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Dream Theater’s Singer James LaBrie’s solo efforts have been a complete musical journey since Mullmuzzler released its first album in 1999: Going from a warm progressive rock in their first two albums, to a more metal-oriented overhaul in their 2005 effort Elements of Persuasion, to a more melodeath style in their last album Static Impulse. And that brings us to their latest album, Impermanent Resonance, which takes the band to a more melodic, catchy, dare I say pop metal direction.
The overall feel of the album isn’t quite what I expected when I heard the first single; the fast “Agony”, which is a continuation of their Static Impulse formula and also serves as the album’s opener. The first tracks have a more keyboard-oriented style and take a lot of melodies from mainstream rock and pop (Most notable in songs like “I Got You” and “Amnesia”) while still keeping the double-bass drum beats and distorted guitar sound always present in LaBrie’s albums. The sound of the album is great, since none of the instruments overlap or interfere with each other, and it’s easily one of the things that makes this album more listenable.
Guitar virtuoso Marco Sfogli’s work isn’t as noticeable in this album as it was in their last two: a lot of the songs don’t feature a guitar solo, which is in my opinion a step backwards and an overlook of the italian player’s amazing skills, specially since the Guitar solos (When featured) are definitely a standout of the album. Sfogli and Drummer Peter Wildoer, however, do deliver the heaviness necessary to keep the flow of the album going and to save it from boredom in some tracks, something that makes one wonder why don’t they stand out more in the songs instead of staying as background players behind the vocals and keyboardist Matt Guillory’s lines. LaBrie’s vocals are quite similar to his last two albums, albeit a little bit more melodic and soft, which is something that definitely gets the album going and it keeps the essence of the band as well. This album is a proof that Mr. LaBrie can be quite a versatile singer, being capable of doing heartfelt ballads, fun rock songs and the usual heavier, more serious vocals he does with Dream Theater completely well. Wildoer’s growling vocals aren’t as prominent in this album as they were in Static Impulse but act as a nice complement to LaBrie’s singing when they act together.
Most of the melodies themselves, composed by Guillory, are actually very enjoyable and some of the songs stayed in my mind for a considerable amount of time after hearing the album (“I Got You” is a personal guilty pleasure of mine, and “Lost in the Fire” and “Undertow” are really memorable songs as well); but this isn’t, in my opinion, much of an album to hear from beginning to end, as the songs featured in it seem to be stronger as individual tracks. Both the electronic intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge formula and LaBrie’s more pop-oriented vocal delivery tends to get stale towards the end of the album, fortunately saved by the heavy album’s closer track “I Will Not Break”, which left me with a bittersweet taste towards the album since it made me long for more tracks like it, as if the fast-paced, thrashing song I was waiting for arrived too late.
Impermanent Resonance confirms the Canadian singer’s band sound as a more unique one, completely strayed away from the prog metal sound of Dream Theater. Fans of the Mullmuzzler material and Dream Theater’s more progressive side won’t be too keen on the album, but the ones who embrace some melodic metal once in a while will enjoy the tracks. While I was left with the impression that Impermanent Resonance could have been better with some heavier tracks, the overall energetic and upbeat atmosphere of the album is something I’ll be looking forward to hear again and again.
Standout tracks: “Agony”, “Undertow”, “Holding On”, “Lost in the Fire”, and “I Will not Break”