In modern-day progressive rock, it seems as though there is a new supergroup born every few weeks. Be that as it may, there is still one that is the most supergroup of them all, year in, year out. This has been the case pretty much since the dawn of time, or at least since 1997, when Mike Portnoy of TRANSATLANTIC and SONS OFAPOLLO, John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess of DREAM THEATER, and Tony Levin of KING CRIMSON and Peter Gabriel‘s trusted circle of musicians joined forces to give birth to LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT. This special line-up detonated two iconic prog-blasts, the eponymous debut album in 1998 and the dazzling follow-up, “LTE2,” in 1999. It was this particular project that paved way for Rudess to join DREAM THEATER, effectively marking the end of this joint venture. Since those days, there have been very few prog reunions more in demand. Now, with the world in lockdown and calendars unexpectedly aligned, the inconceivable has finally happened: on April 16th, 2021, LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT‘s third studio album “LTE3” will be released via InsideOut Music. Given the pedigree cast of prog’s finest musicians on the album, it certainly is guaranteed to blow your mind to planet WTF in a good way. Overindulgence is the name of the game and who’s to object when it is executed with such reckless abandon!
This bunch is not beating around the bush. From the very first seconds on, as the opening title ”Hypersonic” also gives away, the band’s code of conduct is the no-holds-barred onslaught of cubistic riff-origamis at full blast. The revolutionary, early-1900s art movement fronted by Picasso represented reality as fragmented and highly abstracted. LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT‘s signature sound, the chiaroscuro of brain-twisting riffs and hypersonic melodies, could just as well be the musical equivalent of early Cubism… on steroids.
Further into the album, the monster riffs keep filling up your headspace until your knees start getting wobbly and the world begins to spin. Here and there, you can hear the echoes of the ghosts of prog’s not so distant past, most prominently of some 1990s prog-classics of DREAM THEATER. Well, the album sporting a good cavalcade of both current and former members of DT might have something to do with the occasional flashback. Obviously, those of us who have a soft spot for DT or that particular 1990s vibe when it comes to metal-tinted prog will fall hard for this album. For example, album tracks such as ”Beating the Odds” and “The Passage of Time” balance on the fine line between a vintage DREAM THEATER instrumental and the guitar-heroism of artists such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. ”Liquid Evolution,” in turn, paints the sonic canvas with a tad more impressionistic brush, resonating almost with the air of a soundtrack for a romantic scene in the 1980s TV series, Miami Vice.
While the album features a few tracks that let Levin‘s Chapman stick take the podium (“Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Journey”) or showcase the piano-ballad chops of Rudess (“Shades of Hope”), it is predominantly driven by frantic guitar riffs. Following the best practices of progressive rock, the album also boasts two 13-minute epics – “Rhapsody in Blue” and the album closer, ”Key to the Imagination.” While this pandemic is slowly killing all the fun by ruining our emotional safety nets of real-time music enjoyment, albums such as this still provide magnificent rainy day escapism. When all kinds of new lockdown measures are being imposed, why not glide through these 13-minute-plus, twisty-turny tales of musical fantasy and imagination and just say, “to hell with it!”
Band chemistry is a strange thing, quite similar to other deep, life-long human relationships; a chance meeting of old friends after years of no contact can rekindle the old flame as if there never was any distance in-between. “LTE3” picks up on where the previous album left off – twenty years ago – and delivers the crème de la crème of heavy-footed prog, bringing the fans of over-the-top instrumental madness just what they need. Raised in a different universe, in a different dimension of time, LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT offers a glimpse to what lies hidden beneath the surface of modern prog, like true alchemists holding the key to the mysteries of the universe.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Beating the Odds
- Liquid Evolution
- The Passage of Time
- Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey
- Rhapsody in Blue
- Shades of Hope
- Key to the Imagination
Tony Levin – bass, Chapman stick
John Petrucci – guitars
Mike Portnoy – drums
Jordan Rudess – keyboards