JAMES LABRIE — Impermanent Resonance (review)

JAMES LABRIE — Impermanent Resonance album cover Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Diogenes
After finishing up the highly successful tour for Dream Theater’s A Dramatic Turn of Events, vocalist James LaBrie got back together with songwriting partner and keyboardist Matt Guillory to record the follow-up album to 2011’s Static Impulse. Even though the more abrasive style on that album came as a surprise to some who follow LaBrie’s musical career closely, it was received fairly well, and Impermanent Resonance is written and played in mostly the same vein as its predecessor, and yields mostly the same results.

You could call this album “Static Impulse II” and not be too far off base; if you’ve heard that album, not much on Impermanent Resonance will shock you. It’s a collection of shorter pop metal songs with a heavier edge, thanks to the modern and aggressive guitar tone of Marco Sfolgi and the growling vocals of Peter Wildoer. The centerpiece of the album is, of course, still the unmistakable singing of James LaBrie, though his clean singing and Wildoer’s growls are used extensively in a “call-and-response” fashion not unlike that of mid-era Soilwork and many other Gothenburg-style metal bands. That’s where the comparisons to the melodic death metal genre end, however, as both the album’s riffs and recurring electronic sampling lean towards accessibility rather than heaviness. Make no mistake about it; both Sfolgi and Wildoer know their ways around their instruments, but technicality is reigned in for the most part here.

Being the album’s main focus, LaBrie’s vocals are in fine form on Impermanent Resonance, as they have been on his two previous “solo” efforts. Though his higher register hasn’t been employed nearly as much on recent Dream Theater material, the vocals on this album sit even more comfortably in the middle of LaBrie’s range, as he sings possibly the catchiest group of vocal melodies I’ve ever heard from him. It’s pretty clear that Impermanent Resonance was written with this in mind, and they did a good job of it, as there are hooks en masse and some really great choruses on here; “Slight of Hand,” “Lost in the Fire,” and “Amnesia” are my personal favorites, though there is nary a song on this album that doesn’t feature a really poppy hook or vocal line of some sort.

As the sing-along moments of Impermanent Resonance are so prevalent, particular attention is drawn to the album’s lyrics; like on Static Impulse, they’re quite angst-y and personal, and this is where this album lets me down a bit. I don’t want to call the penmanship on Impermanent Resonance lame, but it’s a little weird to hear a veteran vocalist like LaBrie sing lines such as “Say you're mine, that we're not broken in two, say you're still mine, say it's me and you.” I’ll be honest: I find the album’s lyrics so polarizing that I shy away from certain songs that are otherwise pretty good just because the words are so cheesy.

Fortunately, that’s the only part of Impermanent Resonance that I can see anyone having a problem with. With its sleek, modern production and well-written songs, it’s an incredibly easy album to listen to, and for that reason I’d recommend you give it a try regardless of your opinion on LaBrie and/or Dream Theater (because apart from the voice, this album sounds nothing like the prog metal giants whatsoever). It’s a solid piece of pop metal that you should enjoy if you also liked the previous LP released under LaBrie’s name.
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