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Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment 3 CD (album) cover

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT 3

Liquid Tension Experiment

 

Progressive Metal

3.56 | 86 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Never in my life had I prayed more for another LTE album than now. As a Dream Theater lifer, the post-Mike Portnoy era has evolved from a technical progressive style to a more straightforward, singles-generating heavy metal outfit, and as such, a lot of the magic from the old days has been lost. Sure, songs like "Enemy Inside" and "Untethered Angel" sound great on my gaming metal playlist when I'm playing Apex Legends, but they're a far cry from the cerebral approach of "Metropolis" and "Six Degrees" fame. Even on "Train of Thought", generally a very dark album, the band would throw in a dash of spice and magic such as Jordan Rudess' player piano antics in "Endless Sacrifice".

Now of course times change. Is there any need to make 10-15 minute long blockbuster virtuoistic pieces anymore? Probably not. At this rate in the band's storied career, there's nothing for the band to prove, so they're moving towards a catchier, straightforward metal approach, and while there's nothing wrong with that, there's a lack of the humor, the magic, the "Joie de vivre" that made DT music so memorable, and the first two LTE albums emerged because of the commercial-ness of "Falling Into Infinity", long considered one of the weakest albums in the band's long and illustrious career. Think about it, if you're forced into making boring posters for a conglomerate, wouldn't all that pent up creativity lead you to creating some Jackson Pollock-esque pieces out of a sheer need to finally express yourself after all that time?

Well, maybe not Pollock, but I think you get the point. And it's the same reason why this long awaited third album has released at this point.

"Hypersonic" opens like "Paradigm Shift and "Acid Rain" did on the first two albums. It's the opening blockbuster, the "kick down the front door and punch the first person you see in the face" kind of track, a gangbuster of virtuosity one expects from these seasoned and skilled veterans. Then they branch out into diverse pieces similar to previous albums. "Beating the Odds" is a very cheery track. It may not have a hook like "Acid Rain" or "Kindred Spirits" but it's still an overall pleasant track, while "Liquid Evolution" is this album's version of the interlude, a very ethereal and atmospheric track led by Tony Levin's domineering bass and peppered with Rudess' signature flourishes.

"The Passage of Time" is signature DT. There are sections in between that I can picture James LaBrie belting out something very philosophical or emotional in a catchy and pronounced fashion. There are even a couple riff snippets that seem to homage part 2 of "In the Presence of Enemies" off 2007's "Systematic Chaos", arguably the band's darkest album to date (yet still one of my favorites). This song is followed by "Chris & Kevin's Amazing Odyssey", continuing a trend of always having a Levin/Portnoy showcase on every album (including the John Petrucci-less Liquid Trio Experiment).

Then the band shakes things up with a surprisingly wonderful rendition of Gershwin's classic "Rhapsody in Blue". Of course, being classically trained and having heard and played the original, some of Rudess' synth sound choices are a bit cheesy and dated, but it's still such a lively and energetic piece and I think it's a refreshing take on a staple of American music. The band then goes from the ridiculous to the sublime guitar and piano ballad "Shades of Hope", finishing up with an amazing and dark Middle Eastern-tinged epic "Key to the Imagination".

The Deluxe edition comes with 5 extra tracks which are basically jam sessions (who can say no to hearing these guys jam out?). "Blink of an Eye" has classic DT vibes, while "Solid Resolution Theory" and "View from the Mountaintop" feel a bit blusey and Deep Purple-ish, while "Your Beard is Good" and "Ya Mon" feel like instrumental Dream Theater demos cut from previous albums glued together to make a mash up.

All in all, this is exactly what fans of older Dream Theater albums and instrumentals have been waiting for. Portnoy's playing just feels so much more lively and refreshing (no offense to Mike Mangini, it feels like The Beatles with Pete Best), and there's so much going on. It's a very happy record, it's a record that you can listen 10 times in a row and still hear something new on the 10th listen.

If I have a criticism, I agree with some people that there isn't really an "it" song. "Acid Rain" was the "it" song on LTE2, "Paradigm Shift" on LTE1. "Hypersonic" is great, but it lacks a chorus or catchy groove that makes the song constantly replay-able. Most of the album basically a jam session, and while I love that (self proclaimed Phish fan here), I understand how that can turn people off with who don't have the attention span to listen to a straight hour jam session (me included). Nonetheless, this is an art style that simple can't be reproduced with other musicians.

LTE was responsible for bringing Rudess into Dream Theater after the departure of Derek Sherinian. Post-Portnoy DT has a cold and clinical feel with Mangini on the drums. There's something to be said when chemistry between musicians allows them to click. What results is an anomaly, something that simply can't be reproduced no matter how you change, tweak or tinker with the formula, like a good bottle of single malt Scotch whisky. LTE3 is that classic Dream Theater sound in all of its unadulterated and spazmodic glory.

So maybe for LTE4 , maybe get Labrie to sing a few lines as a guest singer? Maybe?

Wicket | 4/5 |

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