Feature: Albums that time forgot…JAMES LABRIE – Elements Of Persuasion

JAMES LABRIE - Elements Of Persuasion

InsideOut (2005)

For many band members, the band becomes all consuming.  It means, as a result of the constant cycle of touring, writing and recording, they can’t deliver their own solo album.  There are 15 years between John Petrucci’s first solo album and his latest.  His Dream Theater colleague James LaBrie cut his first solo album (under his own name) in 2005.

For this project he brought together an Italian guitarist Marco Sfogli, Mike Mangini (who would ultimately replace Mike Portnoy in Dream Theater) and co-writer Matt Guillory (keys) with Bryan Beller (bass, who had worked with Steve Vai later Joe Satriani).  Guillory and Sfogli would remain a constant in subsequent albums.

Long-time fan and metal editor Yiannis Stefanis reviewing the album for GRTR! summed it up:

“After having listened to the album a couple of times, I realised what makes ‘Elements of Persuasion’ such a successful release.

Even though James has been living in the Dream Theater ‘environment’ for the last fourteen years, he managed to limit its influence and ended up presenting us with an album of unique style and character.

The idea was not to create another progressive opus, but an album full of straight-forward and emotional Rock/Metal compositions, which would also allow James to use his unique vocal chords to their full potential.”

Subsequently in a lengthy interview with Stefanis, LaBrie stated:

“Well, we definitely knew musically that we wanted to make a very aggressive and heavy album. I think a lot of that was because at the time of the inception of the ideas, we were both really into bands like Mudvane, Meshuggah, Linkin Park and Seven Dust. Also, we were listening to Peter Gabriel, so we kind of thought ‘how could we amalgamate these two different worlds, and bring them into the album so as to give it more depth and dynamics musically’?

It’s experimental, and some say that it’s risky, but Matt and I knew that as much as we wanted the album to be heavy, we also wanted to bring some other worlds to it, so to speak, like the techno beats and the samples.”

The album does reflect the popularity of nu-metal at the time, and is characterised by Sfogli’s gargantuan guitar figures, LaBries’s dominant vocal presence and Guillory’s intricate arrangements and sonic treatment.

Stefanis: “‘Crucify’ was indeed the best choice for the opening track of the album, featuring a fast, low corded guitar riff which will bring back memories from Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ era.

The following track, ‘Along’, presents the different side of this album.  The use of a variety of electronic sounds may sound a bit strange in the beginning, but will prove to be quite inspiring after you listen to this release a few times (something similar to what Ray Alder did with his solo project ‘Engine’).

‘Freak’ was created in a similar manner to that of its predecessor and paves the way for ‘Lost’, one of the few songs that sounds quite like those of Dream Theater.

The first song I really got hooked on was ‘Lost’ – a very emotional song that’s based on a beautiful base melody. You will get a better taste of Marco Sfogli’s capabilities on ‘Undecided’, before James will once again demand your attention with his amazing performance on ‘Smashed’.

A constant relay of emotions will continue throughout the remaining songs of the album, and before you know it, you will hear the final notes of ‘Drained’ announcing the end of a sixty-seven minute inspirational creation.”

There has been news recently that LaBrie is preparing for a new solo album.  Whether it will quite match up to the 2005 effort is for future debate given the overall tenor of the following solo releases ‘Sudden Impulse’(2010) and ‘Impermanent Residence’(2013) which featured death metal vocals. ‘Elements Of Persuasion’ can be fully savoured in the meantime.

David Randall

Album review and interview link (2005)

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