Elements of Persuasion is James Labrie's third solo effort. It builds upon his first two solo albums released under the Mullmuzzler . His new band is awesome made up of some of the finest musicians he could muster. If you like LaBrie's work with Dream Theater especially on Train of Thought, this is definitely a sure bet.
LaBrie is an operatic rock vocalist but not on this album, the powerful opener "Crucify" and "Freak" shows his passion for metal, thrash and progressive. He turns in a stylish performance on the slightly softer rocker "Slightly Out Of Reach." He rocks on all the tracks, just in different amounts. He goes from head banging growling maniac to a more laid-back approach quickly at times, dependent on the tempo of the song. Being such a versatile vocalist with terrific range allows LaBrie to shift his tone and style many times during a song.
Though this is a solo album from the Dream Theater frontman we cannot forget the fantastic work of the other musicians. Marco Sfogli who hails from Italy is relatively unknown, but in the realm of heavy metal riffs he stands tall. He also commands a fair array of virtuosic talents similar to Petrucci's, he plays fluid guitar lines that are occasionally replaced by intricate heavy rhythms, as on "Crucify" the riff in the intro is totally 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.
Bryan Beller on bass and the amazing drummer Mike Mangini, as on the previous releases, are nothing short of fantastic. Mangini's drum fills on "Crucify" are some of the most mind-blowing I've heard. I've always been a huge fan of Mangini's drumming, I've even seen him live when he came into my local music store for a tutorial session, 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 with a perfect drum sound with ambience and bass resonating at the same time.
Matt Guillory does a nice job keeping the pace with the ever-changing tempos, he is very similar to Roddy Bottum (formerly of Faith No More) smoothing out the edges for the tracks. Matt Guillory co-wrote almost the whole album with James Labrie, but this time his influence is much stronger than before. Besides pulling impossibly cool sounds from his musical palette, he also experiments with new ideas. The electronic keyboard sequencing on the start of "Freak" and the piano in the breakdown of "In Too Deep" are awesome.
James Labrie's vocals are crystal clear as always, but he does belt out some scary aggressive screams (think "Honour Thy Father" - '...don't cross the crooked step', he sings his heaviest solo songs on this record as well. Besides the already mentioned "Freak", other standout tracks are "Oblivious", "Invisible" and especially "Drained" which is very experimental . "Smashed" has a timely piano accompanied by acoustic guitars as Labrie lays down his emotional vocals. As usual, his lyrics are provocative, questioning the role of religion, failed relationships, and one song I think even tells the story of a secret agent who gets done in and murdered by his own government.
This is a very heavy album with every beat knocking you off your feet, while his previous projects were good they don't quite compare to what he's accomplished here. Whether it's the musicians just clicking or his song writing ability improving, this is a combination that could produce very good results in the future.