James LaBrie
Impermanent Resonance

I’ve been a longtime Dream Theater fan – 21 years, in fact, since the release of one of the finest progressive metal albums ever released, Images and Words. And yet, in all of that time, I’ve never checked out any of vocalist James LaBrie’s solo material (4 albums’ worth). A friend slapped me around a bit recently and made me listen to LaBrie’s last release, 2010’s Static Impulse. “It’s Dream Theater meets Soilwork,” he said. “You’ll love it.” And I did.

Then I found out that LaBrie’s latest solo album, Impermanent Resonance, came out a few weeks ago. Once again, it’s Dream Theater meets Soilwork, except now with even more Soilwork, thanks to the addition of Peter Wichers as co-songwriter, and the return of former Soilwork producer (and current Darkane drummer) Peter Wildoer on drums and harsh vocals.

And yes, I said harsh vocals, as this isn’t a flowery progressive metal album – it’s melodic death with ear-candy choruses. Make that James LaBrie singing ear-candy choruses, which makes this even more listenable and addictive. That puts Impermanent Resonance right up next to poppy melodic death like Scar Symmetry or Sonic Syndicate. The near-constant burble of techno synths throughout also reminds me of spastic technocore bands like Eskimo Callboy or Blood Stain Child, but it’s amazing what smooth, hook-filled songwriting will do for you.

Although “Agony” kicks off with standard melodic death chug and growls, LaBrie’s high, clear croon soars in for the chorus and just kills it. And then he does it again three more times on “Undertow,” “Slight of Hand” and “Back on the Ground, each with its own addictive peaks. Wildoer and LaBrie trade off in the verses on these tracks, but then starting with “I Got You,” the rest of Impermanent Resonance is focused on LaBrie and a varied vocal performance of breathless sighs and soaring choruses. However, after “I Got You,” the album downshifts into a long sequence of slow-burner, pensive tracks like “Holding On,” “Lost in the Fire,” “Destined to Burn,” and “Amnesia,” without many fast or aggressive moments to liven them up. They’re all listenable and well-crafted tracks (particularly “Holding On”), but they tend to blend together after awhile. More variety in the pacing might have made the overall effect less, well, impermanent.

Soilwork has already released two phenomenal albums this year, and although this doesn’t match The Living Infinite‘s spectacular energy and fireworks, it’s a fine companion piece. It hits my melody sweet spot in many ways, and once again, I never would have expected James LaBrie to be doing melodic death for his solo efforts. Refreshing, fun and a great warm-up for the upcoming Dream Theater release.

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Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 26th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: Chadd

    Great review!! Yeah, I agree completely, a better song order balance may have benefitted this album even more with some more variety to the pacing. The second half of the album definitely isn’t quite as strong as the first half, but that’s not saying that those songs aren’t fantastic as well. I actually love every song on the album, it’s a solid ride the whole way through, but that initial straight-ahead descent on the first half is just incredible. Coming from another ardent Dream Theater fan, what I find so refreshing on both Static Impulse and Impermanent Resonance is that LaBrie is able to temporarily escape the already established DT trappings to really craft some insanely accessible songs that focus entirely on riffs, hooks and maddeningly infectious melodies. The contrast with Peter Wildoer’s screaming vocals is just awesome (speaking of, thanks again for introducing me to Soilwork!), as their voices contrast perfectly. As you said, this is great primer for the new DT, however, it’ll be interesting to see if the new DT album can top this, as Impermanent Resonance currently sits atop as metal album of the year for me so far!


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    Nice review Jordan, its been a while! I’ve only ever been a casual Dream Theater fan and LaBrie’s vocals have at times been a sticking point for me, but this sounds like an interesting combo.


  3. Commented by: diggedy1

    “Back on the Ground” is one of my favorite songs of the year…so deliciously cheesy. I don’t like Soilwork all that much, but somehow I can’t stop listening to this album.


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