After listening to the newest release from the James LaBrie solo project, all I can think is … wow.
Impermanent Resonance is not at all what I was expecting, and as a stand-alone album it’s actually really good. Based on what I’ve heard from Dream Theater and other LaBrie projects, like Ayreon, I was anticipating some sort of lighter progressive rock with a lot of vocal wankering. Nope! This is a metal record plain and simple. And a fucking good one at that.
The natural thing to do here is to make the comparison to Dream Theater. And while it still has some “prog” aspects to it, the general music style conforms much more to the melodic and synth laced styles pioneered by bands like Dark Tranquillity, Scar Symmetry, and In Flames … a sort of Gothenbergian prog-power metal style. There’s a palpable “European” flavor to it, and the music is more overtly aggressive than a lot of Dream Theater’s tunes normally are. The result is a unique sound with consistency in all the right places and variety where it’s needed to keep the listener engaged.
That edge is tamed by LaBrie‘s immaculate and dramatic performance which, for a change, is very pleasantly augmented by backing vocals from keyboardist Matt Guillory. I count this as a huge point in favor of this project over Dream Theater, and Impermanent Resonance features a blending of two separate but complimentary vocal timbres that add a fullness to the overall vocal performance that is often missing from the band’s work. Detractors of clean singing in metal will even be pleased to find some screaming and growling vocals from drummer Petter Wildoer which adds a good amount of credence to this project’s metal credibility. To be honest I’ve never been more pleased with LaBrie’s vocals as I am with this album, so either he’s been sand-bagging everyone for decades or he’s just really coming into his own. I’d be interested to know if other Dream Theater fans feel the same.
The guitar, bass, and drums are where the biggest comparative difference will be found between this project and Dream Theater. To put it simply, the difference is mainly in the level of complexity in the arrangements, but when you consider the goals and the fact that the music on Impermanent Resonance is driven by the vocals instead of the other way around, the guitar bass and drums are still pretty brilliant in their own right. In exchange for the soaring instrumental progressive tangents, the music on Impermanent Resonance focuses on moving infectious melodies over a powerful rhythm section featuring bass you can actually hear, versatile drumming, and one of the best mixing jobs I’ve heard in recent memory.
The guitar work on the album is nothing short of awesome. Marco Sfogli and the contributions from Peter Wichers hold their own in terms of tone and performance when compared to Dream Theater. They’re different animals entirely, but I didn’t find myself missing the God-like Petrucci guitar work I’m used to hearing with LaBrie‘s voice. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say the difference is a welcome break and a nice diversion. For the sake of the music on Impermanent Resonance, the guitars focus just as much on supporting the other elements as being in the center of everything. There are many impressive solos, licks, and prog-y sounding tags to enjoy along with heavy, chugging riffs
Worth noting as well is that, although the synth/keys are pretty strongly featured on this album, they are (thankfully) devoid of the sort of weird circus sounds that Jordan Rudess seems to favor on Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment albums. The patches that Guillory uses on Impermanent Resonance are much more in line with the overall style of this band and don’t disturb the listener at any point. They’re in the pocket when they should be and don’t jump out front with an unexpected xylophone solo just to change the mood abruptly (something that always makes my butt pucker when I listen to recent Dream Theater albums).
I’m happy to give Impermanent Resonance my highest rating because I was completely won over just a few songs into it. Compared to Dream Theater or considered on it’s own, it’s a great album with not a weak song to speak of. What’s more, I really feel that some metal fans that have been turned off by Dream Theater in the past may be attracted to this album for it’s much more aggressive sound and lack of cheese. Hats off to James LaBrie for this album.
Impermanent Resonance is out now on InsideOut Music.
Rating: 5/5 Stars