Static Impulse is the second solo album of Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie. I’m not counting the two Mulmuzzler-albums which stand on their own, I think. James LaBrie has consistently proven to be an exceptional artist. A key part of his success has been the ability to surround himself with some of the most talented musicians of the scene. Fans of Elements Of Persuasion (2005) – La Brie’s previous solo effort – will undoubtedly be happy to see the return of long time collaborator Matt Guillory (Dali's Dilemma) on keyboards. Marco Sfogli, the Italian guitar sensation, has returned as well. He’s definitely getting his own style on this album with his monster guitar work; check out his solo album as well! A new musician to play with James is bassist Ray Riendeau known for his work with Halford. He also made some stunning solo albums. Drummer Peter Wildoer is also new; he has, among others, recorded with Darkane, Time Requiem and Lale Larson’s Electrocution 250. Both are well-suited choices for delivering an album with a hard-edged modern sound.
The big difference with the previous album is the use of grunts performed by Peter Wildoer. The opening song One More Time and the two following songs have this very special combination of deadly grunts and La Brie’s clear vocals. Due to the heaviness of these songs both styles work out perfectly in my opinion. When they decelerate a bit Euphoria turns into a mid-tempo rock song on which James LaBrie’s singing remains close to his Dream Theater-work, but he also provides this song with a catchy chorus. The faster Over The Edge shows the progression of the new axe-hero Marco Sfogli. What a great solo he plays in this song! I Need You and Who You Think I Am are both aggressive head bangers with double bass drums, heavy bass guitar, power riffing guitars and on top the grunts and desperate vocals with again some wonderful solos. I Tried is somewhat different. In this song, LaBrie sings in another vocal key which gives it something extra, drifting off from the resemblance with Dream Theater. A cool keyboard intro by Matt Guillory leads to Just Watch Me, another mid-tempo piece with some great interplay between the guitar and the bass. Then speeding up with This Is War and Superstar: great guitars on top of a ‘carpet’ of keyboards to keep you warm. Again I’m amazed by the perfect combination of the vocalists. This is the way to create a sound of his own, for James LaBrie’s voice will always be related to Dream Theater. This combination of voices definitely helps to drop that link. The final regular song is Coming Home, a kind of ballad, based on the soothing and mellow keyboards of Matt Guillory; a huge difference with the rest of the album. Not the song I was hoping for at the end of a fantastic album. I think this song would have fitted better on his first solo album.
The digipack contains two extra songs: Jekyll Or Hyde Demo and Coming Home Alternate Mix. These are nice additions of already known songs, but they don’t give the album a surplus value. Static Impulse is an outstanding metal album with extremely melodic and tight song structures. Marco Sfogli will absolutely blow your head off with his guitar playing and he manages to keep his perfect guitar tone and make even the heaviest riffs sound very melodic, something I can’t always say for many other bands playing this musical genre. Static Impulse is a definite ‘must have’ for fans of James LaBrie’s previous album and projects as well as for any open-minded fan of melodic metal with a hard-edge sound.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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