James LaBrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Shade Of Grey

(InsideOut/Sony Music)


     As a later-day Progressive Metal convert, I have shamelessly devoted untold hours of my arguably misspent 'second childhood' to the collected works of Fates Warning, Opeth and, to a lesser extent, the Alan Morse-led Sp -ock's Beard. Accordingly, I'll be the first to admit that I've been a disturbingly dedicated fan of 'all things' Dream Theater and Dream Theater-related since the release of Octavarium circa 2005. A prime example of this would be Beautiful Shade Of Grey, the fourth full-length solo offerings from frontman James LaBrie. The long-overdue follow-up to the oft-acclaimed Impermanent Resonance (2013), LaBrie is once again joined by multi-instrumentalist Paul Logue as well as his son Chance on drums. Now, with the release date rapidly approaching, only time will tell if the notoriously fickle and indifferent Prog Rock and Prog Metal communities (and, perhaps more importantly, a portion of the ubiquitous Dream Theater fanbase) will embrace comprehensively his efforts.

     On the brilliant Beautiful Shade Of Grey (2022), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of Pop and Hard Rock-infused Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the shimmering, hook-fueled quasi-Power Ballad “SuperNova Girl” and the delightfully layered jewel “Hit Me Like A Brick”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Attempting--or so it would seem--to improve upon the previously-mentioned Impermanent Resonance the group flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often as they appear intent on pushing the predefined boundaries of yore. The resulting barrage serves as a much-welcomed reminder of their undenia-ble lyrical and compositional aptness as LaBrie triumphantly emerges from a self-imposed hiatus. Distinguishi-ng himself without sacrificing either power or tonalities, LaBrie re-affirms his status as a true Prog Metal force.

     Continuing with the wilting, almost hypnotic “Wildflower” and the lush, orchestra-fueled “What I Missed”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of vocalist James LaBrie (Dream Theater, MullMuzzler, ex-Winter Rose), lead guitarist Marco Sfogli, rhythm guitarist and bassist Paul Logue, keyboardist Christian Pulkkinen (Eden's Curse), and drummer Chance LaBrie steamrolls ahead with a all-too-familiar ease. Flexing their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often, the group showcases individual instruments with equal aplomb. With each solo being delivered with an implied sense of importance), the group is afforded the opportunity to 'expound' far beyond the traditional confines as the standard issue Prog Metal formula. Already well-known for helming vivid auditory portraits (The Astonishing, 2016 serves as an ideal example), LaBrie has again augm-ented his modus operandi with the massively re-newed feeling of melodics that many have come to fully expect.

     Adorned throughout via artwork courtesy of the acclaimed Thomas Ewerhard (Black Sun, Circle II Circle, Sons Of Apollo), other standouts, including the “Am I Right” and the equally impressive--if perhaps not entirely necessary--closer “Devil In Drag (Electric Version)”, resonate with a 'creative clarity' undoubtedly not afforded to LaBrie as a member of Dream Theater. Despite this--or perhaps in part because of it--the spectrum of what we've born witness to with the release of Beautiful Shade Of Grey as it appears to have heralded in an arguably unlikely creative re-birth. Effectively avoiding many of the genre-specific clichés specific to the genre, the other -wise masterful performances yielded here serve as a noteworthy example of LaBrie's unabashed prowess. And it is this creativity that so effortlessly flows from within, leaving the proverbial listener (i.e., you the proverbial average listener) with a sense of wonder precious few of his legitimate contemporaries are able to fully recreate.

     But why should you really care? Unfortunately, that's a question only you can truly answer. Easily the multi-octave LaBrie's most musically challenging--and, as a result, most thoroughly-satisfying--'non-Dream Theater' efforts to date, the often mighty jewel that is Beautiful Shade Of Grey ultimately succeeds by artfully capturing LaBrie et al. amid this bona fide creative peak. With the majority--if not all--of the decidedly memorable wares contained herein finding the improbably-enduring LaBrie deftly exerting what must be described as complete cr -eative control, the end results are indeed extraordinary and deserve to be treated accordingly. Not surprisingly, if you have once again found yourself in search of a genuinely musically challenging yet forthright and thought-provoking alternative to the veritable tidal wave of puréed excrement that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.


Select Discography

Beautiful Shade Of Grey (2022)

A View From The Top Of The World (2021)

Distance Over Time (2019)

The Astonishing (2016)

Breaking The Fourth Wall: Live From The Boston Opera House (Blu-Ray/DVD) (2014)

I Will Not Break (EP) (2014)

Impermanent Resonance (2013)

Live At Luna Park (DVD) (2013)

Dream Theater (2013)

A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)

Static Impulse (2010)

Wither (EP) (2009)

Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)

Chaos In Motion 2007 - 2008 (DVD)

Greatest Hit…And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs (2008)

Systematic Chaos (2007)

Score (2006)

Octavarium (2005)

Elements Of Persuasion (2005)

Live At Budokan (2004)

Images And Words: Live In Tokyo/5 Years In A Livetime (DVD) (2004)

The Majesty Demos 1985 - 1986 (2003)

Train Of Thought (2003)

Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)

MullMuzzler 2 (2001)

Metropolis 2000: Live Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)

Live Scenes From New York (2001)

Keep It To Yourself (1999)

Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory (1999)

Once In A LIVEtime (1998

Falling Into Infinity (1997)

A Change Of Seasons (EP) (1995)

Awake (1994)

Images And Words: Live In Tokyo (DVD) (1993)

Live At The Marquee (EP) (1993)

Images And Words (1992)


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