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James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance CD (album) cover


James LaBrie


Progressive Metal

3.51 | 71 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
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

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |


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