"Liquid Tension Experiment 2" (Magna Carta; 1999)lte2.jpg (13529 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The sophomore effort from the eclectic minds of Tony Levin (bass and Chapman stick), John Petrucci (guitar), Mike Portnoy (drums), and Jordan Rudess (keyboards) is a solid continuation of their 1997 introductory effort. Compared to the debut recording, "Liquid Tension Experiment 2" has a more studied approach that lacks the panicked and dangerous energy of the rushed recording of the debut. Progressive is still the key word as the band challenges itself with many interesting song structures, time changes, and new styles. Each song is a well-crafted piece of harmonious rapture.

John Petrucci continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best guitarists in the world; the epic "When The Water Break" displays a deft touch and sweet melody while also showcasing his speedy riffs. Jordan Rudess' keyboards take on a more prominent role in the overall harmonic construction of the songs to great effect. Tony Levin has ample opportunity to lay down earthy bass lines and he never disappoints.  Mike Portnoy's drumming and percussion always suits the moment and is worth the purchase price of the disc alone.

"Acid Rain" is a mercurial reminder of the talent that all four members bring to the collective whole; this track clearly demonstrates the progressive nature of the band. The lattice-like "Biaxident" exhibits a willingness to explore world-music (a la Al DiMeola) as yet another style to add to the band's catalog. "914" is a guitar-less track that is absolutely flooded with improvisational energy. The accelerated riffs of "Another Dimension" get more intense as the insane arrangements and time changes prove the extraordinary skills of Mssrs. Levin, Petrucci, Portnoy, and Rudess in abundance. "Chewbacca" is primarily a bass and drum jam with effect drenched guitars overdubbed with intermittent harmony sections with a lengthy and engaging spacey jam. "Liquid Dreams," a carefree number, is as laid back as LTE will ever get; Tony Levin shines on this track as the band takes on a more urban jazz approach. The understated "Hourglass" is a guitar and keyboard only piece that demonstrates Liquid Tension Experiment's ability to play quietly with great emotion.

Some people may view Liquid Tension Experiment as self-indulgent, but there is no grandstanding here. Songs have taken greater precedent on "LTE 2" rather than straight-ahead jamming. The results are phenomenal. The power and vitality of Liquid Tension Experiment simply cannot be ignored.

Liquid Tension Experiment have produced themselves again with mixing assistance provided by the legendary Kevin Shirley (who has worked with Journey, Aerosmith, Silverchair, and Rocket From The Crypt). The mix of the music is more balanced this time around; no doubt the extra recording time allowed the band to treat their musical pieces with a bit more patience and facilitated the full development of their ideas. As with the debut disc, the liner notes are informative without giving away all their secrets.

For more information check out the band's new official website at to learn more about this stunning act.

"Liquid Tension Experiment" (Magna Carta; 1998)liqtenst.jpg (21753 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Listening to this disc can be a workout. Imagine the talent of John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy (both of Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (has played with the Dixie Dregs and Vinnie Moore among others), and Tony Levin (King Crimson and Peter Gabriel) and you can begin to realize the potential of such a "super" group laying down some big time music. This project was brought together because of the vision of Mike Varney and Pete Morticelli (who both started the Shrapnel label). The nine songs were brought forth in about seven days worth of rehearsals, recording, and post-production.

The disc starts with a flurry of cascading music in the form of "Paradigm Shift" which contains many different movements. Other solid tracks include "Kindred Spirits" and "Universal Mind." 

The disc ends with "Three Minute Warning" which is a 28 minute free-form jam that has to be heard to be believed. To think that not one note of this stunning work was rehearsed before recording is simply amazing. Of course, as with any improvised piece, the music break downs and sounds a bit painful at times, but the talent of these four musicians resurrects the majesty of the moment into a redeeming section very quickly.

A lot of people have been critical that there are no great melodies or "songs" on this record; well, so be it. This record is chock full of riffs, great musical interplay, and a perfect balance of sounds between the competing guitars, drums, keys, and bass. The emotional content and enthusiasm brought forth on this disc more than make up for any real structure in the traditional way songs are made.

Except for a few underlying vocal overdubs on one of the tracks there are no vocals on the album. The weakest tracks are the two "bass 'n' drum" tracks which didn't capture this listener's imagination ("The Stretch" and "Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure").

Liquid Tension Experiment produced themselves on this record with renowned producer Kevin Shirley handling the mixing chores.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 28 Nov 2021 13:23:28 -0500 .