"Mad March", Mike Portnoy accompanies Dixie Dreg’s bassist Andy West. The drummer comes up from underneath, firing off barrages of double bass drums in challenging patterns that seem to complexify and invert themselves, injecting urgency into the apocalyptic vision. We don’t get far into Liquid Tension Experiment’s "Freedom of Speech" before we’re lighting up the wooden matches, especially as Petrucci’s first guitar solo nears its peak! This is romance-epitomized and, for Mike Portnoy, his finest hour. His drumming is built for the arena. Rapid-fire sixteenth notes on closed hi-hats are the showers in "Acid Rain", the pitter-pattering echoed by Levin and Petrucci at various junctures. "Endless Enigma" alternates from gentle to chaotic. The church-like cadence around the 2:00 point is a clever device, providing sanctuary and calm. A drum roll sets us up for "Chris and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure". Mike’s rollicking half-time shuffle is the perfect jaunty groove to complement a light-hearted, whistling theme. "Working Man", from the Rush tribute album of the same name, is as heavy as heavy gets, a musical migraine spiked by Lee’s seamless scintillating guitar. Portnoy chooses his spaces, filling them with double bass drum/tom clusters. All the while, he forges ahead with the heavy touch of his mentor. "By-Tor and the Snow Dog", another hats off to Rush, evolves into a screamer (at least once the vocal takes over) that is equal parts Geddy and Ozzy. Note the drum solos, ever increasing in intensity, interspersed between ensemble themes. "Another Dimension" is an effective Gage remix in which chattering snippets of instrument voices and atypical snare drum timbres provide a haunting backdrop. The Vapourspace remix introduces a steady stream of unusual undulating tones, then slowly pulls them back, dissolving them into a mist of white noise. "Three Minute Warning Edit" begins as a funky, organ laced jam, and graduates through various movements in the same key until it winds down—perhaps due to a warning that the two-inch tape is at the end of the reel! Portnoy’s opening contribution is joyfully bouncy, while his handling of the various transitions is brilliant. Such freedom, such compositional latitude! It reminds us why Mike Portnoy is the envy of the working drummer who enjoys no such free reign.