James LaBrie is related to marmite many would agree; perhaps a distant cousin, but definitely related. Dream Theater fans seem to be split down the middle with regards to vocals. The truth is LaBrie is an astonishing vocalist but of course Dream Theater’s backbone is the artistic wizardry of his colleagues in Petrucci, (now former band-mate) Portnoy, Myung and Rudess.
But Static Impulse isn’t James LaBrie’s first foray into solo work, it’s his second effort released under his own name and the follow up to 2005’s Elements Of Persuasion. However, many will ask – how will he fare on his second endeavour on his own initiative and with complete creative control and this time, hindsight?
While Static Impulse is a far cry from both the quality and bombast of the day job, there is a rich hook laden texture to these twelve songs. Dream Theater are of course notorious for heady, expansive songs but with this solo venture all is much more reigned in and succinct with just one song exceeding five minutes.
Static Impulse marks a collaborative effort with Swedish melodic death metal outfit Darkane’s drummer Peter Wildoer (and also of Pestilence now) who also lends his voice for the harsh growls. He provides for a sterling pairing as he trades off with LaBrie’s cloud striking clean vocals.
There’s an inescapable “Swedish influence” here too which one can assume is down to Wildoer’s partaking. ‘Superstar’ opens with riffing that sounds like In Flames circa Clayman and ‘Mislead’’s execution is nothing but slick.
That said there is still some John Petrucci reverence in the guitar work from guitarist Marco Sfogli. However he more than earns his stripes with a flurry of clean angular riffing which run across some lush keyboards throughout. But seeing as this is his solo record, James LaBrie is of course the star, delivering hooks on every song from the relentlessly catchy choruses of ‘One More Time’, ‘I Tried’ and album highlight, ‘Euphoric’.
It’s all wrapped up a production with a pop sheen on it that brings out the best of what LaBrie has to offer. It’s an unexpected but totally welcomed triumph. Static Impulse will be somewhat a satisfying stopgap until Dream Theater release a new album, an album which will of course has many, many fans curious and sceptical.