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James LaBrie - Static Impulse

James LaBrie
Static Impulse
by Mike Novak at 09 September 2010, 3:09 PM

Taking advantage of some downtime in DREAM THEATER’s schedule, singer James LaBrie has recorded a follow-up to 2005’s “Elements of Persuasion.” Technically, this is LaBrie’s fourth solo album, but this is more a continuation of what was heard on “Elements of Persuasion” as opposed to the prog-lite of the two MULLMUZZLER albums. LaBrie’s diamond in the rough, Marco Sfogli, returns on guitar as does main collaborator Matt Guillory. But then there is also newcomer Peter Wildoer on drums, who has been in about 873 different bands but is probably best known for his work in DARKANE.

The big surprise here is how much growth there has been between “Elements of Persuasion” and “Static Impulse”. Aside from “Crucify,” I felt that a lot of “Elements” was rather laid back, despite the presence of seven-string guitars. The guitars on that album, aside from the solos, seemed to serve more to add texture rather than having actual guitar riffs that add to a song. This left the majority of the songs to be built upon keyboard lines. While “Static Impulse” is far from a “riff-o-rama,” the guitars serve as more of a foundation that the songs are built upon.

Marco Sfogli continues to improve as a guitarist. There was some criticism that on “Elements of Persuasion” he sounded too similar to LaBrie’s bandmate John Petrucci. I also felt this way, and that this went beyond the fact that Sfogli used Petrucci’s guitars to record. However, throughout the album Sfogli displays that he has his own sound. Perhaps his increased presence in the writing process can partially explain this. I think he is a big reason as to why this album is such an improvement.

That being said, a lot of credit must go to Mr. LaBrie himself. I can honestly say without a trace of hyperbole or sarcasm that this is his best vocal performance in his career. Being a successful singer is more than just having a good voice; it is just as important to write good vocal lines to sing to. Perhaps this improvement has to do in part to the superior songwriting, but either way, he sounds more passionate than ever.

The biggest curveball comes from the presence of metalcore vocals, courtesy of Wildoer and possibly Guillory as well. Had these just been used on “Jeckyll or Hyde,” I think that the effect would have been greater. The two vocals styles could have represented the duality described in the song. While this vocal approach that is used on much of the album is not a total disaster, it for the most part adds nothing positive and hurts the effectiveness of some songs as a result. “One More Time” would probably be one of LaBrie’s best songs if it were not for the out-of-place metalcore screams.

Aside from the detriments caused by the screams, there is not much to complain about. I feel the drumming is a step down, I would have loved to hear what John Macaluso could have done if he had stayed in the band. The only clunker song-wise is the closing “Coming Home.”

For the most part, I enjoy a lot of this album more than the past few DREAM THEATER albums. Those who think that DREAM THEATER has become too focused on flashy solos and weird time signatures would most likely find this album a breath of fresh air. I am giving this album a high grade, but if the metalcore vocals had been scaled back a bit, this would have been a candidate for album of the year. Regardless, “Static Impulse” is a major success and comes with high recommendations.

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. One More Time
  2. Jekyll Or Hyde
  3. Mislead
  4. Euphoric
  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
  11. Superstar
  12. Coming Home
Lineup:
James LaBrie - Vocals
Marco Sfogli - Guitars
Ray Riendeau - Bass
Peter Wildoer - Drums, Screams
Matt Guillory - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Inside Out Records
     


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