James LaBrie Beautiful.jpg

JAMES LABRIE
BEAUTIFUL SHADE OF GREY

Sony Music International Japan

I’ve lost count how many Dream Theater and DM related albums have come out over the last year but something else I had lost track of was time. I did a double take when I noticed it’s been nine years since James’ last solo outing, Impermanent Resonance, an album I really enjoyed as it was a stand-alone work, a collection of songs that were more accessible to the average Rock fan than Dream Theater’s Progressive music. More of the same then? Ermm, not quite…there have been a few changes, all for the better.

Nine years is a long time in music and all musicians have to make a living so whether by choice or forced, the only musician to have retained his spot in James’ solo band is Marco Sfogli on guitar. The newcomers are Paul Logue on acoustic guitar and bass, Christian Pulkkinen on keyboards, both from Eden’s Curse and James’ son, Chance LaBrie on drums. Interestingly, this mix of family, established other band members together and old friend create a very harmonious unit and add an element of openness and airiness that Impermanent Resonance didn’t have. Add in that the songs are a lot lighter, gentle in places, organic even and you won’t find much of the Dream Theater sound here but that is exactly what a solo album should be. I think what James has done on this record is his biggest step forward since he joined DM and I hope he continues in his solo career along these lines. It’s a beautiful album, easy on the ear, acoustically driven with - dare I say it - commercial moments in parts. All the songs James co-written with Paul Logan apart from two, one of those being a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On and it’s a great closing track.

The bonus track for the Japanese release is an electric version of the opening track. It has often been said that the sign of a good song is that it works acoustically as well as electrically and here is a classic case-in-point – both work and it’s a teaser because it will have you wondering what the other songs would sound like given this treatment. The production is handled by James and Paul and has a slightly retro-vinyl feel to it which makes it feel warmer and the mastering is done in BSCD2 which makes it feel even cozier. The disc, a 20-page English booklet with some intriguing ‘two-paths’ artwork and a 12-page Japanese booklet are all packaged together in a jewel case.

This album will surprise many people, especially those expecting Impermanent Resonance Vol II but this is far better than that. This is an honest album, an album where James says ‘This is me’ and as I wrote earlier, I hope this is just the start of things to come.

Track List

Devil In Drag

Supernova Girl

Give And Take

Sunset Ruin

Hit Me Like A Brick

Wildflower

Conscience Calling

What I Missed

Am I Right

Ramble On

Devil In Drag (Electric Version)*

                                          *Japanese Release Bonus Track

Three Days Grace.jpg

THREE DAYS GRACE
EXPLOSIONS

Sony Music International Japan

Canada Rocks in every genre and every decade. Always has since the sixties with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, through the seventies with The Guess Who, BTO and Triumph, the eighties Bryan Adams, Rush and Alanis Morrisette and beyond with The Tragically Hip, Nickelback and a stream of others. Add to that list the triple-platinum certified, multi-award winning Three Days Grace, who have had 16 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. High expectations for their seventh album then.

 

Since 2003, Three Days Grace have released a new album every three years. I like that. It shows that they don’t bow down to external pressure and also gives the band plenty of time to write and develop new songs and, if they wish, move subtly in a different direction. Their latest actually took four years (for reasons unknowns) and is their third with Matt Waist taking the lead vocals after the departure of founder Adam Gontier. Matt has settled in well and delivers his best vocals to date. They are not as deep and his range is not as low but for me, it’s a move in the right direction and it’s the first of the subtle differences I mentioned above. The internet is no doubt already full of Waist vs Gontier debates as there was for Osbourne/Dio and Bon Scott/Brian Johnson but the simple fact is that bands must move forward in order to survive and whilst Three Days Grace may have lost some fans over the past few years, they have won others.

 

For the rest of the band, it’s business as usual when it comes to guitars, drums and the sprinkling of keyboards throughout. There are sing-a-long moments, forceful rhythms but also moments of pure emotion as delivered in ‘Someone To Talk To’ (where they are accompanied by Apocalyptica) and a powerful finale, beautifully paced title track. Rather oddly, my favourite happens to be the bonus track on the Japanese release, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ which is a glorious blend of Pop, Rock and Post-Grunge and - I hope – a glimpse of where this band is heading for their next album. Along with that bonus track, the Japanese edition has the 8-page English booklet and a 16-page Japanese one, all packaged in a standard jewel case.

 

‘Explosions’ is very different from their debut almost 20 years ago but every band develops, matures and changes over that period of time and musical tastes change as well – even your own believe it or not – and for me, this is where Three Days Grace should be in the current music climate. Others including the die-hard original fans, may disagree with me but there is no getting away from the fact that as an album, a collection of songs, this is a great work and it deserves to be listened to.

Track List

So Called Life

I Am The Weapon

Neurotic

Lifetime

A Scar Is Born

Souvenirs

No Tomorrow

Redemption

Champion

Chain of Abuse

Someone To Talk To

Explosions

Somebody That I Used To Know*

                                            *Japanese Release Bonus Track