Liquid Tension Experiment

Liquid Tension Experiment

Magna Carta Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Riley McDonald

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/19/2004

The truth be told, I've never really enjoyed John Petrucci's work that much. I always found Dream Theater rather boring, the way they drag out their songs. However, I had heard some good things about this band, and when my friend was selling it for $10, I decided to take it off his hands and give it a spin. I was somewhat expecting another Dream Theater snooze-fest, but as soon as I slid it into my CD tray and pressed play, I was blown off my feet by Petrucci's blazing tremolo riff in the opening track, "Paradigm Shift." I knew I was in for one wild ride.

Liquid Tension Experiment is really a paragon of a supergroup. Featuring Petrucci on guitar, Mike Portnoy on drums, Jordan Rudess on keyboards (all three played in Dream Theater) and Tony Levin (of King Crimson fame) on bass. And, much like their other bands, these boys are very progressive. The listener is taken on a wild, roller-coaster ride on this all-instrumental album. It takes you from the spacey feel of the track "Universal Mind," to the track that seems like it was recorded underwater, "Osmosis."

Some of the greatest guitar material ever is on this album. After the blitzing intro of "Paradigm Shift," and the emotional "Osmosis," we go to the truly prog track "Kindred Spirits." All of these tracks are great, but much like an arc, its zenith is at the top. That is the fifth track, "Freedom of Speech." Starting off with a beautiful keyboard piece, Petrucci builds upon it, with marvellous guitar leads. Portnoy's drums are impeccable, and he really gets the rhythm section up. Then, as we near the 4:30 mark, Petrucci and Rudess begin to build up the suspense, and then unleash it all in one fabulous display of instrumental flawlessness. Petrucci and Rudess continue to show off their talents by having a little duelling match. Such precision and extreme skill in this "duelling," as it's often called, has not been utilized so well since Murray and Smith. By the eight-minute mark, they wind it down to its placid end, with the intro solo also finishing off the song. Of the many songs I have heard in my life, this is a head -- nay, a whole body above most others.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After that spectacle, we are given another beautiful track in "State of Grace," a slow, yet emotional track, and then we're hit with another lightning intro riff in "Universal Mind," which, to me, helps summarize all the other tracks on the album.

The only problem with this album is tracks four and six. Both are short tracks, mostly starring Levin and his bass. Now, I'm a big fan of King Crimson and Levin, but I find these tracks (titled "The Stretch" and "Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure," respectively) to be horribly boring, and a waste of time. It reminds me of what Yes did on Fragile, except they had reason to, and I don't think LTE did.

The last track on this album is titled "Three Minute Warning." For people who haven't ever seen this album or any of the songs on it, don't let the name throw you -- the song actually clocks in at 28:31. The back of the case even comes with its own disclaimer, which reads "Caution: 'Three Minute Warning' is not for the musically faint-hearted, impatient, or critics of the extreme self-indulgence. If you fall into any of the above categories, please hit the stop button on your CD player after track #8." (I suggest that Mr. Thelen stay away). Self-indulgent indeed, this track plods along for awhile, with some odd little keyboard notes over the rhythm section. Petrucci's guitar finally kicks in at the three-minute mark (coincidence?) and things start getting interesting. Rudess's keyboards pick up, and the rhythm section of Portnoy and Levin sound better. For the rest of the song, it kind of drags on, exciting sometimes, boring others. Portnoy's drumming really sounds good on here, and Rudess's keyboards are top-drawer (like always). Petrucci sounds good as well. Levin shines for some moments, but is the least prominent of all. Overall, this track is pretty good, but definitely not the best on this album.

I often find myself comparing this band to its contemporary, Planet X. Liquid Tension Experiment seem to be more….well, experimental, with their flying keyboards and guitars, yet sound more down-to-earth production-wise. If you are a fan of Planet X, or King Crimson, or Dream Theater-hell, any prog rock/metal group for that matter, check out this album (and their second release, creatively titled Liquid Tension Experiment II) and be captivated by their majesty.

Rating: B+

User Rating: C


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