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Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope CD (album) cover

KALEIDOSCOPE

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 384 ratings

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Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Given the collective output of the band members, you have to wonder when they will run out of new ideas, but thankfully that time has not yet come! Don't get me wrong: there is still plenty of the expected--and "familiar", to put it nicely--bits, such as Roine going into predictable solo mode (which at this point often sounds indistinguishable at times from previous work), Mike overkilling the double bass, and Neal borrowing, hopefully only subconsciously, from previous materials (i.e., the initial chorus from the closing epic reminds me directly of Wind at My Back from Snow). Neal also serves up his usual share of cheesy and blatty synths. It wouldn't feel like a Transatlantic without these elements!

Fortunately, those are largely nitpicks, because not only is much of the material interesting and exciting, it also features development from the individual musicians. For example, Roine's rhythm guitar work (both the often scratchy tones used and chosen notes) is perhaps the best I've heard from him. Similarly, Mike introduces some new cymbal syncopation, which is the part of his skill set that really sets him apart from many of his peers in my mind. Neal also introduces some new tricks, including breaking out some gritty buzzy synths and even church organ effects, which really helps to re-establish the Flower Kings aspect of the band.

Those guys get most of the attention, but many parts of the epics would feel awfully repetitive if it wasn't for Pete's contributions. Some of the melodies are quite simple, and with Roine and Neal taking turns harmonizing with each other, it would just get boring, save for Pete's excellent tone, mixing, and runs. I honestly didn't know if Pete really had many playing chops--obvioulsy he was quite serviceable, just not something to focus on--until the past few Transatlantic albums, so either he is really stretching out or I was completely wrong! Either way, all the pieces come together very nicely on Kaleidoscope.

Like most folks here, I was interested in this album for the epics, and that's what I'll focus on discussing, as Shine is a bit cheesy and Beyond the Sun doesn't contribute much (although Black as the Sky is certainly a keeper!). In my mind, the epics don't hold together as well as previous attempts. Fortunately, at least for me, they don't alternate between interesting and boring very often. For example, Into the Blue is excellent all the way through the main crescendo two-thirds of the way through. Nice transitions, catchy melodies, and good feel for knowing which sections to extend and play around with. Of course, the downside is that the song probably should have ended there, because the back material is not nearly as interesting, as much as I'd prefer Gildenlow's piece to be. In addition, and this also characterizes the second epic, the "grand finale" reprise is not nearly as impactful as I would prefer it to be, mostly because it sounded better the first time it was introduced.

Unlike Neal's last huge epic, World Without End, Kaleidoscope is simply too long. My edit (yes, I actually go in and edit the song to my preference, for better or worse) is to take the intro (what a fun combination of Focus and ELP-inspired material, by the way!) all the way through the Roine's floaty guitar solo (what lush and majestic mellotron piano combo as well), then move up to Neal's acoustic bit, which leads into the clear highlight of the album for me: those five minutes or so before the final reprise in which the band just progs the heck out. It's simply great: creative, new sounding, tight, and energetic. Prog can be many things, but this is PROG ROCK, and Transatlantic do it quite well. Of course the outro is a bit wimpy and repetitive, but that's nitpick, because it's still satisfying. I would prefer unforgettable epic, but perhaps that's being unreasonable.

Transatlantic might be far from perfect, and the members clearly are not at a place in life that they wish to spend half a year perfecting a top-10 all-time prog masterpiece (though for selfish reasons I would like to hear the result of this was tried!). Instead, let's focus on the positive: these guys are pros, they have great chemistry, their music is very well-produced, and you can tell they enjoy what they're doing. Moreover, I've followed their careers for years and also am happy to support what I perceive to be genuinely nice guys. That's what Transatlantic is for me: a nice, warm prog hug.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |

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