After two-plus decades in Dream Theater, James LaBrie needs no introduction to most of us. And he REALLY makes his presence known on this, his third solo record, Impermanent Resonance. As many of you know, I am always leery of solo albums, side bands, etc. More often than not they serve as vanity projects, nothing more, and the music is generally forgettable. Well I am happy to report there is nothing to fear here. This is one hell of an album, and I think it has a lot to do with having the same line-up intact from 2010’s Static Impulse. Guitarist Marco Sfogli, keyboardist Matt Guillory, and the rhythm section of Ray Riendeau and “Beast from Hell” drummer Peter Wildoer (Darkane) all bring their A-game on this one for sure.
Leadoff track “Agony” starts with a blend of melodic death metal blast beats and Peter’s growling vocals before James comes in with his clean voice and the guitar work and synth on the chorus is excellent. Marco’s solo is also pretty badass, too. So we’re off to a great start, eh? The moody intro to “Undertow” is the precursor to a song that sounds like part Amaranthe and part DragonForce, two bands I love as well, so that’s good. From the very first listen I knew “Slight of Hand” was my favorite song. It has a great groove, and Peter once again does a fine job with the growls behind James. It is also an unapologetic ‘I am who I am” type of song, and when done right, they are very effective.
“Back On the Ground”, to be honest, is one of the finest slower songs James has sung on since “Take Away My Pain” in ’97, or “Another Day” in ’92, and much like “Slight” was repeated several times before I could move onto the next song. “I Got You” features some darker riffs from Marco with Matt’s keys really anchoring the rhythm, and Peter all over the place on his kit. “Holding On” and “Lost In the Fire”, while good songs, are not exactly great. Certainly not up to the level of what we’ve heard up to this point.
Things really get back on track with “Letting Go” with a rocking tempo and one of Marco’s best, albeit shortest, solos up to this point. Another album highlight is “Amnesia” with James in top form on the choruses and Peter providing the contrast right after each one. Matt really shines on the vocal harmonies on this one, as well. “Say You’re Still Mine” is another slow number with a sweet hook that all the girlfriends of prog metallers can latch onto, but it’s actually really good. Official album closer “I Will Not Break” is one of the heaviest songs on the record and the whole band gets to flex here.
What surprises me most is that the bonus tracks are in fact bonus tracks. “Unraveling” is an absolutely beautiful song, and “Why” is just an all-out blitz attack both musically and vocally with Peter’s harsh growls providing the perfect contrast to James’ singing. There are a lot of songs on this album, and these two should have made the final cut. With 14 tracks, nearly an hour’s running time, and only two or three missteps, there is certainly no lack of greatness in the songwriting department, that’s for sure. This one’s a winner.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Why”, “Unraveling”, “Slight of Hand”, “Back On the Ground”, “Amnesia”, “Agony”