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The Widowmaker - 86%

jontayl, June 2nd, 2017

Have you ever wanted a heart palpitation, but have never been able to achieve one? Just listen to this album. I call it "The Widowmaker" because of its propensity to raise blood pressures, induce psychosis, and cause heart conditions. It sounds like what Dream Theater would sound like if they abandoned any hope of being approachable. Frankly, it sounds like what a blender would sound like if you turned it on high while slowly feeding it aluminum cans and other bits of scrap metal. But it's strangely pleasant and inviting music nonetheless. Go figure.

This is not to say that the album is bad, or resembles faulty composition in any sense of the word. This is merely to forewarn prospective listeners that any conventionalities–4/4 time signatures, constant basslines, or even keyboards that sound vaguely like pianos–are outright omitted from Liquid Tension Experiment.

As far as individual songs go, Paradigm Shift pulls no punches. The opening track immediately opens with double-forte, atonal, rapid sweep picking from John Petrucci. I'd call this opening a series of arpeggios, but it happens to fast to make heads or tails of the specific notes being played. The song only goes uphill from there. Unwaveringly complex and boasting some of Mike Portnoy's best-ever technical drumming. This is quite the compliment, considering that both Metropolis, pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory and Transatlantic's Kaleidoscope appear in his vast discography. Moreover, State of Grace is a deceptively slow and peaceful song that should be included in any of Jordan Rudesses' greatest hits compilations, complete with an elastic guitar solo that sounds more like Jimi Hendrix on an acid trip than anything else.

Then, we have Three Minute Warning. The only song that both has the words "three minutes" right in the title and lasts for a half hour. A multipart suite, for all intents and purposes, it's a glorified jam spearheaded by the obscenely substantial bass of Tony Levin. With more solos than most other albums have in their entirety, Three Minute Warning is, I suppose, the best and most unadulterated glimpse into the raw creative talent of this supergroup known to humankind.

But that's enough track-by-track. My general conclusion is that the album isn't perfect (there are times that music this complex will simply sink under its own weight, and that happens from time to time), but at least it's all interesting and unrepetitive. Unique, I suppose, would be the best adjective to describe an album this grandiose in musicality. Blisteringly self-indulgent and stupidly unapproachable to the untrained ear, Liquid Tension Experiment's debut album misses the mark by several miles when it comes to mainstream content, but that's not the point of this album, nor is it the point of this review. The fact of the matter is that this is an excellent instrumental prog metal album performed by four excellent musicians. Not above reproach, but certainly worth a listen. 86/100.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz - 28%

The_Ghoul, November 23rd, 2008

Petrucci: Hey, Mike, I don't think Dream Theater showcases our immense and godlike talent we have in the field of music, wouldn't you say?

Portnoy: I would say, and how about we make a band without any singing so we can have the whole song to show off our talents?

Petrucci: HELL YEAH! Let's make it even more technical than Dream Theater. Forget about writing good songs, let's just show off for the whole song, people will love it, they love us, they can't get enough of our playing.

Portnoy: That is a good idea. What keyboardist are we gonna use? Moore and Sherinian do that thing that bugs me, what is it... OH YEAH! They use melody. Fuck that.

Petrucci: Yeah, we need a keyboardist who can match our godly talent with some solos of his own and who won't bug us with insisting that we use melody in our music.

Portnoy: And John Myung, bless his heart, but he's too much of a wallflower for this.

Petrucci: John who?

Portnoy: Exactly. Let's bring in somebody who is famous who will get us even more adoring fans and, more importantly, more MONEY!

Petrucci: I KNOW! Tony Levin, from King Crimson. Everybody loves KC, don't they?

Portnoy: They certainly do. This is great, now we won't have to pay attention to such annoying things as coherence and listenability and we can just shred away to our heart's delight and everybody will get the orgasmic pleasure of hearing us shred.


And that sums up LTE. Imagine Dream Theater, but even more pretentious, overtechnical, and stupid. Yes, it's possible, and here it is, with all its soulless, mindless, and fake as plastic splendour. If you fellate Petrucci at every turn, you'll love this. If you like listening to actual music, you'll hate this. And yes, I listen to instrumental prog music, so I'm not hating on the genre. I'm hating on the people in LTE (except Tony Levin. He's innocent) who seem to think that they're God's gift to humanity. Fuck John Petrucci, for all his technical talent, he seems to have a hard time writing anything worthwhile.

Avoid this and get Dream Theater's new stuff instead. They're both crap, but at least Octavarium and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence are a bit more subtle in their wankery and there Petrucci and co. at least TRY to make a tune worth listening to. Don't bother with LTE, aside from the technicality it's worthless.

The Liquid Tension Experience Part 1 - 88%

DawnoftheShred, November 7th, 2007

What happens when you take four of progressive music’s premiere virtuosos and let them jam together? Well, you get Liquid Tension Experiment. Though the band consists of 3/4 of Dream Theater, they’re more than just a DT side project: this is progressive metal exhibitionism at its most bombastic. Expect some incredibly dynamic, technical playing in a far less accessible package than you might be used to.

LTE is entirely instrumental, meaning that if you don’t like instrumental music, you can pretty much stop reading here. Considering that Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci consist of about 90% of Dream Theater’s songwriting force, there’s an unavoidable DT coloring to the album’s sound (mostly in the tracks “Universal Mind” and “Kindred Spirits,” both of which are excellent), further instilled by future DT member Jordan Rudess’ keyboard playing. But this has as much in common with the progressive rock of yesteryear as it does with the modern scene, as well as ties to instrumental rock/metal virtuosos like Vinnie Moore and some passages that are just off the wall. Technical intensity is coupled with appropriate mood and atmosphere to create textural, moving soundscapes. This dynamic is all the more impressive when it is taken into account that much of the playing on the album is improvised (which explains the length of many of the tracks that feel just like extended jam sessions).

But either way, there’s no doubting the instrumental ability of the band members, considering their reputations. What’s truly at stake here is the strength of the songwriting, which in the wrong hands could end up sounding incredibly tiring or pretentious and masturbatory. This is where LTE delivers in spades; the album is deep and compelling. Songs are generally divided into two categories: the long and the short. The longer tracks are the highlights here, each consisting of several memorable, intertwined themes that rotate around one another in between much soloing and changes in mood, pace, and tension. “Paradigm Shift” flirts with a King Crimson-esque sound (possibly due in part to 80’s KC bassist Tony Levin being the band’s fourth member) before venturing into mellow territory and back again. “Freedom of Speech” features some haunting piano work (a change from the mostly synthesizer based playing Rudess utilizes here) and more strong playing. “State of Grace” is the Petrucci/Rudess piano ballad that would later appear on their live album, featuring some of the most emotive playing on here. And the five part epic “Three Minute Warning” goes above and beyond the call of duty, incorporating all of the above and more.

The shorter songs are much simpler, generally consisting of one particularly idea that’s jammed out for as long as possible, with the basic formula being improvised as the song progresses. “Osmosis” works a New Age feel and some unique drum effects, while “The Stretch” plays with a funky beat and some fine bass work from Levin. “Chris and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure” is Tony and Mike’s solo expedition and features the only vocals on the album (some whistling and spoken parts). These songs are generally less interesting than their longer, more beautiful counterparts, but they still have their merits.

Now obviously this isn’t for everyone, but for fans of this kind of thing, you really can’t go wrong. Liquid Tension Experiment definitely delivers the goods in a way that few others can and this album, as well as its sequel, show off the best that this brand of progressive metal can offer.

Liquid Tension Experiment - 90%

Morgoths_Bane, July 9th, 2007

Four inexplicably talented artists merge their skill and experience to create an incredibly mesmerising band, aptly named Liquid Tension Experiment. John Petrucci, the guitarist. Jordan Rudess – the mastermind keyboardist, Mike Portnoy – the percussion machine and last but not least Tony Levin – the bassist. Three of the four men mentioned here are part of the legendary progressive metal group Dream Theater. The band/experiment/musical collaboration created is an instrumental band, no vocals; there is no need of course because the music they create is enough to captivate the mind.

Dream Theater are a band who have had their ups and downs. But one thing that has remained the same all throughout their existence is the inclusion of lengthy solos, by each member of the band, save James Labrie. The man cant sing for too long. Furthermore, every solo is pitch perfect, every riff, every note is just perfect and spot on. This quality they have carried forward to Liquid Tension Experiment and then added some more to it.

This is the first album recorded by Liquid Tension Experiment. One of two releases they ever did. Produced and recorded in a week, it is a remarkable achievement in terms of music. Liquid Tension Experiment is not just a band, it is a way for these guys to say, we are not just good, we are awesome, and we can create music which is better than the best.

Right, onto the music. This record has 13 tracks. The first 8 are just one off tracks, but tracks no. 9-13 are part of a 30 minute musical masterpiece, called Three Minutes Warning. All the tracks are highly reflective of the guys talent, and you wont find any track on here which isnt full of musical chaos. There are riffs flying everywhere. The amalgamation and harmony of the members is just astonishing. The production, clarity and overall feel of the music is of the highest order.

Paradigm Shift has probably the most explosive start to any album I have ever laid my hands on. That energy and madness is continued for the next 9 minutes and then comes the first filler, Osmosis, a mellow, soft track, with no real riffs, feels a bit like heaven. Kindred Spirits is another song with a mixture of everything, softer bits to really heavy riffs. Freedom of Choice has one of the best performances but Rudess, and as ever Petrucci’s there to join him. Track 8 Universal Mind is another compilation of excellent riffs, beautiful keyboards and ultra cool drumming. This track kinda slows down and then picks up again towards the end. But all these tracks are just appetisers before the grand finale. And what finish it is to an amazing record. The 28 minutes of my life spent listening to Three Minutes Warning were absolutely exhilarating. Each and every part is a masterpiece in itself. Part 1 starts it off, nothing great about it. But the subsequent parts are so awesome. My favourite has to be Part 2, starts off where Part 1 leaves (duh), some cool riffage, and some cool drum work, but it really kicks off towards the end. Its like Petrucci and Portnoy have a competition, who can go the fastest, without fucking it up. And neither of them does.

There are quite a fillers in this album, some necessary, to change the pace of the music, some quite unnecessary, for. e.g, Chris and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure. O_o, this track is clearly not a part of this album. State of Grace is a another waste of time, really soft and boring.

The production, clarity and overall feel of the music are of the highest order.
Three Minute Warning is an excellent end to an excellent album, and if you do have the fortune of coming across it, I would advice you to give it try, just to listen to some awesome awesome Hyper Wankery.

What more could you expect? - 90%

Glory_Hole_Freak, February 1st, 2004

A great album from a great group of musicians. Blasting into track one Paradigm shift gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. This is a must have for any fan of Instrumental music. Although the album loses some of its energy in tracks like "Osmosis" and "The stretch (two of the shortest songs on the album) I think these songs really could be great if they were a little longer so the parts could grow a bit. Songs like State of Grace and Universal Mind define this album. And you have to dig Portnoy's shuffle groove on "Chris and Kevin's Exellent Adventure" Although for a "jam" that wasnt planned 3 minute warning is an amazing piece of work. It doesnt really stand out to me. There arnt that many memorable parts in this track as you would expect from a 30 minute long piece from Portnoy Rudess Petrucci and Levin. Never the less you cannot be stunned by the amazing musicianship of these players. This album is so technical and really is a great piece of work.

What an odd little assortment of music . . . - 89%

OSheaman, July 14th, 2003

Not that it's bad or anything. On the contrary, it's pretty damn good.

OK, Liquid Tension Experiment in a nutshell. The indominatable John Petrucci, the underappreciated Jordan Ruvess and the famously impersonated Mike Portnoy decide that they are tired of Dream Theater and want to do something different. They recruit bass god Tony Levin to the group so that they can officially call it a side project, and they get together in a studio one hot summer day to drink lots of beer (but not Mike, because he doesn't drink . . . hehehehehe) and fuck around on their instruments. They throw some shit together, and it ends up sounding pretty damn good, so, while doing their business in the urinals, they come up with the name Liquid Tension Experiment (for obvious reasons, given the situation). They name the album Liquid Tension Experiment, and the next album Liquid Tension Experiment 2, because who has time to think of these fucking album titles, anyway? They release them with the words 'Dream Theater' stuck on the front cover, which may as well be a license to print money, and they become even richer. The end.

Now, while I embellished certain parts of that story, the basic premise is true. Liquid Tension Experiment involves quite a lot of improvisation, such as the famous collection of Three Minute Warnings, and they also do a lot of progressive whatever-the-fuck-we-feel-like-playing-now stuff. The technical skills being displayed are obscene, as we've come to expect from Dream Theater, and everything is right on and perfect. The interesting thing about Liquid Tension Experiment is that, with the exception of Three Minute Warning Parts 1-5, every single song sounds completely different from every other song. They're all cool songs, especially Universal Mind, which features some very classy riffage, Osmosis, which is THE song to get laid to (although it gets a little fast, so either exercise self control or get ready for some heavy breathing) and the obscenely fast Paradigm Shift, featuring everybody playing fast as fucking lightning and then Mike Portnoy pummeling the shit out of his drumset. Good stuff.

Hey, this is definitely worth the purchase. Fun for the whole family, if I do say so myself. Seriously, there's something for everyone in here, so buckle up and sit back--you're in for a very weird ride.

Experimental indeed - 88%

Paradox, May 24th, 2003

If writing and recording an album in a week isn't progressive and experimental I don't know what is. Given this short period of conception for this album it clearly has its problems. There are many good parts, but in others it just seems like something is missing or that things just didn't mesh right. This bass riff would have sounded better over these keyboard cords or the drums don't seem in synch with everything else here; stuff like that. But the quality of the good stuff is definitely good enought to excuse such details.

The album is comprised of 5 "real" songs, 3 short little "filler" songs, and 1 28 and a half minute long improvised (well it was all improvisational to a degree, but this is completely) jam session. They are all good for what they are, but I was honestly not impressed with the improvised "Three Minute Warning." If they had gone back and actually worked on it some after creating the monstrosity on the spot perhaps I would feel differently, but it is left as is.

This is probably one of the best quality side projects put out by any artist and definitely worth the cash.

Experimental, technical and wonderful - 90%

HawkMoon, August 10th, 2002

What do you think happens if you take 4 splendid musicians such as John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, Mike Portnoy & Tony Levin to create music?? Well someone obviously thought the idea was interesting so they gave it a shot. Liquid Tension Experiment is one of the 100's of this kind of project on the Magna Carta label. Luckily it's the one and only that live up to the hype. What we're served here is progressive metal on a high level, considering that it was written and recorded during one week, it doesn't feel very 'composed' - and in fact some of the material here is improvised.. like "Three minute warning", an almost 30-minute improvised jam.

When it comes to these guys you KNOW they play well (3 of them are currently in Dream Theater for the newbie, Tony Levin used to play with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel), alot of soloing goes by but of course some heavy riffs are played too - and the whole thing is instrumental with exception of some whistling in one tune.

Highly recommended if you're fed up with everything else.