Album Reviews

Issue 2013-047: James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance - Round Table Review

Round Table Review

James LaBrie

James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance
James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance
Country of Origin:Canada
Record Label:InsideOut Music
Catalogue #:0IO01155
Year of Release:2013
Info:James LaBrie
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Agony (4:22), Undertow (4:02), Slight of Hand (5:21), Back on the Ground (4:05), I Got You (3:46), Holding On (4:53), Lost in the Fire (3:52), Letting Go (4:17), Destined to Burn (4:00), Say You're Still Mine (3:32), Amnesia (3:43), I Will Not Break (3:52)

Gert Hulshof's Review

I believe that no introduction is necessary for a singer like James LaBrie, he has had a career within rock music that one could get jealous of. So, enough introductions.

I'll tell all of you up front, Metal is not really my cup of tea anymore. The absolute abundant availability of the genre and the lack of interest amongst recording companies in stopping all the mediocre and bad releases, and to get more for my money, has made me turn my back to (prog) metal.

At the recent Night Of The Prog festival I had a chat with a few of my DPRP mates about metal, concerning Opeth really, which in turn made me volunteer for one of the openings in our RTR of this new Labrie album.

So here it goes.

I have been surprised by the absolutely tight playing and outstanding compositions on Impermanent Resonance. The album is sheer entertainment from the first note until the last note is played. Sometimes the songs are so clichéd Metal though that even on first listen I would have been able to sing along with a lot of it if I'd have had the lyrics.

If LaBrie had not been part of Dream Theater and the other players did not have their own obligations, I bet the chances are high that they would form a new band.

I am not a Metalhead anymore and after multiple listening sessions I can honestly say that they haven't won me over, and I can tell you the exact reason too: Peter Wildoers screams. I mean really, that is a waste in an otherwise good song. Sorry guys, I do not like that but I know lots of others do like the screaming. For those guys it is probably the "cream of the crop". Some songs ultimately have catchy melody lines and great Matt Guillory/James LaBrie writing.

Seriously guys, with Back on the Ground you have a straight hit on your hands if it gets enough airplay. Get it out there, it is about time great rock hits the charts again. Telling you about the hit potential also says a little about where I position Impermanent Resonance; quite near to mainstream metal.

Still, after all this I do admit that the music is absolutely worthwhile listening, enjoyable and entertaining. Well done for that and hats off. Despite not being a metalhead I'd still like to recommend this album to everyone, give it a try and you may be convinced as it is absolutely solid and of consistent quality.

Edwin Roosjen's Review

Three years ago James LaBrie surprised me and blew me away with the album Static Impulse. Now I am listening to his third solo album, Impermanent Resonance. Same musicians, same songwriters, same kind of artwork, same amount of numbers, same old same old. An easy conclusion is that the new album sounds a lot like Static Impulse.

Listening to James LaBrie first thoughts always go to Dream Theater. He is the face and voice of DT but his solo albums differ enough and I have heard other bands sounding a lot more like Dream Theater than James LaBrie does. In comparison the compositions here are easier but still complex enough to blow a lot of other bands away. More aggression and less trickery beyond normal which is a blessing for me by the way.

The first track, Agony, starts in a similar way to the previous album; an aggressive start and when you expect the voice of James LaBrie the grunting voice of drummer Peter Wildoer kicks in. Wildoer's grunts and screams are a less dominant feature on this new album but still present enough to probably lose some listeners who just do not like that kind of singing. The grunts are used more as a method to emphasize the aggression in the choruses.

The keyboards are a bit more dominant on the . Not as heavy as on the previous album and on Holding On they even sound a bit ambient. Marco Sfogli again does a brilliant job on the guitar, with heavy riffs and fast flying solos he puts in a terriffic performance. He sounds a lot heavier with LaBrie than on his solo album, There's Hope.

So, what will the verdict be? Impermanent Resonance sounds a lot like Static Impulse and if you love that album then Impermanent Resonance is a must have, simple as that. If you thought that Static Impulse was average than you will probably not find anything of interest on this new one. The albums are not the sort that you have to learn to love, the music of James LaBrie either grabs you or it does not. Static Impulse was my album of 2010 and is in my opinion still the better album by LaBrie but Impermanent Resonance will still be high on my list for 2013.

Brendan Bowen's Review

Keeping a solid footing in "low B", James LaBrie's newest album, Impermanent Resonance is dominated by a Nu-metal sound where the mix is overly refined with a reliance on repeating and echoing vocal phrases interspersed with growls setting the stage. My particular tastes do not tend to go for this style of metal as they did with his 2005 outing Elements of Persuasion.

This album continues from the Static Impulse train of thought where it seems to try appealing to a younger crowd than the bulk of Dream Theater fans. I expect LaBrie will succeed in this endeavour without paying any favours to those hoping for something more resonant with DT. This album does not cross over into prog very well and the growling backing vocals may even instead serve to alienate.

The recordings come off very smoothly and James' vocal delivery is superb. The audio quality is tops and the mix is well balanced. I can't appreciate the writing for the drippy pop-ish love song phraseology of the oft-repeating words in tracks such as Back On The Ground and Holding On and the growls come across as a bit out of place. These devices seem to attempt to serve to build a memorable hook line that for me does not get captured here. It does serve to create a more melodic album but ultimately doesn't fit well with my ears.

I have to mention the great quality in the layering of the instrumentation for this album. The way that the keys are interspersed into the busy guitar and thick drumming functions to stage a well-rounded and full sound. This makes an overall heavy album feel that much more grandiose. Also the rhythmical tenacity this band shows is enjoyable and definitely superior to many of their contemporaries in this genre. With that said, perhaps too much attention was placed on the tight, perfectly delivered rhythmic elements and not so much to chord structure, harmonies and counterpoint. This lack of balance produced short-term exhilaration, but no long lasting awe.

To conclude, this work naturally follows the formula of Static Impulse since it is the same line-up, but it just doesn't stack up to the much more prog-oriented and excellent effort of Elements of Persuasion. The voice of James LaBrie is still centre stage, but I need more than a familiar voice and some hooks to give a whole-hearted recommendation. Too much time spent in the same drop key, this is quality for Nu-metal fans and would likely rank quite high in another forum, but not for me, not here.

Tushar Menon's Review

You can read Tushar's interview with James and Matt here.

An objective opinion of a piece of music is also practically impossible. There is a useful analogy from the philosophy of science (stay with me). Known as the Duhem-Quine thesis, it states that a theory is extremely difficult to falsify on its own because experimental verification relies on background assumptions like, among other things, the mechanics of the measuring instruments and even the validity of mathematics. As such, an objective falsification is practically impossible. The best we can do is falsify an amalgam of theory and assumption.

And this is where we finally get to James LaBrie's new solo album, Impermanent Resonance. A commendation of the album brings with it an implicit approval of contentious issues regarding LaBrie's music - the tone of his voice, his decision to move deeper into generic territory and his decision to split vocal duties with Peter Wildoer. Incidentally, all of these issues were raised in the discussion of LaBrie's previous offering, Static Impulse, relative to which the merits and demerits of this album will certainly be expressed.

Once the background assumptions are identified and addressed, one can get down to business and state an opinion. In the case of Impermanent Resonance, this is quite simple. This is an extremely well written, beautifully performed and endlessly enjoyable album. It is proof that the tag 'generic' need not be a condemnation of the creative flair of an album. I have long been a supporter of the theory that constraints are catalysts for creativity and this album exemplifies that idea.

Impermanent Resonance is certainly as heavy as its predecessor, and the refinements are subtle. Wildoer's vocals, although still present, are less frequent, allowing for a genuinely interesting interplay with LaBrie's vocals this time round. There is a continuation of the melodic chorus structure from Static Impulse, with even better melodies this time. There are fewer guitar-keyboard unisons and the solos are shorter but the guitar in general does seem to have an even more important position on this album. Peter Wildoer's drumming is exquisite, as on the last album, but the focus this time is unmistakably on LaBrie's vocals.

After listening to Impermanent Resonance, one can see Static Impulse as a stepping-stone, an experiment in genre which culminated in a refinement. The result is an interesting re-imagination of the two genres it borrows most heavily from - pop and extreme metal. In terms of intent, though not sound, the album brings to mind Devin Townsend's Addicted! Whereas that was essentially an extreme metal album seen through the lens of Townsend's pop sensibilities, Impermanent Resonance feels like the reverse - a pop album expressed in the vocabulary of extreme metal. Hardly surprising, considering Matt Guillory's passion for pop music along with his foundations in metal. LaBrie and Guillory's pop credentials are most evident on songs like Back on the Ground and Say You're Still Mine, either one of which could have been a pop hit with a few minor changes. These songs do not consist merely of crude juxtapositions of pop melodies and metal riffs, rather they are elaborately constructed pieces every part of which justifies its place within the song.

One has to applaud LaBrie and Guillory's vision in creating an album like this. There is a palpable amount of thought and care in every song on this album. Perhaps its most intelligent trait is that is a focused, musically cogent album in a way that a Dream Theater album could never be, simply because diversity is one of Dream Theater's greatest strengths.

I think very highly of this album, easily my favourite of LaBrie's solo endeavours. It is intelligent, ambitious and well crafted.

John Wenlock-Smith's Review

James LaBrie is best known to most as the lead singer of prog metal band Dream Theater and this CD is his third solo release outside of that band, although James has been involved with many other projects over the years, Fates Warning and Shadow Gallery to name but two.

His solo work differs from the Dream Theater by sounding more like a European metal album, Swedish in tone, yet with a whole slew of melody and harmony rather than simply sheer bombast. It's a recipe that works surprising well; the riffs are crunchy, the sound is dense and tight and above it all soars the voice of Mr. LaBrie.

The songs are shorter and more concise than those of Dream Theater and follow a different style and approach but there are some seriously great songs on this album, Undertow and Lost in the Fire being especially fine. There is a degree of the death metal type vocal growl, a trait that I'm not overly keen on but it doesn't ruin things entirely for me and this is an album that is best enjoyed in a single sitting as taken together it presents a very good sonic experience.

I do have to say that whilst this is a solid modern day metal album there is not that much for prog rock fans to dwell on due to the fact that most songs run at less than five minutes in duration and are in a standard time signature. However that said there are some great instrumental parts on here and overall it is a very strong album indeed. Dream Theater fans will probably appreciate this the most but it is not a patch on his work with that band by any stretch.

What this album does do is to build these songs well moving from a gentle beginning to a much heavier end point, a good example of this is Say You're Still Mine which is a fabulous song by any standards with its balance of light and shade together with softer and heavier elements it really shines as a very emotive piece as well.

The album kicks off in fine style with Agony which sets the course for the album. We're not talking thrash metal here, rather the Gothenburg / Swedish type of sound. There is a double bass drum type attack on some songs but this is not Metallica or the like.

As well as those tracks listed above, another worthy of note is Amnesia.

This is the first solo album I've heard from James LaBrie and whilst not overtly prog per se it is certainly a fine album and I'm more than happy to give this 7 out of 10 and recommend it to fans of the heavier end of prog like Dream Theater, Threshold and their ilk.


GERT HULSHOF : 8 out of 10
EDWIN ROOSJEN : 8.5 out of 10
BRENDAN BOWEN : 6 out of 10
TUSHAR MENON : 9 out of 10
JOHN WENLOCK-SMITH : 7 out of 10

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Published 1st August 2013
Album Reviews