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


Liquid Tension Experiment


Progressive Metal

3.81 | 392 ratings

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3 stars Despite the breakthroughs of artists as Steve Morse, Vai, Malmsteen and a few others, nothing quite like this had been attempted. At least not on record. Perhaps the time was right by 1998 for such an indulgent set of instrumental rock, fostered by a new era of self-production, small and willing record labels, and a hungry young audience wanting its heroes. Consequently, Liquid Tension Experiment made a real impact, particularly on musicians. An impact cousin band Dream Theater was unlikely to replicate and which allowed Portnoy, Petrucci, Rudess and Levin a special opportunity not afforded by the hugeness of these men's other bands.

That said, the album has problems mainly in the content of the material rather than the fine playing and clean sound. As the musicianship is so impressive, it is upon multiple listenings these issues become more apparent and reveal an oddly unfulfilling, sometimes even commercial tone hidden among the fireworks, one that is entirely unnecessary and utterly unwanted. It makes this debut both a landmark release and an inflated birthday cake with pretty frosting but not a lot of flavor. To be fair, LTE is indeed an experiment involving liquid tension, and that's exactly what we get: a brilliantly executed but markedly flawed escapade with four of the finest instrumentalists the world has even seen. An exhibition of the highest caliber, showing the uncanny mastery of these Berklee and Juilliard alum to improvise their way through an established but open framework. It is a remarkable demonstration. It is also only partly successful. Blister-inducing 'Paradigm Shift' certainly gets things moving in the right direction with nine minutes of twirling heavy prog rock, full of power and esurient joy showing the huge potential here. Pleasant and smooth is 'Osmosis' as it plinks along to Jordan Rudess's keyboard samples though would seem more at home on an Al DiMeola record . 'Kindred Spirits' shows promise with multiple changes but is so polished it verges on instrumental AOR, and 'Freedom of Speech' opens on a piano phrase that could be mistaken for Van Halen circa 1986 and despite some furious shredding from John Petrucci, only partly satisfies (though we're spared the horrid vocal that it surely would've accompanied from almost any other band). Maudlin 'State of Grace' doesn't exactly lift spirits but 'Universal Mind' picks things up and showcases each player nicely, and the record is capped-off by Goliath 'Three Minute Warning', a full half hour of planned spontaneity-- and a successful one too, giving fans a hearty adieu.

A rite of passage for most prog metal enthusiasts, Liquid Tension Experiment was literally a work in progress and the caution on the back regarding the last track says it all about this project; "Not for the musically faint-hearted, impatient, or critics of extreme self-indulgence." Quite right.

Atavachron | 3/5 |


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