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Transatlantic - Bridge Across Forever CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.16 | 792 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is another difficult album to rate as it's been a fairly important force in my prog music fandom.

It was a very importantly early step for me, a guy who was looking for some really neat music and hadn't gone much past Dream Theater at the time. But then along comes this album, this supergroup, and they sucked me in with the promise of really long songs and Mike Portnoy on the drums. Turns out, this is nothing like Dream Theater, but would certainly kick me down a much more Neal Morse and 70s prog influenced direction rather than the more progressive metal direction I would have gone otherwise. Fans of Dream Theater checking on what their favorite drummer is up to will find something pretty different here, but fans of Neal Morse or Roine Stolt will not be surprised--especially not in the case of the former. But even still, this is a fairly strong album with a lot of energy and excitement built throughout it. If you are into epic songs but don't much like the meandering and weakly combined tracks that a number of other prog acts stretch past the twenty minute mark, check this out. Neal Morse, already a prodigious force for producing some pretty sweet long tracks, is at the absolute top of his game here. That doesn't mean that the rest of the band sits back, though. It clearly is a united effort, even more so than the group's first project, and the results are quite inspiring.

The album opens with the first of the twinned bracket tracks (weird to call a near half-hour of music a bracket track, but there you go), Duel with the Devil. It opens with some lovely strings, segueing into a bright and upbeat full band section. There's some good old proggy noodling going on here, though these guys aren't necessarily as into speed as more prominent noodlists often are. The general energy of the song continues for the first ten minutes or so, including a down-to-earth vocal section by Roine that really gives him room to belt--something he needs more often, I think, as his voice sounds weak often on his Flower Kings albums. The music then drops off, building back up with a duel of guitar and saxophone. Very neat moments. The whole piece ends with a children's choir repeating a main theme, expanding and harmonizing quite effectively, if a bit in a cliche manner.

The album then moves into Suite Charlotte Pike, a suite (surprise) comprised of some more folky and Beatlesy tunes. More vocal rounds appear here. On the whole, while there are some good parts, it is not a very cohesive track, but more like a strictly structured jam session with a lot more vocals than instrumentals. In truth, I enjoyed this track a lot more before I saw on the DVD. Not that the DVD ruins it, but throwing in parts of the Beatles' Abbey Road medley throughout the suite makes it so much better. Thus, the studio version gets to be less exciting.

The title track is a very standard, very weak track that if you've ever listened to an album with anything written by Morse before, you've more or less heard. It's just a quiet piano ballad that, no matter how nice it is, is so overshadowed by the sheer genius of the two main tracks here that more often than not I forget it even exists.

Stranger in Your Soul is, to me, the highlight of the album. Opening with the same strings as Duel with the Devil, except in a different key, the song quickly moves in another direction. Instead of the bright explosion of band, we have a moody buildup driven by some lovely drumming. For the next few minutes, the song is pretty quiet and slow, with some nice vocal melodies and a general sense that it's not going to last. And indeed it doesn't. A return to a chorus seen in Suite Charlotte Pike flings the song into the heaviest moment Transatlantic has seen--Mike Portnoy clearly had a strong hand here. Fast paced and frenetic, the music serves as a unique background to a four man vocal round. The energy level continues through some well harmonized choruses and then a wild guitar solo. Backing down after all that, it slowly builds for a number of minutes after a gentle portion, expanding with a return of the beginning strings. The song then kicks back into energy mode for most of its remainder, save a powerful and truly epic, if I may use the word as an adjective here (a dangerous thing on a prog site), conclusion by Morse. The piano shuts down the tune.

A highly enjoyable album. It's not perfect. But out of all the supergroups, Transatlantic may be one of the strongest. The usual isses of excessive noodlings and lack of band/song cohesion are mostly defeated here, and so what we have might well be the most musically successful supergroup since ELP. And this is their better album, too.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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