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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 904 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'The Whirlwind' - Transatlantic (7/10)

Since the 1980s, much of the so-called progressive rock mainstream has become something of a contradiction. While the meaning of the word 'progressive' inherently means to be moving forward with something, many prog rock bands opt to go for a sound that might sound a little too much alike the old giants like Genesis or Yes. In other words; these bands may be able to craft highly intelligent suites of music and play their instruments with often virtuosic skill, they are not holding true to their label and actually moving the sounds of rock music forward into the future. Such is the somewhat discouraging case with prog rock supergroup Transatlantic, a band that features an all-star cast of prog musicians. From well known bands like Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Marillion, and Dream Theater, Transatlantic's reputation preceeds them, and their individual talents as musicians and artists cannot be disputed at this point. With their third album together, Transatlantic makes an expansive two-disc set of music with 'The Whirlwind', an album that received great amounts of praise from prog rock circles in 2009. Looking back on it, the talents of each member is shown quite clearly in the music here. It is no small feat to create an hour plus epic suite, and all things considered, Transatlantic pays an immense gratitude to the old greats of progressive rock with this album. However, even factoring the masterful execution of the album into the judgement here, 'The Whirlwind' still feels more like an homage to 1970s prog rock, than an individual artistic statement of its own.

From start to finish, 'The Whirlwind' dishes out all of the cliches and trademarks of classic prog rock epics into one sprawling piece; orchestral introductions, recurring musical themes, fantasy-based lyrics, and liberal instrumentation. The first disc of this double album is entirely devoted to the title track, a seventy seven minute observation that draws upon each of the band member's talents and in no dearth of musical ideas. Although mostly a Neal Morse and Roine Stolt driven project here, all of the band members put in their distinctive sounds into the music. Although having risen to fame as being a metal drummer, Mike Portnoy's distinctive drum sound translates very nicely here into the laid-back prog rock that Transatlantic plays. Moreover, all members sing on this album, although once again, Stolt and Morse take up much of the disc time with their voices.

On top of a spot-on execution in terms of performance and production, the album is also very well composed, although this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has heard the music of any of these guys' flagship bands before. Although 'The Whirlwind' is a bit shallow in emotional dynamic, everything is given a lush arrangement, as is best heard in the complex keyboard and vocal harmonies. However, although the execution of the music here is close to perfection, the formula that Transatlantic is using still feels stale, no matter how much flash they may try to douse it with. As has already been said, 'The Whirlwind' offers very little to a listener that they have not already heard before; pleasant and cheerful symphonic progressive rock was already mastered as an art form a good forty years before this album dropped. Moreover, there does not feel as if there is much contrast or dynamic throughout the seventy seven minutes of length. The emotions are kept fairly light, and there are rarely any moments of cutting tension to give the epic a sense of dramatic conflict. Although this constantly mellowed and 'rose-tinted' music may have been exactly what Transatlantic was aiming for, it can feel slightly monotonous even long before the epic wraps up. 'The Whirlwind' in total though is quite an enjoyable piece of music, and although the whole act feels fairly unoriginal and not as inspired as I may have liked a project like this to turn out, the sheer depth of the performance and arrangement to the music is alone worth the experience.

Onto the second disc here; 'The Whirlwind' does feel as if it ends on the first disc, and the second is simply a compilation of bonus material. A compilation of some less successful original material and cover tracks, the same musicianship is carried over here, but especially with the covers, the whole thing feels somewhat unnecessary. Due to the fact that Transatlantic's entire gimmick seems to be around making 1970's progressive rock, the covers don't bring anything new to the songs that would be worth checking out on their own, unless the listener is a big fan of any one of the musicians playing. In any case, while the second half of Transatlantic's project here is much less successful than the main attraction, it does not deter from the power that the band has conjured here. Although I do feel somewhat underwhelmed by the band's derivative style and the band would be a failure were it not for the legendary talents of these men, 'The Whirlwind' is still a perfect record for a listener looking for a complex piece of revivalist symphonic prog rock.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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