|James LaBrie Elements Of Pursuasion|
Review by Mick Ward.|
Whoa! On first listen to Elements, the latest offering from James Labrie - the mighty voice of Dream Theater, I was taken by surprise. Haunting acoustics introduce lead track Crucified and are joined by fat riffing guitars before taking off. The intro alone got me excited and still draws me back regularly. The fact that Crucified becomes quite the early Metallica-like speedy number and is most likely the heaviest thing James has vocalized over in recent times is a sure sign Elements of Persuasion is going to be quite the listen! And indeed it is!
Dream Theater comparisons are expected, but to be honest these two are of different style, the obvious difference being Elements is not 'Prog'. Sure James dabbles and on the odd occasion even indulges in Prog, but for the most part this is an album of good variation and predominantly good rock. When James does indulge his support never fails to take on the task with ease, the musicians here are extremely gifted and of the highest order, very capable and well suited to Labrie's voice.
One complaint however is that some of the songs sound to be forcing James to take on a more scream like vocal when perhaps it isn't necessary. Albeit I enjoy this heavy direction I find this is at times a double edged sword. On one hand I praise James for the direction however I don't find him as convincing when using his voice in too heavy a manner. I wonder if the heavy guitars were to be stripped back and a couple of the songs allowed to breathe more, would this allow James to broaden the atmosphere of those songs instead of the bombast? Maybe some of the songs would sound the better for it? Just curious, more on this shortly.
Anyways things go left and right and up and down from second track on, but stand fast in the 'rock' approach. Alone samples some trendy scratching effects (don't be frightened it actually works okay!) and is quite a good song as is third track Freak which is yet again an interesting track with dark undertones and includes more sampling whilst staying 'rock'. Freak is lyrically some of the best work James has penned, nothing too challenging but thought provoking and I'm left a little baffled why he doesn't contribute more lyrics for Dream Theater? Good work.
Loud guitars catch onto a nice walking bass line and make next track Invisible a very accessible song. More effects surround this one which has a simple but nice melodic chorus. Invisable reminds me (as do a few other tracks) of the more simpler DT rockers such as Lie from Awake. Good stuff.
Things take a departure for the next track. Lost throws effects about yet again over a nice piano and bass line and the song rests in a softer delivery whilst running at a nice brisk speed. Undecided is next which returns to heavy, more akin to the intro of lead track Crucify but continues throughout at its start pace. A good song.
Next up is the centre piece of the album, Smashed. 'Smashed' is a soothing ballad with luscious piano and acoustics similar in feel to Surrounded and Another Day from DT's Images and Words. For those I may have confused regarding my concerns that James might be forcing his vocals a little on this album, Smashed is in my opinion the perfect example of James allowing both him and song to breathe. I understand the contrast between heavy and soft music and the fine line that is endured when deciding how a vocal can best compliment a song, but here I think is where James nails it, giving a very convincing performance allowing both music and vocal to compliment each other.
Forget the DT comparisons, they are only put to you in order to place you in the right frame of thought regarding where this little song takes us, Lost is a magnificent song. Lovely stuff and I raise a glass to this one.
Things continue on without too much departure from what has already gone. Pretender booms out of the speakers and I rate this as one of my faves, fast heavy riffs and a wonderful chorus. Slightly Out Of Reach is another fine ballad with good use of melody and voice, Oblivious is a more modern nu breed like guitar orientated song, In too Deep is big sound big guitars (and double bass?) but nothing too memorable, and last but not least is Drained one of the better rockers on offer here. 'Drained' works due to its vocal guitar vocal guitar structure and works particularly well due to the awesome riff the guitar punches out. The song also contains a wonderful bridge and great chorus. Overall one of the better songs on the album and well worth the wait.
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