It definitely runs in the family. Chance LaBrie, the son of Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie has released his first foray into the music world with his band Falset.
Unlike his dad’s work, this is not the progressive metal I’m used to. Hell, Chance doesn’t even do the vocals. He’s the drummer. Regardless of style, Falset’s debut album does maintain a small degree of similarity to Dream Theater in the sense that the vocal melodies are catchy and the music is filled with crushing riffs and aggressive rhythms. In fact, the album bears a much closer resemblance to some of James LaBrie’s solo work, especially his most recent album Impertent Resonance.
Being the son of a famous musician can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it gives you some instant recognition. A curse because the comparisons are inevitable, if not unfair. So as an aging Dream Theater fan who first discovered that band when I was slightly younger than Chance is now, I’m going to try my best to take those comparisons out of the equation.
When listening to Falset’s debut album We Follow or Lead the Way, your senses are immediately indulged with a sonic soundscape that is hard to believe is coming from a standard four musician band. The opening few seconds alone you’re left to question if you’re listening to a rock album or hip hop. Before long the distorted guitars and screaming, yet melodic, vocals have taken over as we’re introduced to the album’s opening track. Kingdom, a dark, brooding song almost acts like a sample of what the rest of the album holds but is surprisingly subdued for an opener, while hitting a few aggressive death metal screams towards the end. The next song entitled Give takes the mood to another almost dramatic level. This song was released as their debut video which may have been a misstep for the band. I had seen this video (and their latest video for the song Kingdom), thought the music was interesting and even good, but wasn’t too excited to further explore their catalog.
That’s where Fire at Will, the 3rd track on the album, takes those impressions and launches them in front of an infantry. It is at this point the album really starts taking shape. Fire at Will finally takes off with a killer, yet simplistic riff which ends much quicker than it took to get there. Like many progressive bands who tease the audience with just a taste of a killer riff, only to abandon it and and briefly return to it later, it can drive us crazy but it also leaves us wanting more.
Next, the title track seems to encompass all of the moods created by each previous track and even returning to the aggressive death metal style vocals that somehow fit perfectly. My head starts to spin as I recount the journey up to this point. Only four tracks in and I’m still not in love with the band but I’m damn interested in all of the twists and turns. Will they ever just settle on a style I’m familiar with? Well, I guess that’s what the djent genre is, which I barely remembered was a thing. To continue with the same unpredictable path, the next track, Rock Bottom goes from fast and heavy to slow and soulful and back around to some more death metal growls. Finally a reverse crescendo brings the song to a close, an unexpected light ending to a relatively aggressive song.
It’s not my intent to give a run down of every single track but I do want to demonstrate just how hard it is to wrap my head around what I’m hearing. At this point I raise the white flag and listen to the rest of the album with zero expectations. While there is a definite diversity among the songs, I also find there to be somewhat of a sameness. I attribute this to two things: the vocalist and the production. Zach Copeland is an incredibly skilled vocalist that unfortunately stays within a limited range, with the same high pitch through most of the songs. At times the autotune they use is apparent although it seems to be more of a stylistic choice as opposed to compensating for some flaw. This actually appears to go hand in hand the bombastic sound they accomplish. While the quality is amazing, the crispness of production leaves very little room for nuance which I feel is mostly lacking.
Yet through it all I have to wonder if I’m just too old and if the genre isn’t meant for me. I already have horrible nightmares of checking them out as they roll through town and being the only one there with grey hair…or even able to buy alcohol. But I wouldn’t hesitate to see them. The question is, will I really listen to them again. Yes. In fact, I already am as a few of the riffs or melodies float through my head and I try to remember what track it was from or even what fleeting 13 second segment I heard it in. The last two tracks in particular are much more my speed but are also the least diverse. 9 Minute Drive is a pretty straight forward rock ballad, leaning more heavily on the rock and the final song Smoke & Mirrors is a pretty straight forward heavy melodic rock tune. Yet, what I’m most excited about is where this band goes next. If they branch out a bit more, I can foresee some really great things in their future. Or judging from the last two songs, maybe they shouldn’t branch out more and should rein it in a bit. Then again, maybe people like me that are bombarded with requests to join the AARP shouldn’t judge at all.
Speaking of which, the AARP has 10 Suggestions for Beautiful Autumn Foliage Drives…and I know just what I’m going to listen to.
‘We Follow of Lead the Way’ was produced by Zach Copeland and mixed by Nolly Getgood (Periphery, Devin Townsend). The album combines metalcore, modern rock, djent, and prog elements highlighted by heavy-hitting breakdowns, soaring melodic vocals, and virtuosic guitar solos for a collection of exciting and memorable material.
3. Fire At Will
4. We Follow Or Lead The Way
5. Rock Bottom
6. Hollow Saints
7. Dear Heaven Dear Hell
8. Without A Trace
9. 9 Minute Drive
10. Smoke & Mirrors
About the reviewer: Bernard Romero is a history teacher by day and a film and music addict by night. He would like to point out that while his beard is about 15% grey, he only actually has three grey hairs on his head, and doesn’t have an AARP membership…but is considering it.
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