By Chuck Moe
CD Stock Number: Magna Carta MA-9035-2
What happens when musicians team up for a side project that includes the likes of Tony Levin (Chapman Stick, Bass), John Petrucci (Guitars), Mike Portnoy (Drums), and Jordan Rudess (Keyboards)? Well, you get what's commonly referred to as a super group called Liquid Tension. Joining for their second album, Experiment 2, the guys put together another great CD that ranges from progressive, hard rock, jazz, fusion, with hints of Latin all melded together with a heavy foundation.
The entire CD is instrumental with a good portion of the album being improvisational pieces. Think of the fastest, progressive-jazz-rock instrumental album you've ever heard and you get a picture of the style. However, it would be unfair to categorize this music that simply. The album is so much more.
This being the second effort, I was expecting the songs to be more cohesive and the interplay between them to be more natural. I wasn't disappointed. The album starts off with the blazing chops of Petrucci in "Acid Rain" playing some pull-offs on the main riff that are hard to imagine possible. In, comes Tony playing a Chapman Stick at breakneck speed preceding Portnoy and Rudess on drums and keyboards respectively. The main riff is so catchy that I have a hard time getting it out of my head. Considering the entire song was written in 2 hours, it boggles the mind how cool this track is (my mind is sometimes easily boggled, but that's another story). Following "Acid Rain", the tempo slows into "Biaxident" with a cool Latin flavor to it. Following is "914", a improvised jam with Tony putting out some great low growling (emphasis on growling tone) bass riffs. "Another Dimension" follows and is at times plays very heavy riffs while throwing in an accordion piece. This track really gives you a good feel for the groups diverse nature. "When The Water Breaks" is a nearly 17 minute composition that really displays Jordan Rudess's incredible keyboard skills. The liner notes say that this song could have been called, "Keeping up with Jordan" and at first listen, you'll know why. The scales that are traveled throughout the song are immense.
If you're musically faint-hearted and have trouble staying focused for longer than a 6 minutes, skip forward to the next track, which happens to be "Chewbacca". Another improvised jam that features some very interesting tones and sounds. "Liquid Dreams" is one of the more mellow songs with some great bass grooves reminiscent of Peter Gabriel. This stands to reason considering Levin played with Gabriel as well as King Crimson, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, and a slew of others. The keyboards throughout are breathtaking and carry the song's melody throughout its 13-minute length. The final track "Hourglass" is a duet featuring Petrucci on acoustic guitar and Rudess on the keyboards. It's a very intimate piece that shows how well Petrucci and Rudess play off each other; so well in fact, that after Liquid Tension's first album, Rudess joined Petrucci's and Portnoy's other band Dream Theater.
If you appreciate some of the most talented musicians getting together and jamming out complex songs of the progressive nature, you owe it to yourself to get this album. A warning though, most of the tracks are not your typical commercially accessible cuts for airplay. They are in fact, the work of four amazing musicians creating phenomenal grooves. Peace Out!