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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.03 | 742 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Zitro
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The biggest surprise of the year. Who would have thought that Transatlantic would reunite to write a 78 minute long song? This album is complex, entertaining, coherent, and superior to their previous two efforts. In addition, it truly feels like a band effort this time, rather than a version of Spock's Beard.

Of course, Neal Morse is still the main songwriter, but this time it feels like every part of the epic (except for the last ten minutes) shows musical ideas from the other members, particularly Roine Stolt (Flower Kings' leader). Also, Neal Morse's keyboards are generally lower in the mix, making the instruments sound more balanced.

Roine Stolt, who often complained that Transatlantic's potential was not reached with the first albums, sounds very excited in this album, providing excellent vocals and some of his best guitar work. I'm also pretty sure that some synthesizer work comes from him as he's a pretty good keyboardist as well. Pete Trewavas (Marillion) is put higher in the mix this time and this has to be his finest hour in his whole career as a bass player. His punchy bass tone recalls Chris Squire and Mike Portnoy (drummer) is very inspired here as well.

Let's get the negatives out of the way. First, while this is a 78 minute long song, there is a slight pause or distortion between the tracks unless you convert the songs to mp3, making the transition between the movements a bit awkward sometimes. Also, the ending of the album is somewhat boated in length and anti-climatic lyrically, with the disappointment of having Neal Morse preach to G-d in a similar way to his solo albums, which is overdone and one-dimensional. I could add that the sheer length of the album makes it quite inaccessible on the first listens and you would have to endure those first listens in order to understand the album in a musical sense. My last complaint of the album is the quality of the studio songs in the Bonus CD; only Roine's "Spinning" is good enough, yet it's not much better than an average Flower Kings composition.

Overture/Whirlwind and The Wind Blew Them All Away is the first sign that shows Neal Morse taking the role in the epic's structure. Neal Morse usually begins his efforts with an overture that introduces various motifs that would be developed later and then play a gentler and possibly acoustic song. It's no different here and it's a winning formula. The Overture is energetic, essential, and is one of the spots where the musicians could show their chops without hurting the flow of the music. "Whirlwind" plays a main theme that would be revisited a few times. Unlike other epics like "Stranger in your Soul", when melodies are revisited, they come in a logical way and not as if the band was suffering from writer's block. "The Wind Blew Them All Away" starts as a Morse acoustic ballad with Roine bringing a soulful guitar solo and then introducing a heavier passage that was played in the overture.

On The Prowl has a great rock beat provided by a single bass line and Neal Morse has a great moment, jazzing up the piece with hammonds, Rhodes piano, and minimoogs. Roine, on the backseat, provides great subtle guitarwork. After an angry vocal-led section, there is an interesting turn with Roine bringing a beautiful jazz riff. A Man Can Feel has "Flower Kings" written all over it and is one of the highlights of the piece. It has a dark, somber feel with catchy vocal harmonies in the choruses and an extended instrumental section ending spectacularly with a sinister mood and incredibly awesome and twisted guitar work recalling Steve Howe on Yes ? Relayer. It has to be heard to be believed!

Out of the Night has a beatle-ish beat in its choruses and brings back the main themes of "Whirlwind" while Rose Colored Glasses brings a strong melody that was introduced in the early stages of the overture. This song is a very emotional moment in the epic and Morse's vocals are surprisingly good, helping make it one of his better ballads. Roine plays a very soulful guitar solo halfway thru the track with his commonly-used wahwah-pedal.

Evermore 's ELP-influenced introduction lead to an awesome eclectic piece that is a joy to hear. The bass and guitar playing is impeccable and the main theme of the piece is memorable. Another highlight. Set us Free is unspectacular but necessary to gel the pieces of the song together and the ending is a quite creative rearrangement of the guitar riff on the second half of "The Wind Blew Them All Away". Lay Down Your Life made me realize how much Neal Morse improved on the vocal department, achieving some difficult falsetto-style vocals in the choruses.

Pieces of Heaven is a short but sweet instrumental blending the styles of The Flower Kings with Gentle Giant. The quirkiness of the piece took a while to get used to for me. Is it Really Happening is a much needed break as the first half is atmospheric with vocals reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Waiting for the Worms". Subdued in volume yet very powerful. This piece is the climax and turning point of the album, with frantic instrumentation in the second half that has what many modern symphonic albums lack: passion. I already described the last piece previously and I have to say that it's a fine piece of music despite my complaints and wraps things up successfully. The issue I have is that it sometimes hints endings that don't come, making it a bit exhausting.

Before ending the review, I have to say that the covers of "Return of the Giant Hogweed" and "Soul Sacrifice" are very entertaining; the latter is impressive in that it was done in a single take. It really shows that Portnoy, Trewavas and Roine are virtuosos at their respective instruments and that Neal Morse who is a songwriter, not virtuoso, can handle his own pretty darn well. Another cover that caught my attention is "Salty Dog", just because of Mike Portnoy's singing. His vocals range from embarrassing to mediocre in Dream Theater and here they actually sound as if he was the lead singer of a band! Not excellent, but on par with Neal Morse and Roine Stolt.

I have to give a 5-star rating with this album as it's rare that a 78 minute long song can be so well structured and coherent. These four musicians are meant to be together, they have perfect chemistry and there does not seem to be any battle of egos. It is a shame that they are not very well known, are very far away from each other, and lack the funds to be a permanent band. If there comes the unlikely event that they play together in New England, I'd go without hesitation.

Zitro | 5/5 |

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