Yes – “The Quest”

I’ve already pondered the “validity” of the current Yes lineup calling themselves “Yes,” but they are the only Yes we have. And just when we thought the mess that was “Heaven & Earth” would be the final Yes album, we have “The Quest.” The good news is that it is better than “Heaven & Earth” but that wouldn’t take much. It is a long way from coming close to any of the classic albums. And certainly it misses the late Chris Squire, as it is the first Yes album (not counting ABWH) that he is not on.

It has some good songs, some okay songs and no real shitty ones. So at least song-wise, it’s good. One problem is still that Alan White just doesn’t have the firepower any more. The drums sound better than the last album but he is the clear weak link performance wise. Jon Davison does a far job walking in Jon Anderson’s shoes but he isn’t Anderson. Billy Sherwood has the Squire bass sound down.  Steve Howe can still play but should not be allowed to do duets any longer. What the fuck, dude? Leave the vocals to Davison and Sherwood. Howe never had a great voice and there’s nothing left of it at this point.

Highlights? Well I liked “The Ice Bridge” the first time I heard it and still do. The Beatles tribute “Mystery Tour” is actually good and clever too. Despite Howe’s vocals, “Leave Well Alone” and “Damaged World” are good songs. If nothing else, this is a fair estimation of a Yes album. It won’t be the 10th favorite…hell I have no idea where it would even rank. BUT it’s a good album that is enjoyable to listen to. If it wasn’t called Yes, no one would be upset. But this is the next entry into the Yes legacy. Not bad.

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 1 October 2021

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What’s in a name?

May 4, 2008 – Concord, California, USA – NEIL PEART of RUSH live at Concord Pavilion. (Credit Image: © Jerome Brunet/ZUMA Press)

The question of when is a band no longer “authentically” that band is one you see constantly raised in music. Rarely do you have a band like Rush that kept the same members for years and then disbanded upon the passing of Neil Peart. On the flip side of that is Yes, who lost the only constant member they had, Chris Squire, who wanted the band to continue after his death.

The current version of Yes

If Geddy and/or Alex chose to continue as Rush, it would certainly have caused an uproar. That’s not to say that, despite the numerous lineup changes, the validity of the current Yes lineup hasn’t come into question. The current lineup is led by guitarist Steve Howe who is not an original member but took part in many of the band’s greatest successes. Drummer Alan White is technically still in the band, though his role is severely limited due to health issues. White has been with the band since 1972, so him maintaining his membership is a huge plus for the Howe led lineup.

Yes featuring ARW

Jon Anderson is an icon and he briefly turned his side project with Yesmen Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman into Yes…well Yes featuring ARW. Many fans declared that this band was more “Yes” than the current Yes. So that begs the question as to what gives a band that “authenticity.” Obviously Anderson joining the Howe/White Yes would lay all questions to rest but that seems unlikely. And if White decides to retire, isn’t it more Asia than Yes (Geoff Downes on keys afterall!).

The original King Crimson

Other bands have existed with one defacto leader for years and there’s never been any question. Camel has with Andrew Latimer, Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull, Robert Fripp with King Crimson, Mikael Akerfeldt with Opeth. As long as these guys are present, the band is who they claim to be. But that’s often a product of a dictatorship, right? Problems arise when multiple members are seen as “leaders.” Taking Yes again, Squire and Anderson were the founders and decided who stayed and who got fired in the band. But then Anderson split in 1979 (and again in 1988). That essentially gave the rights to the band name to Chris Squire.

Andrew Latimer of Camel

This isn’t to say that Yes don’t have the legal right to call themselves Yes, nor that they shouldn’t honor Squire’s dying wishes. It’s more about asking just how Yes are Yes? And more importantly, does it matter? At some point, do bands cross a line to no longer be who they claim. Foreigner has been lead by Mick Jones for years with no other original or long time members. Jones then had to miss shows but the band played without him. What difference is there between that and a Foreigner cover band at that point?

Is the name of the band owned by the music versus the people playing it? Or do the fans decide based on their interest in the band calling themselves by said name?

What do you think? What’s in a name?

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Rank ‘Em: Haken studio albums

I haven’t done one of these columns in a long time so why not now? Add in that I post a lot less in general, so I thought why not a newer band. Haken has some amazing albums and all are recommended. Some more than others!

7. Vector (2018): this is easily my least favorite. I was very disappointed when it came out. It sounds forced to me. The good news is that when you couple it with “Virus” (which is it’s second part), this album is better. The thing is “Virus” can stand without “Vector.”

6. Restoration (2014): it might not be fair since this is an EP but all three tracks are great. It’s down here because it’s an EP. Highly recommended though.

5. Aquarius (2010): you don’t get debut albums as good as this one. It’s a little lower only because I like the other albums more. But it proves that Haken was a fully realized band from day one.

4. Virus (2020): an unfortunate title but an amazing album. It more than made up for “Vector” and it could rank as high as 3 for me.

3. The Mountain (2013): this is where the band got everyone’s attention and for good reason. Many people cite this as their favorite album and it could slide up or down a slot for me.

2. Visions (2011): the main reason I love this album is that it was the first album I heard and purchased by them. I’d never heard of them but they were recommended. This album is worth it for the massive title track alone!

1. Affinity (2016): this is far and away my favorite album by Haken. They just nailed it. Each track has its own identity and each one is stellar. “1985” is my favorite song by them. Ah nostalgia! This, for me, is their masterpiece.

So what order would you rank these albums? You can’t go wrong with Haken!

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Neal Morse Band (NMB) – “Innocence & Danger”

NMB – “Innocence & Danger”

NMB is the new abbreviation used by the Neal Morse Band, kinda like ELP or ELO. They are back with another double album, “Innocence & Danger.” Unlike the last two albums, this is not a concept record and to be honest, I was relieved. I like those albums but they never hit me the same way that “The Grand Experiment” has. “Innocence & Danger” is their best since that album but for me, it’s just their best ever. In fact, I think it’s the best that Neal Morse has done solo wise and ranks along side anything he has ever been a part of. Yeah it’s that good!

It’s so good that I am writing this. I stopped doing “reviews” but I had to at least mention how good this album is. 2021 has been a bit underwhelming for me musically. There are a few albums that I would say are incredible but so many more are completely forgettable. I wasn’t expecting “Innocence & Danger” to rock my world and yet I was floored on the first listen! Why? The songs are all just really strong. Of course the playing is stellar but that’s not enough. The melodies are incredibly memorable and the vocals are just phenomenal, especially Eric Gillette.

NMB even manage to do an awesome version of the classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” as I am not a Simon and Garfunkel fan, this was a big surprise. It’s akin to what Yes did years ago with “America.” There are epics but they are on disc 2 with the 30 minute closer “Beyond The Years” being the jewel. Songs that long can go one of two ways. Either you are looking at the time wondering when it will end or you listen to it and don’t realize it was actual a half hour song. This one is the latter.

The bottom line is “Innocence & Danger” is one of my favorite albums of 2021 and I find myself wanting to hear it again after finishing it. Considering how jaded I have been with music this year, I thank the Neal Morse Band (NMB) for making such a fantastic album. If you’ve been on the fence at all with Neal’s solo stuff, you need to check out this album. Fans of prog or just good music will need their dose of “Innocence & Danger.”

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: August 27, 2021

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Teramaze – Sorella Minore

Well…. I had been working on this review for the past week but the band released a video for the 25 minute epic now. And with two other videos already released, that leaves one 5 minute song. Should I even do this review at this point? Lol. Eh… whatever.

My history with Teramaze goes back a long time. I remember purchasing their Tears to Dust album back in the 90s and being blown away by their progressive metal chops. At the time, I was heavily into Christian metal, and that album hit the right spot in that area too (though these later albums are much less in that arena anymore). Over the years, I would listen to this album from time to time and lament we never got anymore from them. I fell out of tracking music somewhere in the late 90’s to mid 00’s, with the exception of Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard… or pretty much anything on the Magna Carta label. But I digress.

Then one year I discovered they had a new album coming out. I got excited. And then discovered they already HAD TWO new albums out that had totally flew under my radar. I found they were exploring different styles around prog metal, but they seem to be sticking more to their strengths with their last few albums. Focusing on melody and harmony, but still displaying their technical prowess but not at the expense of the song.

The band on this one consists of helmer Dean Wells (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Andrew Cameron (bass), Chris Zoupa (guitars, keys),  and Nick Ross (drums). Guest vocals on the title epic are Nathan Peachy (returning from Her Halo), Silvio Massaro (from Vanishing Point), and Jennifer Borg (from Divine Ascension).

This album is a sequel to Her Halo and as such themes recur as would be expected. But one thing to note is this is the shortest Teramaze album yet. Clocking in at just under 41 minutes. I saw where someone one called this an EP. In today’s prog metal scene, I can see that from one perspective. But make no mistake, this is an album. (Would we call Close to the Edge an EP? No. We would not.) A Change of Seasons not withstanding.

The title track starts us off epically drenched in keys and piano but quickly throws us into the signature heavy power ballad sound with a hint at the progressive chops to come. Clocking in at just shy of 26 minutes, this one covers a lot of ground and styles. The first part is in the aforementioned power ballad territory with great melodies and harmonies, harkening back to the melodies from Her Halo.

As any big epic, we hit the next of many movements in this one, marked here by the piano and spoken word before throwing us into one of the heavier parts of the album. The Guitar riffs here are very satisfying. And then we get the metal onslaught with the growls that work very effectively, if very brief, before returning to the melodic chorus of this movement.

Next we get a nicely progressive and melodic instrumental section, which again doesn’t last long before the fantastic vocals kick in once again.

And we go like that through the epic, hitting heavier and hard parts and lulls of beautiful melodies. But I will say, for an epic of this length, the instrumental sections are kept to a minimum. The vocals definitely play a large part here. But that isn’t a negative since I love the vocals.

I’ve said it before, if I can listen to an epic over and over and not get bored with it, it’s a good one. I’ll await the lyrics to get the full picture on what is occurring.

Stone gives us another power ballad and of course with fantastic harmonies and melodies. These guys couldn’t write a bad chorus if they tried now.

Take Your Shot is the one faster paced song present here from start to finish. And the pace makes sense given that it’s about getting something done when you have no time left. Also the one song that hasn’t been released before the album is out.

Between the Shadows is the most ballady of the power ballads on this album. And as such, it feels a little odd as a closer to me. Especially on one with so few tracks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tune. But it just feels like it would be a better fit set between a couple of barn burners.

And there you have it. Feels like it’s over too soon. But that’s good, right? Means I enjoyed it… and you may too. Give it a go! It’s mostly already up on YouTube anyway. Lol!

Tracklisting:

1. Sorella Minore
2. Stone
3. Take Your Shot
4. Between These Shadows

Release Date: May 11, 2021

https://teramaze.bandcamp.com/album/sorella-minore

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Rob’s FINAL Recommendation Roundup

This is my last “review” because, as I know I’ve said, I’ve never enjoyed writing them. To me, music is about exploring for yourself and not letting people tell you what is good and what is shit. Additionally, bands,labels and reps don’t actually share my reviews anyway so I am never going to get any sort of reach on reviews. So this is not a review at all. These are 4 releases that are coming out that I have heard and that I think are worth your money.

Dutch legends Kayak has been around since the mid 70s and became more of a pop prog band as time went on. They have gone through a lot of members with only band leader Ton Scherpenzeel still remaining. The new album “Out Of This World” is basically the same lineup as the last album “Seventeen” and because of that it’s even stronger. I have a lot of Kayak albums in my collection and “Out Of This World” ranks among their best. Well balanced with quirky pop, ballads and songs that go pretty much anywhere. Kayak is a band with a rich history that more people need to be aware of.

Most people are familiar with Frost*. Jem Godfrey has kept the band together this time instead of his usual breakup/reunions of the past. “Day And Age” is the album I’ve been wanting since “Milliontown.” That’s not to say that “Falling Satellites” wasn’t great; it was. But this album is as close to the perfection achieved on that debut album. It’s melodic, it’s epic and of course the production is pristine. If you’ve liked anything by Frost*, this one is a must own. If you aren’t familiar with them, they take the whole modern prog thing to a new level, mixing classic prog ideals with a modern heavy edge. It’s fucking awesome.

VOLA are a band that caught my attention after their debut full length album “Inmazes” took off on Bandcamp. They take that Meshuggah djent thing and mash it with melody and harmonies for something that actually sounds very fresh. It also helps that these Danes write good songs. Their last album “Applause from a Distant Crowd” was good but I felt like it was a bit too soft overall. The band seemed to lose their edge. Thankfully it’s back in full force on “Witness” which other than one miscue is a great album. “These Black Claws” features a rap section that sounds completely out of place. While it sounds fine by itself, it sounds stupid within the context of the song and the album. It also sounds like they are trying way too hard to be “current.” Other than that, “Witness” is the album I wanted from VOLA.

Germany’s Sylvan should be much more well known. They remind me a lot of IQ. They are part neo-prog but have some chunk to their sound. They’ve had a long career so far with some amazing albums. It’s been a few years since their last album “Home” but finally we get “One to Zero” which sounds very familiar. That’s not a band thing. Sylvan has a sound and stick to it. Singer Marco Glühmann has one of my favorite voices and he sounds as great on “One to Zero” as ever. He’s lost nothing over the years. It’s catchy, it’s dramatic and it’s powerful. It’s Sylvan and you need to check them out in general. “One to Zero” is another great album by a great band.

Here is all the release info for these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kayak – “Out Of This World”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release date: 7 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frost* – “Day And Age”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release date: 14 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOLA – “Witness”
Label: Mascot Records
Release date: 21 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvan – “One To Zero”
Label: Gentle Art Of Music
Release Date: 28 May 2021

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Subterranean Masquerade – “Mountain Fever”

Israel’s Subterranean Masquerade have had a string of very good albums over the years. Their consistency made me question why band leader Tomer Pink would dump world class vocalists Kjetil Nordhus and Paul Kuhr. Partially it was that each have priorities in other bands. Still, shake ups like this can have dire consequences.

While I think new vocalist Davidavi Dolev can sing fine, I don’t necessarily like many of the things he does with his voice. This includes the quieter parts in the opener “Snake Charmer” where it exposes some weaknesses in his voice and the death vocal on “Diaspora, My Love” which just doesn’t sound half as good as his his predecessor Kuhr. The upside is the music is very good and has all of the usual Middle Eastern elements mixed with prog metal.

The horn section on the title track is a nice addition. Dolev sounds better in his mid-range (most people do). I am not keen on the backing vocals however so even this track isn’t quite right. That seems to be my overall impression. There are many really good moments on these songs that unfortunately lose something along the way. “Inwards” has some great riffs all through it…but they try to mix in softer breaks and death vocals, and the song loses it’s momentum.

“Ascend” is the first single and I wasn’t into the main riff. The driving part of the track does get things going. The vocals are overly dramatic and annoying.  The song itself is good but it’s not overly memorable. The long track “For The Leader, With Strings Music” goes full on death metal to start with which sounded really forced. It also sounds really out of place. After a while, the song decides to go a completely different direction aaaaaaand it’s suddenly an acoustic number. While I like songs with different parts, the parts need to make sense when pieced together. But they sound glued together and not meant to be in one track.

I think a lot of prog metal fans will still enjoy “Mountain Fever” because it has all the elements most look for plus a great mix. Unfortunately, it sounds like Subterranean Masquerade are trying to prove they belong versus just being themselves. But with a newer lineup, they might not know that yet. Their consistency has waned as has my interest. I might revisit “Mountain Fever” at some point but I doubt it.

Rating: 5/10

Label: Sensory Records

Release Date: May 14th 2021

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Nad Sylvan – “Spiritus Mundi”

It is difficult enough to write lyrics for a song. Sometimes you have to alter a word here or there to fit the music or the mood you are trying to convey.

But what if you couldn’t alter the lyrics because they were part of a national heritage?

Nad Sylvan has taken up the task of creating songs from the work of Irish poet W.B.Yeats.

(With one song, You’ve Got To Find A Way, included as a bonus track, the lyrics are Nad’s own.)

The poet’s work that I am familiar with relates to human experience and curiosity. These are great subjects to set to music. Symbolism can be discovered in the lines. There is also a bridge between the human world and the mystical. Song lyrics after all are a style of poetry.

The title of Mr. Sylvan’s album, Spiritus Mundi, is also drawn from Yeats, and poet’s concept regarding the collective soul of the universe that contains the memories of all humankind..

Mr. Sylvan is known to many as the voice of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited project, but Nad has his own solo career, with this release being his sixth.

This work contains touches of acoustic, symphonic, folk, prog and spoken word. The sounds of the natural world can be heard at one point. The music is brought forth in a modern way, with hints of past traditions contained within the threads. Nad’s voice, to my ears, has always harkened back to another time, and it fits in wonderfully with the poetry and the music.

Fans of folk and prog rock should enjoy Spiritus Mundi. Fans of W.B. Yeats should also give a listen to this album, and make a musical discovery in the process.

A daunting task has yielded a wonderful, joyous listening experience.

Watch the video for The Hawk, posted here at the end of the review.

 

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting:

  1. The Second Coming
  2. Sailing to Byzantium
  3. Cap and Bells
  4. The Realists
  5. The Stolen Child
  6. To An Isle In The Water
  7. The Hawk
  8. The Witch and The Mermaid
  9. The Fisherman
    Bonus Tracks
  10. You’ve Got To Find A Way (lyrics by Nad)
  11. To A Child Dancing In The Wind

Available as: Special Edition CD Digipak (with the 2 bonus tracks), 180g Gatefold LP Vinyl Edition (with CD) and as Digital Download

Release date April 9, 2021

Artist website: https://www.nadsylvan.com/

Label website: https://www.insideoutmusic.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=850

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nad.sylvan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SylvanOfficial

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nadsylvan/

 

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The Aristocrats announce new live album ‘FREEZE! Live in Europe 2020’ to be released on May 7th

Here is the press release regarding the upcoming live album by the Aristocrats!


The rowdy and rollicking instrumental rock/fusion power trio The Aristocrats (guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann) loudly and proudly showcase their renowned electric onstage chemistry on FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020, which will drop on May 7, 2021. Pre-orders are available now at various outlets listed below.

Featuring performances from across Spain in February 2020, just weeks before live music went on extended hiatus, the album leans heavily on debut live-recorded renditions of material from their most recent album, the critically acclaimed You Know What…? [BOING, 2019] which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Jazz Charts (U.S.)

“FREEZE! documents a particularly memorable period for the band so I think it’s really fortunate that we were able to capture this musical ‘snapshot’”, says Govan. “After months of relentless gigging, the material from our latest studio recording had started to feel really natural for us and yet… somehow, there was still an unmistakable element of excitement and musical risk-taking on stage every night when we played those songs.”

It also contains an epic version of the band’s classic “Get It Like That”, with a drum solo by Minnemann specially dedicated to Rush’s Neil Peart, who passed while the band was on tour.

Growing together as a band also means knowing, focusing and perfecting the details of our musical presentations” explains Minnemann. “On tour, we sometimes become our worst critics and maybe one out of ten gigs fully pleases the band as a collective. But I believe that sort of ‘quality control’ is necessary and trying to give 110% every night is the least we can do for us and especially our fans. I have to admit that I at first was reluctant listening to the recordings, almost fearful about how many mistakes I would find. However, with a little bit of distance and fresh ears, I was actually more than pleased finding out that this ‘hand-picked’ selection of Aristocratic tunes I believe showcases the band as a very well-toured, oiled and locked machine, with not only love and attention to detail, but also playfulness and fun. Furthermore, Neil Peart sadly passed away during our European leg …. I played my heart out for him every single night.”

Bassist Beller summarizes the vibe thusly: “Like Guthrie and Marco said, by February 2020 we were deep into the ‘You Know What…?’ touring cycle, almost up to 100 shows. We were greased up and ready to go, every night. But we had no way of knowing as we plowed through Spain that these would be some of the last shows we’d play for a while. So it’s special on several levels for us to be able to share this frozen moment in time, which is what a live album truly is. It’s a statement of what we were bringing to stages every night in the heat of a world tour; it’s something for our fans who may not have caught this tour to experience and hopefully enjoy at home; and, ideally, it’s also something to keep the flame burning for when we can get back out there and let loose onstage once again. Because that’s what we do best.”

Track Listing

  1. D Grade Fuck Movie Jam
  2. Spanish Eddie
  3. When We All Come Together
  4. The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde
  5. Get It Like That (Dedicated To Neil Peart)
  6. Last Orders

FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020 is available for pre-order now in all purchase formats and will be available starting May 7 on CD and digital download, with streaming services to follow in subsequent weeks. Hi-res digital downloads of FREEZE! are available exclusively at the band’s brand new Bandcamp store, along with CD-or-better quality digital downloads of the band’s entire back catalog for the very first time. Also, a limited-run double-vinyl version of FREEZE! will be available through Diggers Factory.

 

All pre-orders of FREEZE! will include an instant download of the song “Spanish Eddie”.

 

All studio and live releases by The Aristocrats can be purchased at:

 

https://linktr.ee/AristocratsBand

 

and wherever music is sold.

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Liquid Tension Experiment – “LTE3”

The long awaited third album by supergroup, Liquid Tension Experiment is finally here. “LTE3” comes 22 years after their second and seemingly final album. Obviously a lot has transpired since then.Keyboard wiz Jordan Rudess joined Dream Theater after the second album and in 2010, drummer Mike Portnoy quit Dream Theater. With a fair amount of animosity, it seemed doubt that the band would regroup but no one counted on a global pandemic.

The COVID outbreak canceled touring plans and allowed all 4 members (also including bassist Tony Levin and guitarist John Petrucci) to have a good chunk of free time. It was that which allowed Portnoy to guest on Petrucci’s solo album and for LTE to reform once again.

“LTE3” is going to sound very familiar to fans. The album picks up as if 22 years had not passed. Go for what you know. The only somewhat iffy number for me is the opener “Hypersonic” which basically jams in as many notes as humanly possible. Most of the song itself is good but some of it is a bit much.
The album continues the traditions of the first two albums with duets by Levin and Portnoy on “Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey” which is their best thus far. “Shades Of Hope” continues the Rudess/Petrucci tradition. Though it doesn’t close the album like previous songs did.

The closing track is the very melodic epic “Key to the Imagination” which has a lot of great moments and transitions. Definitely one of the best songs LTE has done. One of the more intriguing songs is the second single “Beating the Odds,” which is almost catchy if it weren’t for the very strange time signature. Great song though. The track “Liquid Evolution” is reminds me a little of “Liquid Dreams” in that it is more jazzy and has more space between the notes.

One of the more interesting songs is their cover of the Gershwin classic “Rhapsody In Blue” which had been part of the LTE live shows back in 2008. Now the song gets the full studio treatment and like anything LTE, you can tell it’s the cover (bluesy and classy) but it goes many places the original never quite did. It really showcases the overall musicality of the members of LTE.

“LTE3” is not going to disappoint fans of this supergroup. It’s a logical follow up regardless of how long it took. Tony Levin is still a genius and the other 3 still have great chemistry. But the Portnoy sycophants should just pump the breaks and enjoy this reunion. DT has their new album underway with the master Mike Mangini behind the kit. Things have worked out in many ways. A new Liquid Tension Experiment album is one of those ways!

Rating: 9/10

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: April 15, 2021

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