as well, which does make the song a little bit more enjoyable. A great and diverse vocal performance from James too.

"Destined To Burn" is probably the best lyrical moment on the album. A song about racism...yea sometimes this can either be alright, terrible or just very cheesy ("Ebony & Ivory" comes to mind). It is pulled off very well and has some great riffs and melodies throughout.

"Say You're Still Mine" is also another great pop meets metal collaboration. A brilliant uplifting chorus and total cheese.

I recommend getting the Digipack version because there are two bonus tracks "Unraveling" and "Why", and they are great songs that could have even been on the album and wouldn't affected it in any way.

In conclusion, this is definitely James' strongest solo effort to date. With some of his most memorable tracks and some of the catchiest songs I've heard in metal for a long time, this really is going to challenge a lot of what is to come on the new Dream Theater album. Brilliant album with some timeless classics in my opinion.


Report this review (#1008092)
Posted Monday, July 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars James LaBrie, the voice of the top rated prog-metal band here on Prog Archives, delivers his third solo offering with Impermanent Resonance. It continues LaBrie's tradition of creating music that is more melodic and straight-forward than the intricate and ambitious songwriting of Dream Theater. Moreover, he's worked with the same group of musicians in this solo effort long enough that he's developed a recognizable style. The result is an enjoyable hard-rock experience that features his trademark vocals, very well-sung.

Let's get the Dream Theater comparison out of the way right away: Impermanent Resonance is not a Dream Theater album... not by a long shot. If you read my reviews of DT's recent offerings, you'll see that for me this is a very, very good thing. LaBrie has essentially phoned in his Dream Theater performances over the past half- decade (or longer). His vocals here are powerful, soulful, genuine, and all around superior to anything we've heard him on in Dream Theater, at least since Octavarium. The thing that will strike you most is the melodies and hooks, which LaBrie nails here. If you're DT fanboy and enjoy his singing, you'll love Impermanent Resonance, guaranteed.

Lyrically this is familiar ground for LaBrie. He's singing about F'd up human experiences, often with a glimmer of optimism or defiance hidden amid the gloom.

But what about the rest of the music? Well, it's pretty damn good, actually. Going into the experience knowing that it isn't strictly "prog" music will help your enjoyment though. This is very modern hard-rock/metal, with somewhat more artistic sensibilities than you'll hear when compared to more well-known groups. Don't expect lengthy instrumental passages, dueling keyboard/guitar solos, or crazy time signature changes mid-song. This is a hard-rock album without delusions of grandeur, and it's very good at accomplishing what it's going for.

In general the tone is heavy and aggressive. Songs are short and punchy, not necessarily following the conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus pattern, but still fitting into their 3.5 - 5 minute running times nicely. This gives you a quick dose of a memorable combination of hooks and melodies, then moves you right in to the next one. There are tempo and dynamic changes mixed into the track list, but most of this nuance comes from LaBrie himself. One surprise is the aggressive screams and growls of backing vocalist Guillory, which is a punchy addition. Sfogli's guitars bear special mentioning as well. This is his third collaboration with LaBrie, and at this point his riffing and soloing brings as much to the experience as LaBrie's singing itself. Sfogli is exceptionally competent, creating the tapestry of riffing that accompanies the melodic singing; unfortunately we aren't given enough time to enjoy his soloing more than a few short highlights.

In my mind Impermanent Resonance is a weak "prog" release, but I don't think it's going for an epic metal experience. This is LaBrie's chance to make the music he's interested in making, giving him the opportunity to break with the songwriting mediocrity of recent Dream Theater. That's not to say that the songwriting in this solo album is going to knock your socks off... but it stands on its own strongly, and LaBrie simply sounds like he's having fun singing, which is a welcome feeling.

Recommended for LaBrie fans, of course, for those like me who love classic DT and feel the pangs of heartache at their recent offerings, and for anyone who just needs a good kick in the teeth with some good, clean, heavy rock.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#1474247)
Posted Friday, October 9, 2015 | Review Permalink

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