by: Noa Avior
James LaBrie, you didn't continue life as a battered woman. Mike Portnoy left you for a young piece of meat but you came back showing that the older woman is sagacious and more eager to please.
Static Impulse, LaBrie's new solo album, is a gift bestowed to us Dream Theater children caught in the crossfire of a bitter divorce. I would go as far as saying that it's almost an extension of what I think is Dream Theater's heaviest album, Awake. It'll live up to the standard and expectations of the DT purists, but LaBrie was able stretch the dough beyond this constraint while still baking a well rounded pie.
Upon first listen, it left a familiar taste in my mouth [Note from editor: That's what she said!] but not the same one I get from Dream Theater. I couldn't quite place the familiarity until I read the liner notes. I had no clue that Peter Wildoer, drummer of Darkane and one of my favorite skinsman [NfE: That's what she…] was a part of this opus. He not only plays drums but he adds the 'scream' vocals throughout the album.
It was kind of befuddling that LaBrie starts his solo record with somebody else singing before him on the opening track, "One More Time". Maybe that speaks to what kind of a person he is and what kind of chemistry was in the room when this album was written and recorded. I felt that there was a lot of space to showcase what the other musicians on this record had to offer. They even let the bass player, Ray Riendeau, stand out with some asymmetrical bass patterns. Marco Sfogli did a great job, not even trying to fill in John Pettruci's shoes. He maintained his own identity. His melodic patterns sound human, not mechanical and his guitar solos are not overbearing and not pretentious. I was really astonished by Peter Wildoer's drum work. As I said before, I'm familiar with him from his Darkane work, where I'm used to receiving his odd time poundings. On Static Impulse, Peter shows that he can deliver the bruises but he can also adorn the music with softer droplets when called for. Matt Guillory dipped his hands into the album with keyboard compositions that unify the music, background vocals and he also adds his brains as one of the main producers.
So, now it comes to the man of the hour; James LaBrie. A solo album should show the internal rumblings of its creator. James indeed expressed his "Jekyll or Hyde" personas here. The voice we know from Dream Theater is ever present on this album but the darker, melodic, Gothenburg style is an angle that's unexpected but very much propelling. Thank you James for understanding that you don't need to push your voice beyond its limits and that its ok to add another vocalist to bring in the macabre dimension. Enter Peter Wildoer stage left, Matt Guillory stage right. On the song "This Is War," the ambiance of the album is squeezed through when both vocal styles are juxtaposed on top of an intricate music bed. Overall, this album is empowering. "Who You Think I Am" is going to be the war cry for all the berated and abandoned women out there (ok, guys too).
I wasn't sure what direction LaBrie would take with this album. With everything going on now a days I was biting my nails expecting the worst, like oh…I don't know… a collaboration with Soulja Boy Tell 'Em. Phew, that would've been awful and very indicative of mid-life crisis. Before I go off on a tangent, I'll summarize my feelings about Static Impulse for those of you who only read the last paragraph of articles to save time: One of the best albums to come out this year, I am pleased.