LaBrie's Mullmuzzler, James - James LaBrie's Mullmuzzler 2

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9056-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:34:00

I'm a huge Dream Theater fan, so I'm right there to pick up any side-project CDs that the members of the band put out. (And, heaven knows, there are a lot of 'em!) James LaBrie, Dream Theater's outstanding vocalist, has a side project called Mullmuzzler, which is now on its second album. For LaBrie, Mullmuzzler is the group with which he can try new things, get away from Dream Theater's trademark sound. Does he attain that goal? Yes and no.

For the most part, Mullmuzzler eschews heavier prog metal, but in LaBrie's chest beats a heart of prog, because he still can't resist those proggy bits. (Which, by the way, is way cool with me.) For sure, Mullmuzzler comes from a more straight-rock place than does DT, a place where songwriting impresses more than showing off one's chops -- which is, of course, not to say that the musicianship throughout Mullmuzzler 2 isn't top-notch. (Nor should one infer from that remark that the boys in DT aren't great songwriters.)

The first track on the CD, "Afterlife," probably represents most of what LaBrie wants to do with Mullmuzzler, being a strong rock number with the prog touches needed to differentiate the song from mainstream fare. The second track, "Venice Burning," on the other hand, could have come right off a Dream Theater album, although it's nowhere as heavy an arrangement as DT would undoubtedly have given it.

Keeping the metal flag flying on "Confronting the Devil," LaBrie does his imitation of Deep Purple, whereas on "Falling," the company turns in a short piece of straight-forward rock with melodies that owe a great debt to Dream Theater. From this track, it would seem that maybe it's Mr. LaBrie who comes up with many of DT's greatest melodies. No prog here, though, just an upbeat, yet somehow gentle, rocker that is most definitely radio-friendly.

The prog metal comes exploding back with "Stranger," another song that could have been lifted from a Dream Theater album. Plenty of roaring guitars on this one, along with proggy keyboards and a proggy arrangement. The mayhem leads into another vaguely Deep Purple-like rocker titled "A Simple Man." I say vaguely, because between the Deep Purple flavored parts struts Dream Theater-style balladry in which LaBrie demonstrates why he's one of the best rock singers in the world.

As for the track titled "Save Me," you don't want to be driving on the highway when this gem comes on, not unless you like to get speeding tickets. This is head-bobbing stuff that, while metal, stays away from an overtly prog-metal sound. Again, one can't help but think of a simplified Dream Theater. Likewise, LaBrie garnishes the piano-based ballad "Believe" with more DT-like melodies, but in Mullmuzzler's case, this ballad stays a ballad throughout.

The next to the last track, "Listening," boasts a straight-forward rock groove that treads the line somewhere between a ballad and something a bit more upbeat. LaBrie's breathy vocals, not to mention his exquisite vibrato, are the focal point here. "Tell Me" closes the album with a stirring, quirky rocker that features cool synth patches and cranking, growling guitars.

All in all, if you think of Mullmuzzler 2 as Dream Theater "lite," you won't be far from the mark. This fact probably reveals the amount of influence LaBrie has on Dream Theater's compositions. In any case, this is one great album from start to finish, and one I'll be playing incessantly.

Afterlife (4:54) / Venice Burning (6:26) / Confronting the Devil (6:20) / Falling (3:52) / Stranger (6:32) / A Simple Man (5:20) / Save Me (4:11) / Believe (5:00) / Listening (4:14) / Tell Me (5:14)

James LaBrie - lead and background vocals
Matt Guillory - keyboards
Trent Gardner - keyboards
Mike Mangini - drums
Mike Keneally- guitars
Mike Borkosky - guitars
Bryan Beller - bass

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

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: October 13th 2001
Reviewer: Clayton Walnum

Artist website:
Hits: 942
Language: english


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