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on March 30, 2005
Wow, 2005 has been an absolutely amazing year so far for the prog/power metal scene! Having recently been blown away by Kamelot's latest, The Black Halo, the benchmark was set pretty high for me as far as anything topping it. After several listens, I'd definitely put James LaBrie's latest at the same level as that amazing album! If you are a fan of the heavier side of Dream Theater, you absolutely NEED to pick up this album and I mean immediately! Although this is, for the most part, the same core band as the two Mullmuzzler projects with the addition of Italian newcomer Marco Sfogli on guitar, the difference between this album and the Mullmuzzler albums is absolutely night and day. Elements of Persuasion is by far LaBrie's best solo work to date and the first of which I would say easily stands comparison to even the best Dream Theater albums. The biggest (and quite welcome in my book) surprise on this one is that the album is so heavy throughout, there are parts that make even Dream Theater's recent shredfest Train of Thought sound tame. The sound in general has been updated with much more of an electronica element to both guitar and keyboards (without sounding overly "nu-metal" to me) and LaBrie and keyboardist Matt Guillory are well deserving of high accolades for a simply amazing job with production (LaBrie's former Winter Rose bandmate Richard Chycki also mixed the album), which is crystal clear and perfect for the electro-metal infusion that permeates this disk. The biggest complaint I had with most of Magna Carta's catalog is that the production in general of their albums sounded rather muddy to me and could have been vastly improved. The clean production here is about as close to perfection as anyone could ask.

It's difficult to pick a favorite track here because with the exception of 3 slower paced songs, this album absolutely smokes from start to finish and the songwriting and melody is consistent throughout. Part of the credit for this goes to the band's collaboration with Brian Wherry, whose name Dream Theater fans may recognize from his mind-blowing entry in Mike Portnoy's "Stream of Conciousness" contest, where the Dream Theater drummer challenged the more musically adept of the fans on his forum to create and record a song based solely on studio notes of individual sections of the song on the (then forthcoming) Train of Thought album. Wherry's creation (which even featured a keyboard solo by Guillory) was a top finalist, but should have been the winner in my book. Based on his sense of melody and songwriting on that song, I can fully understand why they decided to bring him on board and the results are one of the most enjoyable of LaBrie's solo projects. I also have to say that LaBrie seriously needs to hold on to guitarist Marco Sfogli. This guy is simply amazing and his stellar solos and amazing shredding throughout this album are sure to make him an instant sensation on the prog metal scene.

"Crucify," the album's opener, begins sounding almost like the beginning of DT's "A Change of Seasons," then builds into a thrash frenzy and Sfogli delivers one of most memorable guitar solos on the album about ¾ of the way through. We then move on to "Alone," which will undoubtedly draw many snide nu-metal remarks and Linkin Park comparisons from the prog snob crowd, but the song is good enough that it could potentially actually see mainstream radio airplay. As far as I'm concerned, this song is where the nu-metal influence ends and the rest of the album takes on a life of its own. The album's standout track for me is "Freaks," which not only infuses heavy staccato riffs a la DT's "The Mirror," but also showcases LaBrie's amazing range and thought provoking songwriting. Other highlights include the atmospherically melodic, yet shred-infused "In Too Deep," which features a rather humorous wiseguy moment from LaBrie, and "Oblivious," which sees LaBrie moving between funky, borderline urban sounding vocals (not quite "Canadian Rap," but as close as he probably ever wants to get) to a very melodic chorus. "Undecided" is another atmospherically charged shredder with one of the most melodic choruses on the album - another potential for mainstream radio in my book. Dream Theater fans will undoubtedly notice heavy similarities between the guitar and bass on "Invisible" and DT's "Burning My Soul," but this is also one of more melodic offerings here and features some of LaBrie's best vocals. Songs lengths are not quite to traditional prog epic proportions, but all but one clock in between 5 and 7 minutes and they all pack their share of punch in their allotted time. Overall, this album is nothing short of stellar and even though there are some blatently obvious Dream Theater influences in places, the sound is extremely modern and much more unique than anything he's done on any other project other than Ayreon, which pretty much spans the musical gamut, and as mentioned, the production is just amazing. Elements of Persuasion is absolutely one of the best prog-metal releases of 2005 so far and an absolute must have album for fans of LaBrie as well as anyone who enjoys a hefty dose of "balls and chunk" delivered with plenty of melody to boot.
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on March 29, 2005
Elements of Persuasion is James Labrie's third solo effort. It builds upon his first two solo albums released under the Mullmuzzler moniker, taking some of the heaviness from Labrie's recent contributions to other bands including Tim Donahue's Madmen & Sinners and Ayreon's The Human Equation. However, this release is certainly his most experimental in terms of songwriting; it has a very heavy approach and varied musicality.

Labrie's former band members, Matt Guillory on keyboards and Bryan Beller on bass, are supported by a newcomer: Italian guitarist Marco Sfogli. This guy is an amazing talent, whose style is a cross between Andy Timmons' melodic and versatile side with John Petrucci's virtuosic moments. Originally, Labrie and Guillory wanted Andy Timmons to play on Elements of Persuasion, but things didn't work out. Enter Sfogli. I loved both Mike Keneally and Mike Borkosky's work on the first two Mullmuzzler CDs, but I must say Sfogli really brings something new to Labrie's solo material. He plays fluid guitar lines that are occasionally replaced by intricate heavy rhythms, as on "Crucify" -- the riff in the intro is 100% 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.

Matt Guillory co-wrote almost the whole album with James Labrie, but this time his influence is much more prevalent than before. Besides pulling impossible sounds from his broad musical palette, he also experiments with new ideas. The electronic keyboard sequencing on "Freak" and the piano in the breakdown of "In Too Deep" are breathtaking. The only song I don't care for too much is "Alone". Despite the great vocals, interesting song arrangement and solid bass pattern, there's an odd scratchy sound effect. I'm all for musical progression, but does someone as creative as Guillory need to borrow those "modern" sound patches? Bryan Beller on bass and the amazing drummer Mike Mangini, as on the previous releases, are nothing short of brilliant. Mangini's drum fills on "Crucify" are some of the most mindblowing I've heard in a long time. I've always been a huge fan of Mangini's drumming, 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 all with a perfect drum sound.

James Labrie's vocals are crystal clear as always, but he does belt out some scary aggressive screams. He is also unafraid to search for different vocal expressions. The muffled spoken vocals on "Lost" strangely remind me of the final track on Evergrey's The Inner Circle. He sings his heaviest solo songs on this CD as well. Besides the already mentioned "Crucify", other standout tracks are "Pretender", and especially "Drained" which is very experimental - moving from a heavy thrash piece to a moody ambient track and back again. Of course there are also slower tracks: "Invisible" and "Smashed". The latter has this gorgeous piano accompanied by fragile acoustic guitars as Labrie lays down his emotional vocals. As usual, his lyrics are thought-provoking, questioning the role of religion in the individual's life, failed relationships, and one song even tells the story of a secret agent who gets killed by his own government. This being Labrie's solo project, it's his voice that forms the link between all the separate elements. Fortunately, Labrie always does it so well that there is always plenty of playing space for his bandmates, and that makes Elements a wonderful album.
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on March 29, 2005
This is quite simply an amazing album and if it was released under the Dream Theater moniker i wouldn't have been disappoited!

I've been a huge fan of DT since i first heard 'Images...' and have heard virtually all of their side projects. This album quite simply ranks up there with any of their strongest group or individual projects. Imagine mixing the heavy guitar riffs and vocals of Train of Thought with the shorter song structures (and keyboard arrangements) of Evanescene's Fallen album and you're pretty much there. A few of the songs could also have passed under the Mullmuzzler moniker, but essentially James has moved on in a heavier and darker direction.

I adore this album after only a few listens. But then again i loved Train of Thought, Tim Donohue's Madmen & Sinners, as well as those short and catchy Evanescence songs at times (mainly due to Amy's voice though!). So combine all those three elements and you've pretty much given me a perfect album. If you imagine this album as a user-friendly and nu-metal sounding DT then you won't be disappointed. Glad to see that James doesn't necessarily need to rely on Portnoy and Petrucci to kick ass - he's definitely served up a pretty brutal effort here.

Totally awesome - so respect due from this fan of the 'heavier' end of the progressive metal spectrum!!!!
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on March 29, 2005
Wow was I surprised by this. If you're a fan of Labrie's voice, it really shines on this as always, but I was floored by how heavy this album is (with the exception of a few tracks). Honestly I was not a huge fan of his Mullmuzzler albums, in that aside from James' voice, I thought a lot of the music was pretty forgettable. This is NOT the case with this album at all. This is an extremely solid effort and I agree with the review above that says this is among the best work James has done in the context of solo, side projects or Dream Theater. A bit different from DT, (not really proggy at all) but it does feel like a continuation of the heavier vein of Train Of Thought, again with the exception of a few tracks which are still very good.

In short, my expectations were blown away by Elements of Persuasion, easily the best of James' solo efforts. The new guitar player is very good. Songwriting is not prone to prog excess which would bog these songs down too much. The entire band seems tight and quite honestly is more solid and memorable than I was expecting out of a Labrie solo album. This will be in my heavy rotation until the new Porcupine Tree disc and beyond. Probably the best album I've bought in the new year so far and I buy 3-4 a week usually.
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on April 13, 2005
I love this CD. As in his previous releases, James has created a new fresh sound for those who know him from Dream Theater. Elements of Persuasion is funky, hard and moving all at the same time. James demonstrates a wide range of vocal and writing talent on this album. The musicians that he has working with him on this album all sound really good and appear to have contributed to both its performance and also to its writing. If you liked the Mulmuzzler albums, then you will definately like this one.

I've already bought 2 copies. The first one which my wife has taken for herself, and a replacement for me. :-)
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on March 31, 2005
I bought this cd yesterday at a retail store not having read any of the reviews below or knowing anything about it or which musicians James had on it. I was a little hesitant because the Mulmuzzler stuff is not solid and a real departure from his stuff with DT and even Framshift. I was not disappointed. There is not a bad song on this cd. Parts of it seem heavier than anything he's previously done. The keys are great, I would also reccomend the band Dali's Dilema(this keyboardist's original band very much like DT). Great production, great songs. Kudos to James. Can't wait for the new Petrucci!
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on June 22, 2007
Being that James LaBrie is the lead singer for one of today's premier progressive metal bands, Dream Theater, comparisons to that band are inevitable. I'm a big DT fan, so if anything I write from hear on out sounds like a DT putdown, it isn't meant that way.
Having said that, I can say this: Want to know what this album is? Basically, take all the fantastic, heavy guitar riffing from DT and concentrate on that. Minimize the progressive tripping but still make the songs long enough that they leave you feeling fulfilled. No 3 1/2 minutes-and-I'm-gone stuff here.
I'm a hit-or-miss prog-metal fan, so for me this album is simply fantastic. So often when listening to DT, out slams this wonderful, chunky, deep guitar riff and I'm jammin' along. Then, 8 seconds later, it's completely abandoned as they go off on some tangent. That's the nature of prog-metal and not a criticism of DT (remember my first paragraph above), but not always what I want. Much of the time I WANT THAT RIFF. James serves them up, song after song, with a truly talented guitarist and backing band.
That's not to say the songs are one-dimensional, either. There's variety here, and he tries a few things you might not expect (turntable scratching on a metal song? Whod've thunk it? *chuckle*). I've read criticisms of his voice, but I don't know what planet those people live on. James has a great voice and uses it well throughout this album.
This is metal how it should be done, in my humble opinion. Heavy but not annoyingly fast, great drums that don't overwhelm, an excellent groove and great singing. And solos, for crying out loud! Nu-metal fans probably won't know what they're hearing. Hey guys, guess what those skinnier strings on the guitar are for!
Oops, got a little silly there, sorry. I just love this album. The songs are distinct and fresh. The vocals are excellent. The lyrics aren't about breasts, beer and partying 'till you drop. Highly recommended!
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on April 4, 2005
I have always bought all of James' solo material, but none of his prior solo efforts come close to this. This CD kicks rear!! I got it on the day it was released and it hasn't left my player yet. I highly recommend this CD...you will love it!
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on April 18, 2005
Wow, this is heavy! On first listen, it almost seems too heavy for James La Brie's voice but after a second listen, nothing could be farther from the truth. With little to no effort, James showcases his unbelievable talent and ungodly range as a vocalist and once again proves he is the quintessential voice in hard rock today. This is definitely not Dream Theatre. With little keyboard and no sign of John Pettruchi's virtuoso fret work, this is just a straight forward metal record. It's not totally devoid of "Dream Theatreesqueedness". The guitar player was loaned axes from the great one himself (JP) for this record and John's signature tuning is previlent throughout. If you like James for his voice, he puts on a clinic. He showcases his diversity and ability, which is why vocalist do solo records. It wouldn't be worth it to record a Dream Theatre record with other musicians. Don't dig too deep into this one, it's not supposed to be DT.
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on December 4, 2005
Anyone who is even a minor fan of Progressive Metal knows who Dream Theater is and by extension, who James LaBrie is as well. Dream Theater is the numero uno Progressive Metal band in the Universe and James Labrie is their singer.

Elements of Persuasion is a solo album by the prodigious, signature voice of Dream Theater. LaBrie had occasionally ventured out from the confines of his band, such as his side projects like Mullmuzzler and recently as the most prominent guest vocalist on Ayreon's blockbuster new rock opera The Human Equation but this is his first solo album in his name.

The obvious question is, does Elements of Persuasion sound like Dream Theater? The even more obvious answer is in fact another question. Do you want it to sound like Dream Theater? If the answer is yes, then you will find enough Dream Theater to make it a worth while purchase. If the answer is no, then my next question is, what are you doing reading a James LaBrie review?

"Crucify" has a strong DT feel starting out with the acoustic guitar riff from "Change of Seasons", ultimately deferring to the heavy guitar and bass sound reminiscent of many of the songs from "Train of Thought" though with a bouncier beat.

"Alone" introduces a little electronica and a herky jerky beat. It may appeal to some but not moi.

"Freaks" Is a decent song with a strong rhythm of double bass drums and bass guitar. Again we have a touch of electronica.

"Invisible" is my highest rated song on the album. LaBrie uses his querulous voice, sometimes double tracked and some heavy musical sections to weave through a slightly ominous sounding number.

"Lost" is just a little milder then most of the previous songs. The La Brie vocal is quite mellow and atmospheric, as is the song itself.

"Undecided" starts out pretty cool with a nifty guitar and keyboard sound but it seems to get boring shortly after the beginning.

"Smashed" Is the first and lesser of two ballads. It has a nice piano intro and a pleasant melody that reminds me of Bruce Hornsby. (I'm serious) Overall this is a pretty good ballad but I think "Slightly out of Reach" is better.

"Pretender" is another song that starts out interesting enough but isn't able to maintain the momentum. It is a medium paced number that I found boring.

"Slightly out of Reach" is my second favorite song. A very nice slightly upbeat ballad. As with the sister ballad there is a strong presence of the accompanying piano.

"Oblivious" This song takes the heaviness of the early songs and mixes in the milder aspects of the latter songs in the choruses.

"In Too Deep" ia a medium paced song with another nifty heavy/atmospheric beginning.

"Drained" Strong song. Heavy instrumentation with La Brie slowly singing the verses which are in turn answered by the keyboard, a nice touch that I haven't heard before.

CONCLUSION

I guess you could say that Elements of Persuasion is truly a solo album since none of the accompanying musicians are from Dream Theater and yet there is that unmistakable DT flavor permeating most of the album.

In my opinion Elements of Persuasion is not a great album, in fact it's barely a very good album but it does have it's moments. Other than a couple very nice ballads, many of the songs, such as "Invisible", feature heavy bass playing, reminiscent of DT's latest release Train of Thought. Some of the songs start well but seem to lose their way. While there are a few of pretty good to great songs here, I must admit there isn't any that I couldn't live without but I'm afraid that it's close enough that you shouldn't take my word for it. You need to make your own decision.
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