Sound: When a group of musicians for a "supergroup," it is commonplace for the first album to be at the very least moderately impressive. Such is the case with Liquid Tension Experiment's eponymous debut. Is was an album of intense, long, complex, convoluted and invigorating instrumental prog-rock from some of the most talented men in the business. When most supergroups decide to release a second album, it is usually less controlled, more repetitious, and overall a weaker experience due to the egos of each individual member. After all, groups comprised of obscenely talented musicians from varying backgrounds are bound to disagree on sound and musical direction. Such is not the case with "Liquid Tension Experiment 2." This album builds on the construction of the previous session and fixes, most of, the errors to make for an astounding record. While the first CD was supposedly "spontaneous," it was evident that many of the solos were meticulously written and rehearsed (with 3 Minute Warning as an exception of course). Not only does this second session have even more complexity than the previous, most of the solos bare a distinct improved quality that gives the sound a more spontaneous magic. The improve jams also aid to forward the jazz/fusion sound that separates LTE from it's other prog-rock contemporaries. Here are my reviews for each song individually, for more exact analysis:
01. Acid Rain - fans of Dream Theater who have heard their "Live in New York" album might recognize this song. It opens with an immediately identifiable seven-string guitar riff that modulates time signatures in a true Petrucci fashion. The main riff switches between speaker in stereo and sounds killer on headphones. The song is played with break-neck speed and lawd-worthy complexity, with interweaving guitar and keyboard lines until an amazing improve solo breakdown. Truly one of the iconic tracks on this CD.
02. Biaxident - a more mellow track then Acid Rain that shows an almost pop flare to LTE's sound. It prooves to be a slightly schizophrenic track that switches between heavy and pop-sh. It's one of the more forgettable tracks, but it's still worth listening too, especially for it's ventures into Latin jazz territory in the late middle.
03. 914 - this is a short, completely improvised jam based around a syrupy bass line and a slightly oriental keyboard riff. The piece bares a resemblence to select sections of 3 Minute Warning, albeit more controlled. Think a less fluid example of Osmosis from the previous album. The odd thing about this piece is that there is no guitar part, but it works effectively. A guitar part would most likely spoil the piece's subtlety.
04. Another Demension - the members of LTE all mutually agree that this is possibly the most complex track on the CD, and also the heaviest. It has a certain atonal/eastern sound that Petrucci seems to be quite a fan of. This piece is a trip due to the really bizarre time signature changes. It's possibly the most challenging track on the album, but it's one of the most impressive musically, and definitely worth the listen; just be prepared.
05. When The Water Breaks - this is the obligatory prog-epic necessary on all things related to progressive rock. John Petrucci's dedication to the birth of his daughter, which took place during the recording of the album. To show the stress Petrucci was under, the song changes tempo and style frequently, and over the near 17 minute span, it forms into a beautiful and highly emotive piece. Possible the most artistic moment on the entire disc.
06. Chewbacca - one of the more meandering pieces that tends to slow the otherwise astounding album down. It's heavy, long, and chuck full of shredded solos by Petrucci and Rudess and has an almost scary bass breakdown that would fit right in a horror movie soundtrack. The piece emotes well, but it seems somewhat out of place on the record and could have been replaced with something more listenable. It's the most challenging song on the record in my book, and it makes for a good listen, but the mood it conveys is completely different from the rest of the album which is hard to listen to after just about any other song here. Good, but also passable.
07. Liquid Dreams - the most overtly jazzy piece on the album. Liquid Dreams highlights Rudess' atmospheric sensibilities and Levin's viscous bass lines and proves to be very relaxing and beautiful. This piece closes the album on a wonderfully calming note that juxtaposes the albums overall heavy fell perfectly. Possilby the best song on the entire CD.
08. Hourglass - a little improve ballad between Rudess and Petrucci. Anyone who has heard their duet album will be familiar with the laid-back style on this piece. It's possible even more relaxing that Liquid Dreams, but it's really more filler than anything else. It's pretty, but like Chewbacca, somewhat passable.
Overall, Liquid Tension Experiment 2 is a joy to listen to, full with moments of tension, experimental soloing, and powerful emotion both heavy and beautiful. Truly worth listening to, especially for those who understand how to play, read, and write music; those who can understand it's complexity. // 9
Lyrics: I'm simply going to rate the lyrics to balance the average so the overall score is appropriate, since there aren't any lyrics to actually rate. This is an instrumental album after all. // 8
Overall Impression: LTE 2 is a truly remarkable hidden gem of an album that juat about any prog fan would love to have. The emotion is astounding coming from the Dream Theater frame considering DT's music is often cited as cold and emotionless (not my opinion, but I digress). LTE 2 has the making for a classic album: Virtuosic performers, impassioned improve jams, and tight, memorable melodies. It's a shame the general masses haven't, and most likely won't, heard this album. It's a session with a certain type of beauty that most fans of artistically written music don't hear much anymore. // 10