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Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe - Forevermore (Extended Version) CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.99 | 145 ratings

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2 stars There's something I love from every musician in this band. Hell, The Flower Kings release from last year ended up being my album of the year and changing my mind on the band. I have always found Transatlantic to be one of the most bland groups in progs history. There is nothing unique about their music, not once have I ever been listening to an artist and gone: "Wow! This sounds like Transatlantic." That's not because Transatlantic are a band that hold their own as a completely unique sound in the prog realm, it's exactly the opposite. They check all the right boxes for prog, but that's really all they do. This is modern prog for people who don't like modern prog, for people who curse the day Genesis dared to make a chart appearance. I enter every album with an open mind, as I did last year for TFKs release. My impression on this one? In one ear, out the other: the album. If you are a fan of actually progressive and interesting ideas, this album is not going to be for you.

This is a comically bland record full of all the same Neal Morse-isms and bag of tricks Transatlantic has been using since their inception. I really think I could stomach this record if it was condensed to somewhere in the range of 40 minutes, but it goes on and on and I can almost feel the life getting sucked out of me with each passing minute. The issue doesn't exactly lie in the fact that Transatlantic aren't doing anything new that you can't find in 70s prog and their influences, the real issue lies in the fact that they're not even doing anything you can't find on other Transatlantic albums. You got Neal Morse holding down some chord on the Hammond organ while Roine Stolt plays some riff or melodic guitar line over it, layered with playground lyrics about Love, The Sky, The Earth, Neal Morse's Soul, God? The pseudo deep lyrical subject matter throughout is very samey, overly self referential and monotonous and exactly what you would expect from a Morse project in 2021. There, of course, is an over dependence on reprises throughout. I mean just look at these song titles, they read off as computer generated Neal Morse track names: "The Darkness in the Light," "Looking for the Light," "Love Made a Way." Besides that, these songs are nearly indistinguishable and upon listening they all just seem to congeal into one big blob of Transatlantic noise. Even the Overture which is typically a strong point for Morse, take the Whirlwinds pretty immediate overture for example, Forevermores opener just doesn't have those catchy hooks and memorable melodies you would expect or want to hear kick off the album. But this issue also carries over to the other songs, the melodies just.... aren't there this time around. And after slogging through the record, the final climax also just didn't have that payoff or punch you would expect, because at that point I knew exactly what was coming.

The best thing about this album is the production which is, and always has been, on point and super solid throughout all of Neal Morse's career. However, I also have to talk about the absolute trainwreck that is the release and roll-out of this album. There are three different versions, the full and original version which I'm reviewing here, the abridged version which cuts things down to about 60 minutes, and the super mega ultimate blu-ray addition which bumps things up to an even longer runtime. However, the abridged version doesn't simply cut down on the padding, it adds new songs and passages that you can't get on Forevermore and vice versa. This whole thing really just rubs me the wrong way, it gives me the impression that there's no definitive version of the album and I really think the band is missing the mark on trying to do something unique. It just comes off as very messy and inconvenient. You cannot hear one version of this album without knowing you're potentially missing out on something from the other. I'm not going to call it a money grab because I really doubt that's the bands intentions. But if even the band couldn't agree on what the definitive version of this album should be, it doesn't leave me, the listener, feeling very confident in what I'm hearing.

If you like the other Transatlantic albums you'll probably find some value in this release, but for the amount of music here, there's very little for myself to grab onto. Giving it two stars based on the strength of the production and the fact that the musicianship at least meets a passable benchmark throughout.

dougmcauliffe | 2/5 |


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