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


Liquid Tension Experiment


Progressive Metal

3.81 | 400 ratings

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Andy Webb
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
4 stars State of Grace

Liquid Tension Experiment is the brainchild of Mike Portnoy, drummer of Dream Theater, when asked if he wanted to form a supergroup by Magna Carta records. He assembled the expert team of new-and-upcoming keyboardist Jordan Ruddes, expert bassist Tony Levin (of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel fame), and he completed his lineup with friend and fellow DT bandmate John Petrucci to play guitar. The band formed in 1996 and they began to jam and piece together ideas until the epic self-titled debut album was released in 1998. The ensuing 70 minutes of joy, blasting forth with the uber-fast and uber-technical opener Paradigm Shift, is a joy ride most especially enjoyed by musicians who love speed and music lovers who like a good progressive jazz fusion/metal rush, with an extra jolt of adrenaline. Fueled by lengthy jam sessions and improvised riffing, the album is jam packed with a tasty blend of funk, metal, jazz, progression, and a host of other attributed conjured up in the minds of these four master musicians. It's certainly no stretch to say that nearly anything is possible when the will of a few talented musicians is let on a creative free-for-all by a willing record company, and Liquid Tension Experiment is certainly a fine example of this.

As I have said before, these four guys are no strangers to their instruments. All technical masters of their trade, none of them have any issues with shredding up and down the fretboard, keyboard, or tom set. Whether John is shredding at blinding speeds or Jordan is sweeping up and down the keyboard or Tony is slapping and tapping his bass or Mike is rotating around the kit with incredible grace, these guys have no trouble showing their skill, even if at times it comes off a bit pretentious. The balance between intensity and melancholy is sublime, matching blazing tracks like Paradigm Shift with mellow and almost spa-like tracks like the incredible Osmosis. Sadly this album is ridiculed as just a blatant expression of four guys' skill, when really these four guys truly have a gift of showing their true grace in a compositional and improvisational setting (and most of the album is constructed off improvisation). The melodies, although a bit cheesy in many of the songs, are great; they seem as if they just should exist, whether on an LTE album or not. Like I said, the album is often smashed for being an output for these guys' skill, but without their skill, there really would be no album, and the amazing atmosphere the meshing of all these guys' styles is truly amazing. I have to say, without their pretentious output, this album would not be the same.

I think I'll now dedicate this paragraph to explain the joyous expression of music that is found on the last, massive 28 minute jam session, titled Three Minute Warning. Now as a precursor to this, let me state that this song (or epic, I should say) is not a composition. This is a recording of these four guys letting out their raw creative energy onto their instruments, relaying this energy through the instruments into sound, into music, into joy, into pure chemistry through improvisation that goes without saying that this may be one of the best progressive metal jam sessions out there. Contained within these 28 minutes are a host of things, from mellow jazzy synth sections to heavier metallic section to avant-garde beauty to ambient almost post-rock-like atmospheres crafted through the state of grace these men are in during this recording. Slow to start, the song slowly builds into a grace and calm little track, and from here the track progresses through its countless phases. With no composition to stick by, the guys do what they feel, letting the juices flow as they just lay their genius right out for you. I really cannot expound on how much I love this song. Despite running a lengthy (for some) 28 minutes, the song is spectacular, encompassing the pure passion that these guys possess in their love of music. From the growling pits of Tony's often distorted and overdriven bass lines to the soaring heights of John's solo sweeping, the song itself could warrant a 5 star EP if it was released as such. In the end, I'll leave this short and sweet: Three Minute Warning is incredible.

But, the album isn't just that massive jam session. There is another 40 minutes of fantastic music to contend with, with the crushing glory of the metallic side with the mellow and heartfelt (and at times a bit cheesy and over-emphasized) 'ballad' side of the album, which really pulls in the Dream Theater influence in this music. I really have to say these guys are truly in some type of a State of Grace during this album, playing perfect chops and incredible riffs and improvised solos and so much more. This album truly is a gem in the realm of metal fusion and in progressive metal in general. 4 stars.

Andy Webb | 4/5 |


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