LaBrie, James - Static impulse 3.5/5
1. One more time
2. Jekyll or Hyde
5. Over the edge
6. I need you
7. Who you think I am
8. I tried
9. Just watch me
10. This is war
12. Coming home
When someone says progressive metal, one of the first bands that would come to mind is Dream Theater. The American group has been around since 1986 and have been one of the most consistently good progressive metal bands in the world today, with a massive following across the globe. The lead singer of Dream Theater, Canadian born Mr. James LaBrie, much like band-mates John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess and ex-band mate Derek Sherinian, has enjoyed a solo career outside out the main band. LaBrie started his solo gig back in 1998 as Mulmuzzer, releasing 3 CDs before changing the name of the band to just James LaBrie in 2005. Another CD was released in the same year entitled ‘Elements of persuasion’ and in 2010 LaBrie released his anticipated follow-up, called ‘Static impulse’.
Those expecting LaBrie’s band to continue the typical Dream Theater sound found in ‘Elements of persuasion’ can think again as what you hear on ‘Static impulse’ is fairly different to that of traditional Dream Theater. The change should be welcomed by most as why would we want to hear the Dream Theater frontman going solo just so that he can sound like Dream Theater? What’s the point? You may as well just listen to the main band. Nevertheless, LaBrie has surrounded himself with talented musicians, including keyboardist Matt Guillory, bassist Ray Riendeau, drummer/vocalist Peter Wildoer (Darkane, ex-Time Requiem) and guitarist Marco Sfogli. All musicians are enjoying fruitful careers and have come together well on this release, all from different metal backgrounds, including prog, melodic death metal, and thrash.
The music on LaBrie’s latest CD is much more aggressive-natured than anything on Dream Theater, although the music on Dream Theater’s releases have been getting heavier in recent years. The scorching backing screamo vocals of Peter Wildoer (who also impresses greatly behind the kit) adds an element in which I normally wouldn’t associate with anything James LaBrie is involved in. If you could imagine a cross between recent Dream Theater (with shortened songs), modern melodic metal, and a band to the likeness of say In Flames or Soilwork, then you’d be on the right track to know what ‘Static impulse’ is all about. Confused? Don’t be, as ‘Static impulse’ is a very good CD that contains supreme chunky and crunchy guitar riffling, saturated and precise synths and keys, and a combination of harsh vocals wrapped around LaBrie’s talented, emotional and unique voice. It’s a refreshing change to hear LaBrie in a different environment that doesn’t involve Dream Theater and would impress many metal fans of numerous genres.
The quality of the tracks is the biggest surprise on here; all are quite consistent with varying levels of aggression, melody and heaviness. James LaBrie is sensational on the CD, as he is given more freedom to truly express himself and his soothing vocals. One such example of his exceptional voice is on the somewhat radio-friendly track, the melodic semi-ballad “Euphoric”. While most of the tracks on the release feature Peter Wildoer’s harsh vocals on some level, “Euphoric” is all LaBrie and what one hell of a performance he puts on. The track itself is brilliant, not to mention very catchy, with a memorable and emotional chorus, giving it an atmospheric gothic rock feel thanks to the keyboards.
Another kick-ass track which hangs to the melodic metal side of the field is the rockin’ “Over the edge”. Not overly speedy, this track is guitar driven with chunky riffs and a soulful solo in the middle. However the highlight once again is the mesmerizing vocals of LaBrie. “Mislead” contains rolling drums and double bass, stacks of synths and short low end guitar riffs ala Fear Factory, with Wildoer joining LaBrie during the chorus to add further depth and aggression. It’s another great track that sticks out long after it has finished. Similar to “Mislead” is “I need you”, with another cracking emotional chorus and neck braking guitar riffs and wails. The solo is also a killer and suddenly it has become undoubtedly clear that we’ve got a really catchy and entertaining CD on our hands; and I’ve I’m not careful I could find myself describing each and every track on this CD. Bottom line is – ‘Static impulse’ contains no fillers at all and each track has its own factors, whether it be the melody, the riffs, the keys, the drums or the vocals that makes it so good. Other highlights not already mentioned include “Jekyll or Hyde”, “Just watch me”, “Superstar” and the speedy and aggressive power/progressive opener “One more time”.
While this new modern sound is fairly experimental, it shouldn’t deter any Dream Theater fans from picking this one up and include it as another CD to feature their impressive vocalist. It is definitely a case of re-invention, and all the power and kudos goes to James LaBrie for wanting to break out of the box. Let’s just hope that he continues in this fashion the next time he has some down time from Dream Theater duties. The quality of ‘Static impulse’ was somewhat unexpected and after the CD has stopped spinning for the umpteenth time, I can say that this has been yet another pleasant surprise.
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