James LaBrie - Static Impulse
InsideOut Music
Progressive Metal
12 songs (50:44)
Release year: 2010
James LaBrie, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Crash

James Labrie is an odd fellow. Upon first listening to Dream Theater, he comes off as the big softie of the group. All that you have to do is listen to songs like Another Day or Through her Eyes and instantly the image of Labrie as a pussyfooted lady man makes more and more sense. To my surprise when I read the official Dream Theater autobiography Lifting Shadows (Think about it as The Dirt with less sex and a bed time), but Labrie is made out to be right alongside the once notorious partier Mike Portnoy. He gets into fights, speaks bluntly, and doesn’t bullshit.

So I can’t say that I am too surprised that his new solo album Static Impulse runs a little heavier than we would expect from him. Sure, Dream Theater has been progressively (and unfortunately) getting heavier as the years have gone by, but it always seemed to be at the hand of Petrucci and Portnoy. Either way, it has rubbed off on Labrie as Static Impulse runs right where Black Clouds and Silver Linings left off. The songs are indeed shorter, but the feeling of prog metal is still here. A less experienced fan would be able to make the mistake of thinking this was the new DT album, but Labrie insists that this is all written by him and his band. And the result? It ain’t bad.

In fact, some of it is rather good. The first two songs One More Time and Jekyll and Hyde run the heavier end of the spectrum, even employing some growly growls by keyboardist Matt Guillory. So if you ever wanted to know what Dream Theater would sound like with screamy screams, well this is about as good of a chance as you’ll get it. Actual blast beats are used unlike the teasing Portnoy gave us on the last DT album. Labrie pulls off this style better here than with DT songs like Constant Motion. The Metallica worship isn’t there and it doesn’t end in an inevitable guitar/keyboard duel. It actually is pretty cool and reminds me of other prog “almost death” bands like Adagio or Scar Symmetry The two songs are energetic prog rockers and are highlights of the album. The rest of the album juggles between this sound and a more traditional midpaced sound. The focus is very much on the choruses and trying to make them as catchy as possible, much in the way of songs from Octavarium. Not all of the songs are great, but a good deal of them are better than the bad songs from the last few DT albums. (I’m looking at you Ministry of Lost Souls you piece of shit.) The album maintains a very layered wall of sound production that would be expected out of an InsideOut release (or any modern prog album it seems) and is quite satisfied with it. This is War is another late album highlight, utilizing the strong points mentioned above.

Most prog records keep their heavy hitter for the end of the album. Labrie decided to make it the only ballad on the album. Coming Home is about as typical of a Labrie ballad as you can get. But I really like it… Like I really like it. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the best ballad he has sung since Vacant off of Train of Thought. Maybe it’s that the last three DT ballads have sucked. Maybe it’s that this one is really good on its own feet. It’s a little bit of both methinks.

This is not a great album. But it is a very good one. It has flow from beginning to end and is extremely easy to listen to in one sitting. People with massive DT boners can use this to pass the time between now and Dream Theater’s next disappointment (please be good please be good please be good). It isn’t the most memorable thing I’ve ever heard and will probably fall to the wayside as years go on, but it is easily the most impressive solo work Labrie has put out and if he keeps pushing himself he might make his own masterpiece.

Killing Songs :
One More TIme, Jekyll and Hyde, This is War, Coming Home
Crash quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by James LaBrie that we have reviewed:
James LaBrie - Elements Of Persuasion reviewed by Marty and quoted 75 / 100
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