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LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT

Progressive Metal • United States


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Liquid Tension Experiment biography
Liquid Tension Experiment had its genesis still in the year of 1996, when Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy was contected by Peter Morticelli (head of the label Magna Carta) and Mike Varney (vice president of the label Magna Carta) and was asked to, according to Portnoy, try and "put together a couple of Super Groups (for the lack of a better term!)",. In spite of declining the offer at first, he eventually agreed to assemble a super ensemble.

Many were the attempts to put the group together through most of 1997, but most of them failed due to one pivotal problem: they were lacking a member. Mike was able to recruit a bass player, who was Tony Levin, of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel's band fame, and a keyboard player, who was Jordan Rudess, which was playing with the jazz fusion group Dixie Dregs at the time, but there was still a guitarist missing. Every guitarist that was originally invited to be part of the group refused the offer due to conflicting schedules.

Finally, in the spring of 1997, Mike decided to invite John Petrucci, Dream Theater guitarist, to join Liquid Tension Experiment and, with his acceptance, the group was finally complete and ready to record their first album, the self titled Liquid Tension Experiment.

The idea, or the concept, of that album was to fully write, rehearse and record the whole thing in a week, and so it was done: from September 20 to September 25 of 1997 the whole process was successfully done and the album was released in the next year, in March of 1998.

The members of the band and Magna Carta were so satisfied with the results of the first endeavor that they decided to record yet another album. In late 1998 the band regrouped and in the span of two months wrote, rehearsed and recorded what would be their second album, entitled Liquid Tension Experiment 2. This time, just like with Liquid Tension's first album, it was released on the following year.

Nearly ten years after the disbandment of the Liquid Tension Experiment, in late 2007, a third studio album was released with new band material. The release entitled Liquid Trio Experiment had jam tracks from the band without John Petrucci, who was with his wife at the hospital expecting his child to be born at the time. Unlike the two previous studio albums, Liquid Trio Experiment was mostly ill received by critics and fans alike.

On the tenth anniversary of the release of their self titled album, Liquid Tension Experiment de...
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LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.81 | 374 ratings
Liquid Tension Experiment
1998
4.10 | 510 ratings
Liquid Tension Experiment 2
1999
2.10 | 95 ratings
Spontaneous Combustion
2007

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 6 ratings
Testing for Tension - Live at the TLA
1999
2.28 | 20 ratings
When the Keyboard Breaks:Live in Chicago
2009

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.55 | 40 ratings
Liquid Tension Experiment Live 2008 - Limited Edition Boxset
2009

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.83 | 6 ratings
Mike Portnoy: Prime Cuts
2005

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Liquid Tension Experiment by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.81 | 374 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by RonMoofie

4 stars Paradigm Shift - Energetic opening track that sets the tone for this virtuosic album of jazz-fusion inspired prog metal. Obvious similarities with Dream Theater are immediate but this already seems more "upbeat" and less weighed down with Dream Theater's dark subject matters and lyrics. This song just gives the band a chance to stretch out their muscles and writing skills. The song then slowly winds down in energy towards the middle section, giving a glimpse into the dynamic range of the album to follow. My one criticism comes at the very end which, to me, seems to be a very rushed and forced recapitulation of the opening theme. 9/10

Osmosis - Much more relaxed opening, this immediately shares a lot in common with the middle section of Paradigm shift in that it mostly consists of variations on a riff that continues throughout. Very nice use of percussion and percussive effects in this song. Although there is a clear progression through the song, I feel that it is incredibly subtle and due to this, the piece feels a bit stale. It doesn't seem to move as much as one would wish. 6/10

Kindred Spirits - The opening provides and immediate contrast with Osmosis and is really satisfying. The unisons between the keyboards, guitars, and bass, as well as the sounds chosen make this piece very similar to Paradigm shift. After a slightly rushed progression through the opening sections, the middle section that alternates solo sections throughout the performers seems to develop at a perfect pace. 8/10

The Stretch - Like Osmosis, this is a short piece that is mostly variations and solos over a theme. Much heavier jazz influence in this piece, almost resembles Casino Night Zone from Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I just wish this piece was fully extended, but like Osmosis, it feels like a short filler piece between two major works. 6/10

Freedom Of Speech - Now in the middle of the album we have a very relaxed opening, the frantic energy is gone and is instead replaced with, honestly, quite a cheesy progression and solo. Almost feels like a follow up to "Hollow Years" from Falling Into Infinity in places. That being said, looking at this piece through cheese-tinted glasses, it is still very nice to listen to. The cut to the solo section at around the 5:00 mark is great and was built towards brilliantly. The solo section lasts quite a long time as is to be expected with this lineup, and builds up towards the new section that opens just short of 8:00. This could have went smoother to be brutally honest, but at the same time I understand that the piece needs to wrap itself up at some time and does so with a nice recapitulation of a previous theme. 8/10

Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure - Another short track that seems to be filling a gap between songs. My criticism remains the same, that this feels like a really good idea and basis for a piece but ultimately doesn't amount to much more than a quick filler. This is really quite sad due to the quality of the bass riff. 6/10

State of Grace - Similar cheesy opening to Freedom of Speech, this time it really feels out of place following Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure. "Pretty" as though it may be, the opening of this track feels more suited to a song about a loved one coming home for Christmas. This track feels really like a preview for Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence in a lot of ways, interesting to hear the similarities in the orchestral keyboard sounds, and the chord progressions. I would guess that this piece was more written by JR and JP provided some of the solo touches over the top as variations on the theme. It's nice, I just don't feel it fits particularly well on this album and seems to be very static, compared to SDOIT which rapidly goes between styles. 6/10

Universal Mind - Frantic energy comes back towards the end with a throwback to Paradigm shift from the start. This is probably my favourite track off the album for how it deals with themes and how they develop. For instance the sudden changes between sections maintains the energy from the opening extremely well plus keeping the listener on their toes as far as what can and cannot be unexpected. The sudden cut back to solo piano after the extended solo section at 3:47 exemplifies this refusal to be predictable. As well as cutting off the previous extended section, this also smoothly leads in the next section of the piece which contrasts the high energy of the previous section whilst still remaining ever fresh. All the main themes then collide masterfully, this piece really deals with the material extremely efficiently. The subversive and playful ending can't help but make you smile. 9/10

Three Minute Warning - It's really quite hard to write about this one in a similar way to the rest of the album. A major criticism I often have on entirely improvised music is that it seems far too unstructured. This piece obviously does not have the precise structure that can be found in the previous tracks, but as a group improvisation, it is very well put together. Sections of the piece flow very nicely into each other and the group dynamic builds up and settles down very nicely throughout the piece. It is obvious that the chemistry was fully there for this track. It is far from perfect though, some parts just don't meld together properly and just due to the nature of group improvisation it feels quite rough in a lot of places. I also don't quite know why this was the ending track for the album, especially considering the ending to Universal Mind. I feel that this track may have been better suited as a middle point, the album leading towards, then away from this. It would have balanced it out very nicely. I also have to be honest here, it does feel like quite a long time to just be wildly improvising without a break. The piece does have many different sections but can be a bit tiring. 7/10

Overall - 8/10

The album really holds up over time and manages to remain fresh and new but still quite accessible to those from a "prog" background. It is a very raw album, but the charm from that is rarely matched in more precise and cleaner sounding modern prog metal. A strong recommendation.

 Liquid Tension Experiment by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.81 | 374 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After the disappointment of finally hearing their long overdue but fatally compromised "Spontaneous Combustion" album (the blame for which goes to Magna Carta Records, and not the band itself), I felt compelled to re-visit the far stronger, self-titled Liquid Tension Experiment debut from 1998: an invigorating tonic following the massive let-down of the later album.

But first, a disclaimer: Progressive Metal isn't my favorite musical sub-genre. And the virile charms of Dream Theater in particular have always eluded me. The music here was cut from the same heavy cloth as DT: ear-catching dexterity; mile-a-minute guitar machismo; Gatling gun twin bass-drum abuse, etc. And no wonder: a full three-quarters of the Liquid Tension foursome were current or future members of Dream Theater, with session veteran Tony Levin the odd man out (but of course he fits easily into any line-up).

So what makes the close cousin of LTE an exception to the Prog Metal formula? The lack of a strident lead vocalist is a definite bonus, to these sensitive ears. As is the more impulsive nature of the music itself. The supergroup was allowed only a single week to conceive, rehearse, and record an album's worth of music, and the challenge seems to have triggered the best instincts in each player.

"Paradigm Shift" raises the curtain in a furious rush of adrenalin, setting the stage for the instrumental fireworks of "Kindred Spirits" and "Freedom of Speech", the latter with an evocative mid-section building into an air-riffer's dream come true, potent even to this reluctant headbanger. Separating the deliberate compositions are several shorter, more relaxed interludes: welcome tongue-in-cheek breaks between all the testosterone-driven fret and keyboard shredding.

But the album earns its gold-plated fourth star, and my abiding affection, for its accidental epilogue: a half-hour improvisation where "not a single note or beat was discussed beforehand" (quoting drummer Mike Portnoy's CD notes). Unplanned jams of this sort always run the risk of going nowhere in a hurry (as happened over most of the "Spontaneous Combustion" album), or failing in playback to re-capture the exhilaration of the actual performance. But the level of sustained energy and intuition displayed here is nothing short of extraordinary. Listen as the music slowly coalesces, kicks into gear, collapses and rebuilds itself, with killer grooves and telepathic focus, again and again over its 28 white-knuckle minutes.

Portnoy himself wrote afterward, "I think this jam really defines all four of us as musicians..." another reason I wish the sardonic disclaimer on the CD cover ("not for the musically faint-hearted", so forth) had been omitted. The entire exercise, randomly indexed into five separate tracks and comically titled "Three Minute Warning", isn't a self-indulgent afterthought. It's an expression of pure, unbridled creativity, and easily the centerpiece of the whole project.

Later LTE recordings, and especially the aborted Liquid Trio sessions, never attained the same high level of prolonged, unpremeditated synergy. Appropriately, for an ad-hoc group of Prog Metallurgists, they struck first while the iron of inspiration was still hot.

 Spontaneous Combustion by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.10 | 95 ratings

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Spontaneous Combustion
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

1 stars This isn't the lost Liquid Tension Experiment album fans might have been expecting when it suddenly appeared, in 2007. With guitarist John Petrucci suddenly called away on premature paternity leave early into the 1998 recording sessions for the band's second album, the remaining trio of Tony Levin, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess were left stranded in an already booked studio, with the money clock still ticking.

Their solution: "we decided to stay and JAM...and JAM we did!!" The resulting tapes, according to Portnoy (a better drummer than he is a salesperson) were "as live and raw as it gets...no overdubs, no editing, no mixing." And precious little inspiration either, he might have added. Left beating the air for quick ideas, the trio opted for "going wherever the music took us..." which wasn't very far, apparently.

Players of this caliber shouldn't have any problem finding their groove, as they proved more than once during the awesome, unscripted 30-minute "Three Minute Warning" encore to the band's self-titled debut: proof that spontaneous composition can often yield thrilling results. But sometimes the effort can lead even the best players into an empty cul-de-sac, and here's what it looks like when they hit the brick wall at the end of the street.

I applaud the wry self-deprecation of titling one of their meandering doodles after the aborted Spinal Tap "Jazz Odyssey" detour, from when the Tap itself was reduced to a hapless trio, opening for puppet shows in a second-rate, central California amusement park. But the music here rarely gels, except in fleeting moments: during "Cappuccino", "Boom Boom" (not "B'Boom B'Boom", sorry Crimheads), and the "Disneyland Symphony", in which Levin's gut-rumbling bass guitar is pushed center stage.

Don't accuse the truant Petrucci for leaving his bandmates adrift without a six-string rudder. Blame instead whoever scheduled a tight recording session so late in his wife's third trimester of pregnancy. It isn't the absence of an electric guitar that sinks the album; it's the lack of any assertive lead instrument. As the keyboardist in an accidental power trio, Jordan Rudess should have stepped forward to set the creative pace, as he did throughout the long "Three Minute Warning" jam.

But nobody took the initiative. All three musicians, aces in their respective fields, sound unaccountably inhibited, vibing along aimlessly as if in anticipation of overdubbed guitar solos which never materialized. In effect, the newly christened Liquid Trio is peddling the backing tracks of an uncompleted album, or (even worse) their studio warm-ups for the same. And what happened to make the relea$e of the$e tape$ so imperative after nearly ten years on the shelf?

Self-indulgence is not a bad habit when attempting to pull new music out of thin air. But selling the parboiled results certainly is.

 Liquid Tension Experiment 2 by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.10 | 510 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment 2
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Dellinger

4 stars The second Liquid Tension Experiment album is a very similar affair to their first one, though this one only has one of those soft ballad kind of songs, it mainly has the full blown Prog Metal songs, and the improv ones. Once again I like better the metal ones, since I'm not so fond of improvs. However, my very favourite songs here, and the main reason to have this album, are "Acid Rain", and "Another Dimension", which are really spectacular. "Acid Raind" kind of reminds me of "Paradigm Shift" from the previous album, and "Another Dimension" is just heavy and excellent, with even an accordion section near the end of the song, which if not done righty would totally ruin the song, but in this case it's just great. The other great metal song would be the epic "When the Water Breaks", which is indeed very good, but perhaps a bit overlong and not as tight as the previous ones. And "Biaxident" would be for me the more boring (and softer) of the metal songs, though it still has some very good moments.

As I said, I'm not particularly a big fan of improvs, but I still can enjoy them, and this ones are rather nice, particularly "Chewbacca", which has a very nice hard rock riff. Not much more to say about then anyway. And the album ends with the only straight ballad, which once again is nice but nothing that I really crave to listen to.

 Liquid Tension Experiment by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.81 | 374 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Dellinger

4 stars This would almost be a Dream Theater instrumental release, and a very good one too. However, when it was released, it wasn't so close to DT's sound at the time, but it did give a hint of things to come once Jordan Rudess joined the band (mainly faster and and crazier keyboards than before, and somewhat less atmospheric). I guess this album can be divided in three kind of songs:

The metal proggy songs, which are by far the ones I enjoy the most, being my very favourite one "Paradigm Shift", which would resume what I like best of this album. In this category also fit "Kindred Spirits", "Freedom of Speech", and "Universal Mind".

Then there are the soft and light hearted songs, kind of included to give you a moment of breath after the other frenetic songs. I'm not really particularly fond of this songs, but they are still enjoyable.

And last is the "Three Minute Warning" songs, or song. This ones are mainly a long 30 + min improvisation jam. Now, I'm not really the biggest fan of improvs, mainly becaus it shows they could use a bit more work to polish them, and they hardly ever have strong melodies, and this one is not the exception, but it is still very enjoyable too, and anyone who is really fond of them should really give this one a listen.

I go with 4 stars with this, mainly because I find the metal songs really great, but the rest are just good, but not essential in my book.

 Spontaneous Combustion by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.10 | 95 ratings

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Spontaneous Combustion
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by BORA

2 stars Visionary - or just unemotional notes delivered in a professional manner?

Don't get me wrong, I have due respect to the combined talents involved. It's the end result of their delivery that leaves me cold, unimpressed. This work is as unemotional in a Prog sense as if the musicians were engaged to do just such experiment. In my opinion, they have succeeded.

I have long given up on King Crimson featuring Tony Levin, also on Bill Bruford on his plastic drums. No, thanks. That industrial approach just doesn't gel with me. Liquid Trio Experiment falls into the same category. Technically impeccable, musically a great flop.

Repetitive lines here bore me to be close to suicidal, Bill Laswell and crew can do much better, even on a "bad hair day"

In a stark contrast, the Bozzio, Levin, Stevens albums are a 5 star preference, challenging even Brand X in depth. and delivery. But this piece here is unlikely to receive a second spin.

 Liquid Tension Experiment 2 by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.10 | 510 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment 2
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Though certainly a lively set by four of the finest techies to ever pick up an instrument, what is best about the second LTE record is what is best about all alternative projects: the psychology of being a "different band" despite a same or similar lineup; some unspoken but tangible liberty felt by four pros who, one way or another, had found a way to make a pretty good living playing original music, had begun to feel the cold hand of style slowly tighten its hold on them, and wanted to do something about it. In that way the LTE project was mildly successful and Liquid Tension Experiment 2 turned out to be the superior of the various releases.

But it is not necessarily a great album, at least not in the normal sense. More an experience than a piece of work, the material is no better than from any number of first-rate rock/fusion outfits over the past forty years. In some ways, it reminds of Rick Wakeman's early days as a solo artist and the fun that is heard pouring out of those sessions. Steve Hackett, too. But, as is sometimes the case here, the compositions themselves may not be as important as the moment-- the event of four seasoned vets getting together for some low-pressure but, with luck, high-gain recordings that may prove to be more than the sum of its parts. Spontaneous invention within predesignated patterns is the order here, an art form that is not often done well but when witnessed, always leaves an impression. Petrucci stereo-pings his tricky 7-string riff to open 'Acid Rain' with Rudess right behind and Portnoy/Levin punching it all alive, this the boys' need for "a burner" on the album, "a blazing fury of notes and ideas" (an apt description of the whole set). 'Biaxident', really a sister piece to the opener, is forgiven its romantic uplift as it shifts to various sweet thematic variations with gorgeous solo breaks between piano and guitar, polished and large-sounding '914' recalls ELP circa '92, and the astro-rock of 'Another Dimension' is a pleasing ride through space with good symphonic arrangements and plenty of neat details and development.

At seventeen minutes, massive centerpiece 'When the Water Breaks' regales with layers of metal, building keyboard themes, playful drum/bass exchanges, bluesy diversions, Yngwie-like cosmic viking plunderings, vintage Lord/Blackmore-isms, gonking funk, before finally returning to the starting line. Superfluous 'Chewbacca' is a painful 13 minutes of not much, an experiment gone awry, but 'Liquid Dreams' is more promising with clean, dignified lines quietly tapering off into slightly sappy finisher 'Hourglass'.

What we don't have here is failure to communicate, and it is the sound of virtuosos who could spend all day & night simply playing together whether they knew what was coming at them around the corner or not. Which is to say it is a blast to listen to.

 Liquid Tension Experiment by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.81 | 374 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Mr. Mustard

4 stars With everything considered, Liquid Tension experiment is just Dream Theater with a bit of jazz fusion. After all, John Petrucci is the main force behind the compositions and the overall heavy sound they produce. This album is no different, but it does take a much different approach. It is obviously very jazzy, and has a lot of free-flowing jam elements as well. Like Dream Theater the musicianship is impeccable. Portnoy and Petrucci and Rudess do what they're best at while Tony Levin adds some melting bass lines.

'Paradigm Shift,' (9/10) 'Kindred Spirits,' (8/10) 'Freedom of Speech,' (9/10) and 'Universal Mind' (10/10) are all classic Dream Theater sounding songs.

The more experimental songs are 'Osmosis,' (5/10) the funky 'The Stretch' (6/10) and Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure.' (6/10)

Unfortunately they had to include 'Three Minute Warning' (3/10) which is really just a 30-minute jam session.

Other than that, this album is a lot of fun. The compositions are great and the jazziness is fine. Though I would say this effort is not as strong as their second, as they often lose focus especially in the last song.

7/10

 Liquid Tension Experiment 2 by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.10 | 510 ratings

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Liquid Tension Experiment 2
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by Mr. Mustard

4 stars The second album by the instrumental prog metal gurus sees a lot more focus than it's predecessor. The songs are overall more composed, but still retain a lot of the jazz element.

John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess really lay down some amazing riffs and melodies. Portnoy adds some powerful drum grooves that really spice up the songs. And of course, Tony Levin is a monster on the Chapman stick. What amazes me so much about this album is that these guys can be so technical while still keeping melody and flow.

The album is largely upbeat, fast, and technical. It is basically a combination of prog, metal, and jazz, but the variety is immense. You get the strong metal offerings of "Acid Rain" and "Another Dimension," the slower and jazzy "Liquid Dreams" and "Hourglass." And of course, the album isn't complete without epic longer songs, which can be found in my personal favorite "When the Water Breaks," and the creepy "Chewbacca."

Overall a very strong album from "The Instrumental Dream Theater" which should not be overlooked by DT fans or prog metal fans alike.

8/10

 Spontaneous Combustion by LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.10 | 95 ratings

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Spontaneous Combustion
Liquid Tension Experiment Progressive Metal

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

3 stars First of all I would like to subscribe snobb's suggestion to place this album under an individual bandname because after all it's called Liquid Trio Experiment and not Liquid Tension Exp. And I also agree with him that if also placed in the jazzrock/fusion subgenre this album would get much more appreciation (and of course higher rating average). Because this is downright fusion and has nothing to do with prog metal. So far the introduction for this special output.

For that's what this is: a unique album which has nothing to do with the two fantastic releases by the other LTE (Liquid Trio Exp.+ John Petrucci). And it's obvious this one isn't mainly a product by Mike and John but has much more writing influence of Mr. Levin. Most of the stuff on here sounds most of all like LTE 2's albumtrack Chewbacca. A track that is often referred to as a typical King Crimson (= Levin) kind of composition. Very experimental and so is the majority of the tracks on Spontaneous Combustion.

Leaves me with a bit of a problem about the rating. Similar to KC's debut also this gives me a headache for that matter. Because I could give all 5 ratings for all sorts of reasons. For originality and progressiveness I could give 5 and for 100% my own taste expecting something like the two Liquid Tension albums I could just as well give 1 star. I think I will go right in between because that seems fair to me and does the most justice to my actual feelings for this piece of art. So 3 stars it is.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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