Sound — 10
Liquid Tension Experiment, as you might know, are a supergroup formed of John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater (the latter of which was not in Dream Theater at the time) and Tony Levin of King Crimson. As their name suggests, their music sounds very experimental, and a large part of it was improvisation. Unlike Dream Theater, the keyboard has a far bigger presence in lead work than guitar, but there are still some excellent guitar solos to be found within. The album opens in full-on shred mode with the 9 minute long progfest "Paradigm Shift". The track starts with a manic guitar/keyboard duo until Petrucci brings in some heavy riffage. From there it all gets progressively milder until Portnoy's solid drumming and Levin's skilled bass is audible, before Petrucci kicks back in with a tasteful solo. A spectacular start to the album. Next up we have the relaxing "Osmosis" to calm us down after that shredfest, the first time I heard it I just considered it filler, but it's really grown on me. It's got a solid bassline and a slow laid-back volume-pedal solo thing going on, not a bad listen considering it's one of the weaker tracks. "Kindred Spirits" now, opening with an interesting riff and an alternating time signature. Again, it's quite a laid back song in comparison with the opening track, but it's a very strong track. Some interesting lead work from Petrucci. Definately one of my favorite LTE songs. Here we have "The Stretch". A very odd song, seems a bit filler-y, but it's got a nice little keyboard solo from Rudess, other than that nothing amazing. "Freedom Of Speech" opens with some chords from Rudess, before Levin's bass comes in with some cymbals from Portnoy. Definately one of the strongest songs on the album, and another 9 minute-r too. Petrucci plays with a lot of emotion here. The second half of the song is mainly keyboard driven unlike the first half. Oh no, another filler-ish track, "Chris And Kevin's Excellent Adventure". It's really not worth listening to more than a couple of times in my opinion, but there's still some nice bass work to be found, and a nice drum beat. The next track, "State Of Grace", is a beautiful guitar/keyboard duet, and the most emotional track on the album. You won't find any shred, it's quite a slow track, but it's still great. Petrucci has great tone too, which is very evident here. Now for the highlight of the album, "Universal Mind". It's my personal favorite LTE track. Lot's of great guitar work from Petrucci, nice riffs and some awesome soloing. There is a nice duel between Rudess and Petrucci about half way through too, which is pretty cool. It's a rollercoaster ride for your ears and your mind (though it won't prepare you for what is coming next). Ahh yes, the "3 Minute Warning". The title is misleading, it's nearly half an hour long. It's essentially the whole band just jamming and recording it, and when 4 insane musicians come together like that, some crazy music can result. It takes a while before anything really comes together, I personally like Part 4 the best if I had to choose, but it's all good. It may make you go insane, it may damage your mind for life, or it may kill you, be warned! One interesting note about this track, during the last few minutes I believe, they ran out of space to finish recording, but they managed to recover the end of it from Mike's DAT recorder and stuck it onto the end, you'll hear in the last minute of Part 5, the music will cut out with an echo and fade back in in the middle of a guitar passage, they didn't disguise it too well, but I guess that's because they ran out right in the middle of note so I guess that's the best they could do. Unbelievable musicianship, and great music (especially when you consider that most of it was improvised).
Lyrics — 5
There are no lyrics, unless you count the whistling and somebody shouting "excellent" on "Chris And Kevin's Excellent Adventure", or Mike saying "That should suffice for our record" at the end of the "3 Minute Warning", but their incredible whistling alone gives them 5/10 for lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
There is simply nothing to compare it to, other than Dream Theater, but even then it's very different, it's really in a league of it's own. The highlights of the album are "Paradigm Shift", "Kindred Spirits", "Freedom of Speech", "Universal Mind" and the epic "3 Minute Warning". There really is nothing to hate about it, except from the filler tracks, but even they have their appeal. If it were lost or stolen, I'd track down the thief and castrate them with paper cuts before taking my CD back.