by Michael Popke
It seems like Dream Theater is never out of the music news for long. Arguably one of progressive-metal's definitive bands, Dream Theater released its most recent album, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, back in June 2009. But since then, drummer Mike Portnoy has reunited and toured with the supergroup Transatlantic and appeared on the new Avenged Sevenfold album, Nightmare. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess launched Wizdom Music, a virtual musical instrument iPad/iPhone app development company, in July. And, of course, Dream Theater recently wrapped up its latest tour, this time with the mighty Iron Maiden.
Now comes word of a second solo album from Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie — fourth, if you count his two Mullmuzzler projects from 1999 and 2001 — and it appears to be a doozy. Titled Static Impulse and scheduled to drop Sept. 28 on InsideOut Music, the album is heavier and more aggressive than even hardcore fans might expect. LaBrie and creative partner/keyboardist Matt Guillory (who appeared on the Mullmuzzler albums and also was in Dali’s Dilemma) co-wrote the material and then invited growler Peter Wildoer to, as LaBrie puts it, “scream his ass off.” Wildoer, who fronts the Swedish melodic-death/progressive-thrash band Darkane, can be heard all over “One More Time” – one of two cuts from Static Impulse that I’ve previewed. It’s relentless, propulsive and damn near lethal, a shocking slab of thick prog metal that begins with Wildoer's barking, not LaBrie's voice -- which, by the way, is sounding more like Geddy Lee's as each years passes. “I Need You” also features Wildoer but is slightly more typical of both Dream Theater and LaBrie's earlier solo work.
Still, these tracks are bound to rattle some staunch Dream Theater fans. After all, LaBrie’s main band stays far away from brutal barking -- which is one of the reasons for its immense popularity. (Personally, I don’t think LaBrie, a love-him-or-hate-him vocalist that I merely like, has it in him to growl more than a few syllables, and that’s fine with me.) As with practically anything revolving around Dream Theater, though, reaction to LaBrie’s latest effort should be both intense and swift.