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Labrie, James: Elements of Persuasion

Elements of Persuasion is James Labrie's third solo effort. It builds upon his first two solo albums released under the Mullmuzzler moniker, taking some of the heaviness from Labrie's recent contributions to other bands including Tim Donahue's Madmen & Sinners and Ayreon's The Human Equation. However, this release is certainly his most experimental in terms of songwriting; it has a very heavy approach and varied musicality.

Labrie's former band members, Matt Guillory on keyboards and Bryan Beller on bass, are supported by a newcomer: Italian guitarist Marco Sfogli. This guy is an amazing talent, whose style is a cross between Andy Timmons' melodic and versatile side with John Petrucci's virtuosic moments. Originally, Labrie and Guillory wanted Andy Timmons to play on Elements of Persuasion, but things didn't work out. Enter Sfogli. I loved both Mike Keneally and Mike Borkosky's work on the first two Mullmuzzler CDs, but I must say Sfogli really brings something new to Labrie's solo material. He plays fluid guitar lines that are occasionally replaced by intricate heavy rhythms, as on "Crucify" -- the riff in the intro is 100% thrash metal and is excellent. His playing lends itself to various styles ranging from rock to thrash to funk to blues. The guitar work on "Lost" recalls fusion, whilst Sfogli shreds his heart out on songs like "Undecided" or "Slightly Out of Reach". There is a great musicality to his playing, which works perfectly within the context of the songs.

Matt Guillory co-wrote almost the whole album with James Labrie, but this time his influence is much more prevalent than before. Besides pulling impossible sounds from his broad musical palette, he also experiments with new ideas. The electronic keyboard sequencing on "Freak" and the piano in the breakdown of "In Too Deep" are breathtaking. The only song I don't care for too much is "Alone". Despite the great vocals, interesting song arrangement and solid bass pattern, there's an odd scratchy sound effect. I'm all for musical progression, but does someone as creative as Guillory need to borrow those "modern" sound patches? Bryan Beller on bass and the amazing drummer Mike Mangini, as on the previous releases, are nothing short of brilliant. Mangini's drum fills on "Crucify" are some of the most mindblowing I've heard in a long time. I've always been a huge fan of Mangini's drumming, but this one really must be heard - it seems like there are five different rhythms being played at the same time. He works his drums with blistering speed, powerful accuracy and tops it all with a perfect drum sound.

James Labrie's vocals are crystal clear as always, but he does belt out some scary aggressive screams. He is also unafraid to search for different vocal expressions. The muffled spoken vocals on "Lost" strangely remind me of the final track on Evergrey's The Inner Circle. He sings his heaviest solo songs on this CD as well. Besides the already mentioned "Crucify", other standout tracks are "Pretender", and especially "Drained" which is very experimental - moving from a heavy thrash piece to a moody ambient track and back again. Of course there are also slower tracks: "Invisible" and "Smashed". The latter has this gorgeous piano accompanied by fragile acoustic guitars as Labrie lays down his emotional vocals. As usual, his lyrics are thought-provoking, questioning the role of religion in the individual's life, failed relationships, and one song even tells the story of a secret agent who gets killed by his own government. This being Labrie's solo project, it's his voice that forms the link between all the separate elements. Fortunately, Labrie always does it so well that there is always plenty of playing space for his bandmates, and that makes Elements a wonderful album.

Track Listing:
1. Crucify (6:03)
2. Alone (5:36)
3. Freak (5:38)
4. Invisible (5:42)
5. Lost (3:41)
6. Undecided (5:30)
7. Smashed (5:31)
8. Pretender (5:36)
9. Slightly Out of Reach (5:51)
10. Oblivious (5:20)
11. In Too Deep (6:56)
12. Drained (5:14)

Added: October 17th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: James Labrie's Web Site
Hits: 13052
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Labrie, James: Elements of Persuasion
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-17 07:52:54
My Score:

Vocalist James LaBrie of the influential progressive metal titan "Dream Theater" recently completed recording his solo release entitled Elements Of Persuasion. It is indeed a nice addition to his recent work with both Dream Theater and Arjen Lucassen. The album stands along side the heavier material of Dream Theater very well, and LaBrie fans will also find the music a little different than his work with "Mullmuzzler". The record is more akin to a release by Theater with the songs holding similar creativity and structure but all remaining at about 5 minutes in length. There are a significant amount of catchy hooks and riffs and I found overall the album was very easy to enjoy. The toughest audience is generally the Progressive one, and given most of them coming to Dream Theater shows to hear the amount of musical virtuosity the singer often is the last point of interest. However, James has put together a pretty solid group to record this piece and joining him is Matt Guillory (keyboards), Marco Sfogli (guitars), Bryan Beller (bass) and Mike Mangini (drums). Surely this band will impress even the most die-hard of progressives. I admit finding the guitar work of Sfogli super impressive with his shredding along the lines of John Petrucci. With this release LaBrie focused his writing to touch upon the consistent give and take in relationships between people.

I had a number of favorites on the CD after very quick listens. Among them most notably would be "Crucify" for that just kicks into gear at the onset of the CD after a deceiving slow intro. "Invisible" was another one of my favorites since it trudged along with this doom sort of Metallica groove. The group also slows down a little for tracks like "Lost" and "Smashed". These showcase how soft LaBrie's voice can be and how subtle the music he wants to deliver can be. Across the scope of the piece there are more highs than lows. The CD is acceptable for Dream Theater fans but they should not expect to find long and detailed progressive instrumentation on this release. Instead they will find a number of well-written and very well played tracks. This is LaBrie's third solo outing, with his first two being released under Mullmuzzler. Anyone who likes his voice will enjoy this album. Give it a listen.

Labrie, James: Elements of Persuasion
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-19 18:59:08
My Score:

On Elements of Persuasion, Dream Theater vocalist cranks things up a notch from the more melodic sounds of his previous Mullmuzzler projects, injecting heaping amounts of heavy prog-metal and thrash that are pretty much in line with the last few DT albums minus much of the noodling. Joining him are skilled keyboard player Matt Guillory (Dalis Dilemma, Zero Hour, Mullmuzzler), bassist Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally's Beer for Dolphins), drummer Mike Mangini (Steve Vai) and 24 year old Italian terror Marco Sfogli on guitar.

Tracks like the blistering opener "Crucify", complete with lightning leads from both Sfogli and Guillory, the heavy riffing of 'Alone" , "Freaks", and "Invisible", and the molten "Undecided" all rock hard, with crunchy power chords, bubbling keyboards, powerful rhythms, and LaBrie's strong vocals leading the charge. While there's plenty of hot playing here, this albums about riffs and grooves, with plenty of melody floating over the top. If there's one complaint, it's that some of the songs tend to sound too similar to each other. That's where tunes like the power ballads 'Smashed" and "Slightly Out of Reach" come in, and offer some variety to offset the more straightforward bashers.

LaBrie has played off the success of the two recent Dream Theater releases by creating an equally heavy offering here. If you love mammoth riffs, intricate guitar and keyboard solos, plus the vocals of James LaBrie, this should be a no brainer for you.

Labrie, James: Elements of Persuasion
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-13 10:34:16
My Score:

The new release by Dream Theater front man James Labrie finds him rocking much harder than his previous two Mullmuzzler releases. Although the CD rocks harder, the songwriting (which was aided on every song by Matt Guillory) seems to be more mature and experimental.

The driving forces on Elements Of Persuasion are bass player Bryan Beller and machine-gun drummer Mike Mangini. These two propel the songs and provide the metal/hard rock edge that dominates this CD. Marco Sfogli provides nice, clean guitar work that makes songs like "Slightly Out Of Reach" work. Sfogli can lay down the thrash metal sound as well on tunes like "Crucify" and "Pretender". I miss Keneally, but I understand the choice.

"Drained" and "Freaks" are two of my favorite tracks on this CD. Both songs extend the song's scope by adding experimental keys and loops and give Labrie a chance to really explode vocally. Labrie hasn't sung this well since Scenes From A Memory.

This is a highly recommended CD. Fans of Labrie's work on Ayreon and the heavier side of Dream Theater will love Elements Of Persuasion.

» Reader Comments:

Labrie, James: Elements of Persuasion
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2005-10-17 11:03:32
My Score:

This cd is Highly Recommended.The man is singing very well and have excellent songs in here.The players are great and every single experiment with different styles of music and weird sounds work.

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