James LaBrie – Static Impulse

When you say James LaBrie, you say Dream Theater. As the singer of this illustrious band, he is a true prog icon. Well, think of everything you expect from James LaBrie on a solo album and throw it out of the window; this is Static Impulse.

If you were expecting a Dream Theater-like album, you’re in for a surprise. Sure, Static Impulse has its progressive elements. But it’s more aggressive and heavier than anything LaBrie has ever done, and that is definitely a good thing. And the best part: he doesn’t sing alone.

Because although he is a great singer, there are numerous Dream Theater songs, like In The Name Of God, that in essence are great, but would sound a lot better if they were pitched four to five notes lower. LaBrie on the high end of his vocal cord annoys me.

Luckily, Static Impulse has none of that. James’s vocals  stay in tune with the music. Drummer Peter Wildoer does the screaming and Matthew Guillory, on keyboards, does some backing vocals. Combined with the melodic vocals of LaBrie, this one’s a contender for record of the year.

The first song on the album, One More Time, is a perfect example of what LaBrie calls “Gothenburg metal”. After some progressive doodling, the guitars, drums and Peter Wildoer’s screams kick in. The album is heavy metal with Scandinavian, American and prog influences. Jekyll Or Hyde and This Is War are equally as heavy as the opening song.

But not all songs are aggressive. Album closer Coming Home is a strong ballad that sounds flat out American, but still has a sauce of prog rock over it. And Just Watch Me is hard, but has a very mellow chorus.

The longest song on Static Impulse, Euphoric, measures 5:09 and the average song length is four minutes. Hardly prog lengths, but that does mean this album features thirteen songs, something you don’t see too often nowadays. Commercial? Maybe, but Static Impulse shows that it doesn’t  necessarily has to be a bad thing.

Static Impulse proves that LaBrie hasn’t mellowed down over the years. On the contrary, I dare say that this is one of his best performances in the last couple of years. Sure, there will be some Dream Theater fans that will not be entirely happy with this new heavy direction. But the more you listen to this catchy album the more you will hear that this is actually one of LaBrie’s most progressive albums to date.

written by Maarten Merkens

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