JAMES LABRIE
"Impermanent Resonance"

(InsideOut Music)

01. Agony
02. Undertow
03. Slight Of Hand
04. Back On The Ground
05. I Got You
06. Holding On
07. Lost In The Fire
08. Letting Go
09. Destined To Burn
10. Say You're Still Mine
11. Amnesia
12. I Will Not Break

RATING: 8/10

For his latest solo project, DREAM THEATER vocalist James LaBrie retains his "Static Impulse" lineup along with former SOILWORK guitarist Peter Wichers, who drops in for some songwriting and guitar touches. Coming in advance of DREAM THEATER's self-titled new record, "Impermanent Resonance" may become an afterthought to many people, but what's notable about LaBrie's solo work is its glaring simplicity in comparison to his alma mater.

Perhaps LaBrie utilizes his solo works to allay the pressures of fronting the poster children of prog metal, because "Impermanent Resonance" simply dials in and grooves with random signature maneuvers that are hardly as adventurous or prolonged as DREAM THEATER. If anything, this album is crunchier than DREAM THEATER in spots and equally demure in others, but the key flavor for LaBrie and company is to simply let it ride.

LaBrie employs his trusted keyboardist and songwriting right arm Matt Guillory along with the addition of Peter Wichers for the new album's arrangements. Guillory, who is frequently compared to Jens Johansson, utilizes little of the latter's neoclassical specialties on "Impermanent Resonance". Instead, Guillory pits himself with buoyancy alongside the front line of HALFORD bassist Ray Riendeau, guitarist Marco Sfogli and ARCH ENEMY/DARKANE drummer Peter Wildoer. Guillory, who is detectable all over the album, coats most of the time but he embellishes and textures the front mix of "Impermanent Resonance"'s songs mostly to embellish the driving rock measures or to create comforting textures on the softer tunes.

Sfogli and Riendeau punch up the album with non-assuming hard lines while Peter Wildoer incorporates battering drives (on "Agony" and "Undertow", for example) when called for or rolling tides ("Destined to Burn"). Wildoer's biggest contribution to "Impermanent Resonance" is his yelping barks on many of the tracks. "Agony" already comes off like a driving SOILWORK cut, but the illusion is better sold with Wildoer screaming behind LaBrie's controlled cleans. LaBrie's strategy to toughen up his tunes with bombastic woofs is risky and at-times off-putting. Wildoer's ralphs are brief and subliminal on the placid ballad of "Say You're Still Mine" and frankly, they're a mood wrecker. His woofing Wayne Static impressions on the rambling, would-be pop rock lace of "Slight of Hand" is so out-of-nowhere you almost have to double-take when they bust in. The back-end yelling motif works best on the thumping yet peppy "Amnesia".

Marco Sfogli gives LaBrie, Wichers and Guillory's compositions added grace, keeping his chords tight and his solos restrained but fluid. His lumbering riffs that break up the dreamy "Say You're Still Mine" gives the song an extra burst of emotion, while his zippy solo elevates the straightforward though somewhat pedestrian "Letting Go". Sfogli and Riendeau jack up the slow-winding "Holding On" along with Wildoer's double bass kicks. "Holding On" could've been sugary sweet, particularly with Matt Guillory's honeyed key sprinkles, but the rest of the band keeps the track heavy while an airy guitar solo retains the song's intended sway.

James LaBrie sounds thoroughly relaxed and poised on "Impermanent Resonance", always confident in delivering swinging and soothing arcs, no matter how hard the songs get. He's most sensuous and affecting on the softies, naturally, but he didn't get this far in the business without being able to dress up pounding riffs with guaranteed articulation. On occasion you'll detect some grit in LaBrie when the chords get meatier on this album, but overall, this is a lofting, though hardly urgent enterprise that should still easily entertain his fans.

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