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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.