LaBrie, James - Elements Of Persuasion

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 204
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:43:00

While this is not James Labrie's first foray away from his mates in Dream Theater - that being held by the first Mullmuzzler release - it is one that is often very much a departure from the style DT is known for. The switch from Magna Carta to InsideOut necessitated a change - not for legal reasons, but as LaBrie states in an interview with Andy Read at DPRP, "I just felt that things were starting over, so why not change the name as well. At the end of the day, who cares? It?s all about the music. But the label was pushing me to just use my own name and, as I said, it's a new chapter and things needed to start afresh."

How fresh? Well, although you will instantly recognize this is James LaBrie singing, he does go into new directions. Some pay off, and at least for this listener, some don't. Of course, if you are expecting Dream Theater and won't brook anything else, I'll direct your ears to "Slightly Out Of Reach." It's lyrical, romantically arranged, epic... filled with piano-like keyboards, soaring guitar solos, walking, throbbing bass, all kept in line by steady, mid-tempo percussion. Could have been on Scenes From A Memory... or even Images And Words. Classic and one of the album's highlights.

However... LaBrie and company -- Marco Sfogli on guitar, Bryan Bellar on bass, Matt Guillory on keyboards and Mike Mangini on drums and percussion -- go into heavier realms. The thought that came to me as I was listening to this on the first or second pass-through was how ironic it seems that parts sounded like early Metallica. Specifically, opener "Crucify" chugs like Master Of Puppets/Ride The Lightning period Metallica, adding in some keyboards and keyboard effects. Ironic, because I remember when the now classic - iconic? - Images And Words came out that Dream Theater were described as a melding of Metallica and Marillion. Yes, really; I don't remember where I read it - Kerrang, Progression ... maybe it was just that both were named checked in the credits of IAW... I'm not sure.Anyway, I felt DT had smoothed out the Metallica crunch and beefed up the Marillion prog.

So, to hear LaBrie get crunchy like those early to mid-period Metallica albums, it seems ... well strange, I guess, this far along the road. The sing/speak Hetfield style here doesn't feel natural coming from LaBrie, who is a singer who sounds best letting his vocal cords stretch as it takes flight on a soaring word... which he also does on "Crucify." And while Sfogli plays a searing, soaring lead, the bash-bash of the drums seems somehow ... too pedestrian for a LaBrie release. Not that Mangini doesn't know how to use a kit, the rumbling bridge into the restating of the chorus proves this here - and we get further evidence elsewhere on the album -- but like late 80s/early 90s speed metal, the bash-bash dominates.

The music and lyrics were written by LaBrie and Guillory, and they admit to listening to nu-metal artists, and that is very much apparent throughout the heavy tracks. One aspect of that nu-metal is the style adopted for "Alone" - digital drums and drum effects scratch out an annoying rhythm... over which we get some tasty LaBrie vocals. It makes you miss his Dream Theater mates, really. We get more of this in "Pretender" and in "In Too Deep" (sans digital drums). While I can't say there's rapping on "In Too Deep," it comes awfully close... more musically than a soundbyte, less rhymin' than rap. It's as close to rap as Rush got on "Roll The Bones"... certainly no closer. It does end sublimely with a delicate, classy and classical-styled piano/guitar duet... that is somehow also quite haunting. "Drained" closes things with another heavy moment, that shifts from brutal chugging to wall of sound... widdly keys just heard at the back of the mix.

"Freak" is another heavily chugging track, but this one seems much more in tune with what we'd expect from LaBrie. Here's a funny thought that came to me: this is how LaBrie would have sounded if he had taken on the vocals of Frameshift's An Absence Of Empathy... now, I don't know if the raspy, evil-voice is also LaBrie (or LaBrie through a filter -- for those vocal cords' sake, I hope so)... but it would make Seb Bach proud... maybe. It is a little dry, however.

Bellar leads off the silky, slinky, seductive "Invisible" with a beefy bass. Distorted guitars and eddies of keyboard effects also characterize this piece. LaBrie gives another facet to his vocals, as he doesn't give us all his "LaBrie-isms," roughening his vocals, singing in a near come-hither whisper, strutting out the goods for the chorus. One of my favorite pieces here, actually.

You will find some of the Dream Theater-like prog metal we've come to know in later tracks like "Lost," a jazz-metal like piece, that gives Guillory some keyboard work other than atmosphere and effects, and Mangini shows that he can, indeed, play drums (not that I had doubts, really, but "Crucify" wasn't the proof). Another standout track, with LaBrie's understated vocals creating a great atmosphere... there and somehow out-there... ghostly, in a way...

Dynamics shift with the mellower, drum lead "Smashed," given additional texture by piano-like keyboards and shimmering, steely guitar. It's a track that is beautiful and tough, soft but not slushy or mushy. And while not explicitly stated, one can surmise that he is referring to the World Trade Center Towers.

At times defying expectations, at times exceeding, Elements Of Persuasion will take a few listens before it persuades you with its elements. What makes it all work is that this is tight unit of musicians who can deliver the goods. But then, LaBrie, Guillory, Mangini and Bellar are no strangers -- but for Sfogli, they are the same lineup as heard on the two Mullmuzzler releases. There isn't a bad track in the bunch, making Elements Of Persuasion one of the highlights of 2005.

Crucify (6:01) / Alone (5:37) / Freak (5:29) / Invisible (5:37) / Lost (3:41) / Undecided (5:31) / Smashed (5:34) / Pretender (5:33) / Slightly Out Of Reach (6:11) / Oblivious (5:23) / In Too Deep (6:56) / Drained (5:10)

James LaBrie - vocals
Bryan Beller - bass guitar
Matt Guillory - keyboards
Mike Mangini - drums
Marco Sfogli - guitar

Mullmuzzler (1999)
James LaBrie's Mullmuzzler 2 (2001)
Elements Of Persuasion (2005)
Prime Cuts (2008)
Static Impulse (2010)
Impermanent Resonance (2013)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: January 20th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1059
Language: english


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