CD Reviews

James LaBrie - 'Static Impulse' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     October 20, 2010    
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Fourth studio album by the Dream Theater vocalist.

In the recent down time from Dream Theater while drummer Mike Portnoy was away resurrecting Transatlantic and playing with Avenged Sevenfold, DT vocalist James LaBrie has been busy recording ‘Static Impulse’, his 4th solo album if you count two under the Mullmuzzler moniker, and his first since ‘Elements Of Persuasion’ back in 2005. Yet again his writing partner is ex-Dali’s Dilemma keyboard player Matt Guillory and he’s also retained the services of the excellent Marco Sfogli on guitar, but this time out the bass duties are handled by former Halford man Ray Riendeau and LaBrie’s new drummer is Peter Wildoer. Despite being a new name to me, it’s the Swede Wildoer (of Darkane and Pestillence and formerly of Soilwork and Arch Enemy) who will be the biggest talking point amongst LaBrie’s fans when this album hits the streets, but more of him later. 

‘Static Impulse’ basically picks up where ‘Elements Of Persuasion’ left off, with a cornucopia of tight staccato riffs and jaw-dropping ensemble playing, and LaBrie’s distinctive voice soaring over all on a series of catchy songs, with the great melodies juxtaposed by the heaviness of the music. Maybe this album is heavier than his last release, or maybe it just seems that way because of Wildoer’s involvement, because as well as possessing amazing drumming chops he also possesses a guttural death bark that LaBrie and Guillory have used liberally as a counterpoint to James’ clean delivery. Just to emphasise the fact, Wildoer’s growl is the first voice you hear as the frantic ‘One More Time’ gets the album underway. As LaBrie comes soaring in on the glorious bridge this dark and light effect pretty much sets the scene for at least half of the album. Similarly the ensuing ‘Jeckyl Or Hyde’ and ‘Misled’ are also great songs with LaBrie and Wildoer both executing their parts perfectly, but despite the more extreme parts all the songs here are still very melodic with big choruses and some absolutely killer guitar and keyboard interplay, with Guillory using some very guitar-like sounds that sometimes make it tricky to tell which is which. ‘I Need You’ and ‘This Is War’ are other dual voiced songs, although LaBrie carries most of the former on his own and the chorus is simply gorgeous.

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Some of the other highpoints of this incredibly consistent album are a little less intense and the guttural vocals aren’t needed, particularly the excellent ‘Euphoric’, a very melodic tune that’s not dissimilar to ‘Wither’ from the last Dream Theater album, or the closing ballad ‘Coming Home’ which is built on plaintive piano and a simple vocal line. Similarly ‘Just Watch Me’ really reins in the power on the subtle verse but still explodes into a memorable chorus, but there really aren’t any fillers here and every song has much to recommend it.

The production by LaBrie and Guillory and mix by Jens Bogren (Opeth) are particularly sharp and I have no hesitation in stating that this is not only James LaBrie’s best solo album, but one of the best albums he’s ever been involved with, period. The fact that James LaBrie plays such a relatively small role in Dream Theater’s song writing process isn’t really his fault, so with Mike Portnoy’s recent departure it’ll be interesting to see if he plays a bigger part on the forthcoming album, because on the evidence of this album he’s certainly up to the task.

Phil Ashcroft

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