Release DetailsLABEL Inside Out
RELEASED ON 3/15/2005
Elements of Persuasion
posted on 3/2005 By:
Elements of Persuasion is yet another Dream Theater side project, this time featuring vocalist James LaBrie. LaBrie is a singer who always seems to inspire a strong reaction, whether it be positive or negative, from listeners; some feel that he is an amazing vocalist, while others say that they would enjoy Dream Theater’s material a lot more if it was not for him. Personally, I had always found the man mildly irritating, and I was disappointed when I discovered that he would be the main vocalist on Ayreon’s 2004 album, The Human Equation. To my surprise, LaBrie performed outstandingly well on that disc, and I ended up revisiting the material of his main band and developing a greater appreciation for his style. Naturally, I was eager to hear what he would be able to accomplish with a backing band just as talented as Dream Theater. Having given Elements of Persuasion a few spins, I can say that it’s a very enjoyable, slightly flawed album with some sections that work wonderfully, and others that strike me as failed experiments.
The album opens with the track “Crucify,” a chugging, groove-laden number with catchy guitar work. The solid, well-executed riffs interested me, as did the impressive leads. James himself weighs in with a merely average performance on this particular song, sounding great during the chorus, but uninspired in his vocal approach on the verses. The second offering, “Alone,” opens with a nu-metal sounding riff which has clearly been digitally rearranged, sounding not unlike Linkin Park. Some turntables show up a bit further in, and they aren’t subtle. This may be your cue to stop reading if you are strongly against that sort of thing, and needless to say, it all made me a bit nervous. I was worried that LaBrie might have put together an album that was utterly simplistic from a musical perspective, in an attempt to highlight his own voice. There may be a bit of truth in that observation, but on the whole, Elements of Persuasion isn’t too James-centric, and I didn’t hear any other missteps as significant as “Alone.” What I did notice, however, was that many of the songs are built around choruses, and that the album relied too heavily on the verse-chorus-verse pattern. There was a lot of material that I felt shouldn’t have made the record, and considering that Elements of Persuasion is over an hour long, there were things which could have been trimmed. What saves the album however, are songs so stunning that they make the listener forget about the qualms that he (or she) may have about the rest of the material. For example, “Lost” is unabashedly melodic, so much so that it could easily be a hit on the radio, but it has an extra something that doesn’t usually show up in popular music. Perhaps it is the genuine thoughtfulness and soulful attitude that the vocals exude, or the stellar musicianship of LaBrie’s backing band, but whatever it is, it seems that the best songs here are the soft ones. “Smashed” is a slow, piano based track, and James’ melancholy lyrics seem genuinely sincere. LaBrie and his band’s melodic sensibilities crop up again on “Slightly out of Reach,” a track with a powerful chorus, one that I felt vaguely guilty enjoying because of how questionable its connection to metal is. That isn’t to say that the only good cuts are the slow ones; “Undecided” features a driving, operatic intro that sounds a bit like the band Rammstein, while “Drained,” the closing number, contains a genuinely indescribable solo as good as something that Chuck Schuldiner might have composed. I don’t know how much of Elements of Persuasion was actually written by LaBrie, and how much was put together by the rest of the band, but there are obviously highs and lows on the songwriting front.
The production and musicianship on Elements of Persuasion are both rather spectacular. I’m not sure who was behind the mixing board on this disc, but that person should be commended for the astounding clarity of the recording. Every instrument is audible, and LaBrie’s vocals are mixed at just the right volume. As with just about all Inside Out releases, I have no complaints about the production. The musicianship is near-perfect, which should come as no surprise considering that members of the backing band have played with artists such as Steve Vai. It seems to me, however, that these musicians aren’t always performing to their full abilities - many of the riffs are too simple, and could have been done with a slightly higher degree of technicality at times. Nevertheless, the solos are impeccable, so I’ve awarded this release with a pretty high score in the musicianship category. I can’t really comment on the drums, since I’m less intimately familiar with what is difficult for a percussionist, but the beats sound interesting and varied.
Elements of Persuasion is a disc that you might want to steer clear of if you despise James LaBrie, or can’t bear the idea of prog that sticks to traditional song structures. However, if you are interested in something slightly uncharacteristic of the genre, you happen to be a disciple of James, or you are just looking for an enjoyable album with crunchy riffs coupled with a high level of sensitivity, check this out.
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