Album Title: Impermanent Resonance
Label: Inside Out Music
Year of Release: 2013
Blessed with an instantly recognisable voice and one of the most enviable day jobs in metal, James LaBrie hardly needs any introduction to the vast majority of metal heads. However, just in case you’ve been floating in outer space for the past twenty or so years, LaBrie is the vocalist for American prog behemoth Dream Theater. Not content with this gig, in recent years he has released a handful of solo records under his own name, thus allowing himself free reign in the songwriting department.
‘Impermanent Resonance’ is album number three from Mr LaBrie in a solo context but, for the first few seconds of the opening track, ‘Agony’, I had to make sure that I had inserted the right disc into my stereo. Darkane’s Peter Wildoer maintains his not inconsiderable presence but, in addition to providing thunderous drumming, he also contributes some vocals throughout the album. Those familiar with Wildoer’s pipes will not be surprised when I say that his aggressive growls kick proceedings off in a manner that momentarily had me fooled into thinking that I was listening to a melodic death metal record.
Normal service is soon resumed however, as James LaBrie’s unmistakeable voice takes centre stage for the latter part of the verse before exploding into what is an extremely catchy chorus within a song that is equal parts melodic death metal, melodic hard rock and straight-up heavy metal. The central riff comes straight out of the Soilwork school of song writing but this is forgivable given the sheer power and tempo of the track.
From then on, the tone is set for the remaining eleven tracks; huge riffs, aggression, a strong rhythm section and infectious tracks that are generally dominated by massive hook-laden choruses that’ll have you singing your head off. Oh and of course, there are those ever-impressive vocals. He may have lost a little of his range over the years but James LaBrie proves here that can still challenge the best within the industry.
If anything, there is a demonstrable increase in modernity on ‘Impermanent Resonance’ too. A great example of this is with ‘Undertow’, which dabbles with the metalcore genre, particularly where the gruff, caustic vocals and chugging guitar riffs are concerned. Indeed, the presence of down-tuned guitars is without doubt another concession to the present trends within heavy music . It makes for a strong and powerful foundation but it’s prevalence throughout remains a bit of a surprise.
If I’m honest, I’d have to say that the strongest material is front-loaded, with the melodic hard rock leanings of ‘Back On The Ground’ and ‘Holding On’ vying for the status of my personal favourites. That said, because the formula laid down in the first few tracks is rarely tinkered with, it may simply be that by the half-way mark, I know what to expect and am not left reeling by a curveball or two to mix things up.
And therein lies one of the biggest problems with ‘Impermanent Resonance’. There’s no denying the quality of each and every track on the record. The choruses are cracking and instantly hit the mark. However, the lack of variety certainly dents the listening experience for me ever so slightly. And I always get nervous when an album makes an instant impact of this nature. Occasionally such a recording will retain its longevity and interest but more often than not, I’ll listen for a few glorious spins before the shine starts to fade and I’m left feeling uninspired. That hit of musical ear candy is initially very strong but wears off far too quickly. And whilst it is too early to know if that is true here, I strongly suspect that I may have relegated it to the shelf by the end of the year.
The other white elephant sitting in the corner of the room is the album simply titled ‘Dream Theater’ that is due to hit stores within a week or so. In order to compete with himself and his ‘day job’ colleagues, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ had to be, by all accounts, stellar. Unfortunately, as good as I currently think it is, I fear it’ll be all but forgotten when the new Dream Theater album is unleashed.
Of course I could be wrong. It has been known before. And so I’ll end this review by saying that, for all my apparent negativity, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ is a thoroughly enjoyable album if you’re looking for an uncomplicated and melodic metal ride. It is also, almost certainly the best solo album of James LaBrie’s career and for that alone, he should be warmly commended.
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