James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance

JamesLaBrieImpermanentResonanceJames LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Inside Out Music – 2013

James LaBrie’s 2005 album Elements of Persuasion is one of my all-time favorites.  It was the beginning of the main nucleus of this band; James LaBrie on vocals, Matt Guillory on keyboard and the birth of a guitar wizard Marco Sfogli.  When the band followed it up with Static Impulse (2010), they leaned in a heavier direction with the addition of drummer Peter Wildoer’s cookie monster vocals playing a significant role in the songs.  Though the music was still excellent, the playing stellar, the more consistently aggressive approach took something away from making it as memorable as their first album.

Impermanent Resonance is nearer to the debut disc, with more delicate moments while still having Wildoer’s harsh vocals within some of the songs.  For me, Matt Guillory’s keyboards taking more of a presence is the key that brings out the band’s contrast.  When Sfogli’s heavy distorted riffs & Wildoer’s pounding drums are placed against the soft dreamy piano or ambient keyboards, it makes a much more indelible impression.

This bands’ greatest strength is harmony.  The incredibly diverse keyboard sounds that stretch from new age piano to electronica set the stage for everyone else to play off of.  James LaBrie must be given a great deal of credit because his songwriting with Guillory clicks on every track.  LaBrie’s vocal patterns are so damn catchy and pleasing to the ear that you can’t help but get caught in his vocals.  The music goes right along to support the rhythmic structure, which is so listenable that I could imagine every tune on the radio.  I don’t say this in a condescending way or as a derogatory comment.  It’s just that the tunes have so much hook power that I know a mass audience would eat it up.

Just about every song stands out.  Highlights include; the vocal flow of “Undertow,”  Wildoer’s drum work in “Slight of Hand,” “the gigantic hook of the chorus of “Back On The Ground,” Sfogli’s hypnotic guitar in combo with the fantastic vocal qualities of “Holding On,” Guillory’s beautiful keys in “Lost in the Fire”, which hook up with the chorus in a way that will snag you big-time.  I love how Sfogli’s distorted guitar bounces with Ray Riendeau’s bass to really grab you in the seventh track.  The heavy guitar riff and drums in “Destined To Burn.”  James LaBrie’s heartfelt voice in “Say You’re Still Mine.”  The tug-of-war between delicate and heavy music in “Amnesia.”  Even the bonus tracks pop; Sfogli’s gorgeous acoustic guitar in ‘”Unraveling” and the way the guitarist and Wildoer attack the last tune “Why.”

It’s not often that a CD comes along that has the killer musical combination that Impermanent Resonance sports.  This will be something you will become attached to for not only this year but the rest of your life.


Evil Dead – Music by Roque Baños


Evil Dead – Music by Roque Baños
La-La Land Records – 2013

The score for the remake of Evil Dead is carried out with wondrous skill and real compositional flair.  Rogue Baños does a masterful job of getting the Pro Arte Orchestra and the BTG Chapel Choir to perform on the highest level.

No matter how you feel about this latest version of Evil Dead (I thought it was strong, the most violent movie I’ve ever seen a major studio release), there’s no denying the power of this new score.  I was impressed with the softer moments in “I’ll Rip Your Soul Out” as much as the bombastic screaming horns, wall of choir voices and big drum hits.  This shows Baños’ control of his craft and speaks highly of both his versatility and music knowledge.

The piano in “Sad Memories” stirs the heart with spread out notes creating tenderness of the main character’s serious drug problem.  The strings underline a creepiness that dwells not far off in the shadows, itching to break free and wreak havoc.

Baños engineers the strings to flutter in “Don’t Say It, Don’t Write It, Don’t Hear It” in a way that makes me think of The Shining.  The real quiet, almost silent part of this cue is incredibly tense because there are voices whispering and the subtle orchestral touches make it suspenseful.

The ascending strings in combo with the chorus voices in “Demon Possession (extended)” will put you on the edge before you get shoved off when the horns and drums impact like a charging rhino.  It caused me to jump in my seat as I was straining to listen to the low volume sounds and got suddenly walloped like a sledge hammer to the head when the big orchestra hit.  There’s another moment like this in the middle of “Get Me Out of Here”, which reminded me a bit of Creature From the Black Lagoon or Jeepers Creepers.

Speaking of brass instrumentation, the trumpets and other horns scream out in “She Tried To Kill Me.”  Baños also pushes the brass to the max in “Bloody Kiss.”  In this eighth cue, I love the deep low horn instrument, which delivers substantial weight and force.

The bright snapping sound in “Three Ways of Saving Her Soul”, bites like a venomous snake.

The orchestra purrs softly in the beginning of “Natalie Hunting,” which changes mid-way through in both volume and intensity.  The acoustic siren is most definitely an eerie addition.  It was fascinating reading Baños linear notes why he used the siren. The same approach is taken in the longest track “I’ll Do What I Gotta Do (extended)”, which hits a peak half-in.  The trumpet pattern during the last quarter is real catchy and passionate.

My favorite track has to be “Come Back To Me.”  This is the powerful music used when David (Shiloh Fernandez) tries saving his sister Mia (Jane Levy) by attempting to get her heart started again after burying her.  This is definitely the most important moment in the entire film and the music supports it.

Baños scores “He’s Coming” with aggressive thrust propelling the musical story forward with relentless intensity.  I love the way the orchestra builds to a fever pitch and then dissipates into the either.  The choir voices take over to make the track even more potent.

“Abominations Rising “sounds like a tornado of evil raging across the soundscape.  The orchestra extends down like a funnel cloud touching to the ground, with the choir fueling the spinning vortex of evil.  Voices speak, cry out and shout representing the demons that run amuck in the film.  The strings work franticly in the best John Williams fashion and then that acoustic siren puts the topper on creating all out terror.  It’s fun, creepy and sounds absolutely amazing.  This easily qualifies as my second favorite track of this score.

I love the way Baños dances with “The Pendant / Evil Tango” as he gets the music to flow with the orchestra leading the choir to move in a ballroom dance pattern, while still retaining the horrific aspects of this film.

The psychological center of Evil Dead is captured in this beautiful piano rendition of “The Evil Dead Main Title.”

This soundtrack wraps up with “Come Back To Me (alternate)”, a composition that dives into the film’s emotional crest with a gentle grip on the film’s heartstring.

Rogue Baños has created an outstanding piece of work that will definitely be lauded by all film scoring listeners.  ‘I’d best describe the Spanish music composer as a cross between Jerry Goldsmith, Elliot Goldenthal and Christopher Young.  He has deep roots in the pillars of movie music, yet he’s not duplicating anyone or any film in particular.  It all comes across rather naturally and makes me excited about not only this magnificent score for Evil Dead but his work to come.

La-La Land Records have done another stellar job with this soundtrack.  The packaging, artwork, quotes from the main people behind this film all lend credence into this score.  I also appreciated the considerable 71 ½ minute running time, which gave me lots of time to enjoy this standout work.

I’m quite confident that this will end up as one of the best of 2013.




Benedictum – Obey


Benedictum – Obey
Frontiers Records – 2013

As I sit down to write this review, I have to gather myself and take a moment before tackling it.  The reason is because Benedictum is one of my favorite groups and I feel the responsibility of writing something that displays my passion for the band.

Right away the melancholy keyboard tone of “Cry of the Banshee” beckons the mood of Season of Tragedy album.  That lets me know something wicked and powerful will follow.  It does, as Veronica Freeman lets out a glass shattering scream cracking into “Fractured.”  Rikard Stjernquist (JAG PANZER) makes his presence felt immediately with his pounding drums.  Pete Wells’ guitar riff is ferocious and tag-teams with Stjernquist.  Veronica (a.k.a. “V”) is well…Veronica.  The woman screams like a banshee, scorching the tune with her unmistakable pipes.

Well’s axe screams and squeals like the late-great “Dimebag” Darrell in the title track, while Stjernquist kicks it like Dime’s brother Vinnie Paul.  The slower tempo sections give V the opportunity to squeeze in and throat instructions for us to “Obey.”  The lyrical content and meaning of this song could come across silly and maybe even campy in lesser hands, but the sultry singer cracks the whip of authority.

Benedictum seems to be making a collective statement of their existence in “Fighting For My Life.”  There is urgency to V’s voice as she will not let anything take her or her band down.  When she sings, “You want me, a piece of me.  You want me that will never be”, you’ll believe her.  The background vocals reinforce their fearless leader and her fellow musicians back her with steel-like support.

The guitar and drums detonate in “Scream.”  Aric Avina’s (TYNATOR) bass is the concrete slab holding the thrusting rhythm together.  V matches the song’s title with long, loud, piercing cries expressing her fiery emotion.

“Evil That We Do” catches like the upswing of “The Fisherman’s” hook from I Know What You Did Last Summer.  Veronica’s backing “Ooooooohhhhhh” is instantaneously contagious and will infect your metal soul.  I don’t know why but this tong reminds me of Megadeth.  It’s probably Pete Wells’ ass-kicking guitar work and the thumping bass & drums.

V tells an epic tale in “Crossing Over.”  In some ways this song’s construction brings to mind Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell.”  Veronica nails the chorus because she exerts both a delicate touch while being powerful at the same time.

“Cry” is a duet-ballad between Veronica and former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin.  They have excellent vocal chemistry and the band gives them the right instrumental undergrid.

Because of the sensitivity of the previous tune, “Thornz” tears into the audio space like a rack-full of metallic spikes.  Pete Wells is a heavy metal assassin, playing a lethal combination of heavy-duty licks and lead guitar that leaves no listener safe.

There is an fascinating instrumental passage to the beginning of “Die To Love You” that sounds like a circus gone haywire.  The deliberate pacing of this song leaves room for Veronica to shine and Pete’s solo is out of the ordinary, as he creates an array of cool sounds on his 6-string.  The soft background vocals that highlight the chorus are a nice touch.

“Apex Nation” damn near feels like it was imported from Judas Priest’s Painkiller album.  A motorbike roars to life as drums stomp in before the guitar engages like a clutch to drive this blazing tune into gear.  V rides the mic at full speed to break down all the barriers.

A dark male-like voice starts the head-banging “Retrograde.”  Veronica is absolutely stellar, while Pete, Rickard and Aric brilliantly create a long metallic poem.  There is no way you will not be able to stop your body from moving to this song’s rhythmic pattern.  It classic, huge and will rattle your metal core.  Benedictum’s performance of this song belongs up there with anything Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Metallica or Megadeth has ever done.