Liquid Tension Experiment - 3,
All the way back in 1997, Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Tony Levin, joined forces to create Liquid Tension Experiment. They released their debut in 1998, following it with the next just a year later, which led to Petrucci and Portnoy inviting Rudess to join Dream Theater, and the band was no more. I don’t think anyone ever expected LTE to get back together in their original line-up, especially after Portnoy left Dream Theater, but he always kept in touch with Petrucci and Rudess, and during the pandemic they took the opportunity to all self-quarantine, have tests, and then met up secretly in the studio. According to Mike Portnoy, things fell into place almost immediately. “There was one moment, I got here to the studio, and I was standing in the room with Jordan and John, and I was like ‘wait a second, this is the first time the three of us have been in a room together in like over 10 years. It was surreal and then 10 minutes later we're jammin’ and it felt like we hadn’t missed a step at all. It felt like it was exactly where we left off.”
The eight songs on the album are a mix of four fully composed tracks, two duets, one on-the-fly jam and one cover, “Rhapsody in Blue”, which they had performed at LTE shows back in 2008. To be honest, that is probably my least favourite number on here, just because there have been so many wonderful jazz classic takes on this, and while clever is not something I would reach for. As for the rest of the album? It’s a blast from beginning to end, with four musicians having fun. None of these guys have anything to prove, they are all known as master musicians who have sold silly amounts of units and have played all around the world on the biggest stages. Petrucci and Rudess combine together on the delicate “Shades of Hope”, and incredibly this was recorded in just one take, with guitar and piano combining in a composition of beauty and majesty.
This album is full of passages where the listener sits back and is blown away by the restraint, but it is safe to say that opener “Hypersonic” does not show a great deal of that, as here we have the prog version of Jack Torrance bursting through a bathroom door with an ax – all that is missing is someone shouting, “Here’s Johnny!” as their intent is clear from the outset. None of these guys are as young as they used to be (who is?), and Tony Levin is actually 75 years young, yet he is blasting along with the rest of them, as four musicians combine in a manner which is simply incredible. Ask any Dream Theater fan which is their finest album, and there is a very good chance that they will point to ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’, and three of those guys are back here combining with the master of bass/stick to create something that is very special indeed.
They are back with their first album in more than 20 years, and apparently they have signed a two-album deal with Inside Out so let’s hope it isn’t another 20 years until the next one!