Liquid Tension Experiment 2

Liquid Tension Experiment

Magna Carta Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/14/1999

Back when the first Liquid Tension Experiment album came out last year, I questioned if the progressive rock market wasn't getting too saturated with these "one-off" supergroups who get together to musically brainstorm. Leave it to the guys in Liquid Tension Experiment - guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, bassist Tony Levin and drummer Mike Portnoy - to turn this into their own side project. Their latest release, Liquid Tension Experiment 2, is a definite improvement over their last outing, but there still are times when it feels like the energy is being depleted.

The sessions for this album were interrupted by the birth of Petrucci's daughter, but the way this disc is put together, you'd swear that the songs were performed one after the other, with barely room to breathe. In a way, this helps to really draw Liquid Tension Experiment 2 together; allowing the songs to flow together helps to keep a level of excitement about the music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening riffs of "Acid Rain" let the listener know that this group has grown as a band since the sessions for their first disc. With three-fifths of Dream Theater taking part in this album (Rudess replaced Derek Sherinian as DT's keyboardist shortly after these sessions took place), you know that the prog-rock levels are going to be pushed to new heights - and the band doesn't disappoint.

But what makes this album so special is that they're willing to take more chances outside of the strict prog-rock borders. "Biaxident" succeeds on many levels, going from a tune with a slight Latin flavor to the rhythm backbone to a solid rocker. On the opposite side of the spectrum, "Hourglass" is a beautiful piece with only Rudess and Petrucci playing; Petrucci's acoustical work is breathtaking, showing everyone why he could be one of the most underrated guitarists in a long time.

There are some moments on Liquid Tension Experiment 2 that take some time for the listener to get used to. "914" is a bizarre jam between Levin (who finally gets a chance to have his bass work brought to the forefront), Rudess and Portnoy, who recorded this while Petrucci was out of the studio for his daughter's birth. It's kind of a weird funk groove that's laid down, but after a few listens, you can't help being hooked by it. The same can't be said for "Chewbacca," the only outright dud on the disc which just never seems to gel as a song.

The centerpiece of the album is "When The Water Breaks," the song the band was working on when Petrucci's wife went into labor. This one is just a lot of fun to listen to, and makes what was really hard work for these four musicians sound like it flowed out of them effortlessly.

While the first Liquid Tension Experiment album - albeit an enjoyable and musically solid album - sounded like the band was trying to force itself to create some magic, Liquid Tension Experiment 2 feels like everything just came together. Only near the end, on "Chewbacca" and "Liquid Dreams," do things sound like they were running out of steam. Maybe this is because the sessions were interrupted by the impending birth, I don't know.

Liquid Tension Experiment 2 is a marked improvement over the first effort from some of prog-rock's biggest names, and is an overall very enjoyable disc. One has to wonder what they have up their sleeves for the third installment.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B


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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.