Some sequels are right up there (if not higher) than the original: The Godfather Part 2, T2: Judgement Day, The Empire Strikes Back. LTE 2 is something of a sequel, and while I don’t think this one tops the first LTE, it can definitely stands proudly beside it.
Right off the bat, we get “Acid Rain”, which is probably heavier than any song that was on their previous album in spite of the constant presence of various keyboard sounds. One thing that I noticed immediately was a riff that repeats in the last few minutes of the track that sounds similar to Al Di Meola’s “Race With The Devil On Spanish Highway”.
“Biaxident” revisits a bit of that Dregs/Kansas progressive rock territory the band touched on greatly in the debut album. Rudess’ keys give this composition most of its colour. “914” has hints of 80’s fusion music in the tone and phrasing of Rudess’ playing. This fades into “Another Dimension”, which is one of the LTE songs that most reminds me of what Dream Theater does. In the more minimal riffing sections, Labrie’s vocals wouldn’t sound too foreign on top, but he’s got his own side projects to worry about.
While the debut only had “3 Minute Warning” to push casual listener’s patience, this album has a total of 3 tracks that push past the 10-minute mark. “When The Water Breaks” begins as a delicate number. The members soon deviate a bit spin off their exercises of skill, and the pacing of the track picks up speed as it moves on. “Chewbacca” does not quite bring the Wookie to mind, nor is it epic like the movies he starred in. I’d say it’s the least memorable track on this album despite the awesome name. Fortunately, with “Liquid Dreams” and album concluder “Hourglass”, both tracks that are on the softer side, the album ends on a bit of an upswing.
One thing that disappoints me with this one is that while the Petrucci-Portnoy-Rudess trio built on their already solid chemistry (all now DT members at this time), it seems like Tony Levin’s presence is reduced to some degree. While you can hear him throughout most of the album, the volume isn’t at the level it was on the debut (aside from on “914” and the few parts that make more liberal use of his skills). I also preferred his tone on the debut (in this case, a minor complaint), but this may account for my perceived differences in volume.
I very much consider LTE 2 to be a natural follow-up to their first album, and think this too is a rather good instrumental rock/metal record. The first gets the edge in terms of composition, but this follow up tops it in the increased willingness to experiment.