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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 740 ratings

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Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group
Site and Forum Admin
5 stars A man can feel

Transatlantic is group (more often known as a "supergroup") known by countless people in the progressive community. The mind child of Mike Portnoy, drummer of Dream Theater, and Neal Morse, former vocalist and keyboardist of Spock's Beard, the band was formed as a side project to their full time bands (at the time Morse was a member of Spock's Beard still). Portnoy originally wanted Jim Matheos of Fates Warning on guitar, but they contracted Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings when Matheos couldn't join. To complete the already killer lineup, they recruited the veteran bassist of neo-prog giants Marillion Pete Trewevas. Before even recording an album, it was apparent this band would make some of the best new progressive music there was. That happened, for in 2000 the band's debut album SMPTe was released, which is a highly regarded modern symphonic prog album. The band returned in 2001 with Bridge Across Forever, which pushed the members creative boundaries even further into producing yet another fantastic record. However, in 2002 Neal Morse announced he was leaving his current bands, Spock's Beard and Transatlantic included, to explore his newfound Bourn Again Christian faith. Although Spock's Beard continued with drummer Nick D'Virglio taking over the vocals, Transatlantic ended, as the band thought it was not complete without their signature lead vocalist and keyboardist. In 2009, Transatlantic made an incredible new announcement - Morse had returned to the band and they were making another album. The album came together in incredible speed, for each member had written small bits of music throughout the seven year hiatus. In only a few weeks, the album was written, arranged, recorded, and mastered. What resulted was an epic album - epic not only in the fact that it was a single 78 minute long song (broken into its 12 movements), but epic in the fact that the music is some of the greatest symphonic prog made in the past 30 years. The music is natural and as free flowing as the wind, rising and sinking like the tides with the themes of the music and the lyrics. Emotion, passion, and drive run amuck in the perfect amount all throughout the album. The musicianship is prime and incredible as ever. And, on the special edition, and second disk containing both originals and covers, adding a fantastic dynamic to the lengthy track on disk one. Overall, The Whirlwind is a tremendous achievement for the band, and a tremendous classic to be adored for years to come.

Now one may look at my intro and think it in and of itself is the review. But no, that's just the intro. This album's depth and complexity is incredible, and although some may deem it and dismiss it as "retro-prog" and the musicians are "stuck in the past," this album truly shows the four guys incredible ability to fuse that classic influence of Yes and Genesis and the like with more contemporary influences, flares, and styles. The production is clean as can be, making the album easily listenable and making the fantastic music crystal clear and seemingly effortlessly made. The 78 minute song flows with incredible ease, with the segue between movements being no more apparent than a verse change in a normal song. It's also apparent the band didn't make a long song just to make a long song, as the music is completely natural, not forced, and has such an effortless aura the lengthy track flies by with alarming speed. Each movement has an incredible signature sound while at the same time adhering to the overall theme of the music. In the end, the natural, logical flow of this music is supreme, and it makes this album a truly spectacular show of symphonic prowess.

The lyrical theme is something many people give the album flack about, but compared to the band's former albums, it seems supremely natural. Morse had produced a number of Christian-themed progressive rock albums (as well as a number of non-prog albums), so a number of people believed that Morse's faith had spilled over to Transatlantic. However, in retrospect, Transatlantic had always had a goodly theme regarding the lyrics. Songs like "We All Need Some Light" off SMPTe and "Bridge Across Forever" off the album of the same name have similar Christian-esque themes, and the goodly theme runs across most of their work, so the lyrics on this album, which detail a tragedy and how we look to God (or the "higher being," whatever) for guidance. It explores themes of how we react to tragedy, strife, war, and other bouts of human negativity and how in the end we succeed. Although the epic ender "Dancing with Eternal Glory" has an obvious evangelical feel, overall that song and the rest of the album's Christian theme is shrouded more as goodly lyrics than an officious attempt to convert listeners. Anyway, it is much easier to listen to the spectacular music displayed across the album than brood over controversial lyrics!

The second disk contains a number of originals and a number of covers from various sources. The originals show the band does have the ability (although popular belief is otherwise) to write a song shorter than 30 minutes ;-). They are shorter, peppier (with the exception of the dour track "Lenny Johnson"), and a lot of fun to listen to, especially the great 6/8 jam "Spinning." The covers are indicative of the band's wide influences, with covers including a Genesis track, another Procul Harum track, a Beatles classic, and Santana. The second disk is a lot of fun, with each of the band's members taking a stab at lead vocals for a track (even the not-so-gifted singer Portnoy doesn't do a half bad job on "A Salty Dog").

In conclusion, I think I've made it amply clear this album is a definite masterpiece. The music is perfection, with perfect balances between each instrument, with wonderful mixes of mellotron, synth, piano, and Hammond as well as acoustic, clean, and overdriven or distorted electric guitars, and the various bass tones that Trewevas uses. And of course Portnoy is perfect as always ;-). The music is dynamic, diverse, and extremely fun and fulfilling to listen to. Each track is incredibly inventive and ingeniously arranged, and the entire production was executed with incredible perfection. The album is easily one of the best modern symphonic prog albums, if not the best. Each note is in the perfect position, each organ run perfectly executed, each solo pristine, and every section of rhythm graceful and well-executed. Dammit, this album is perfect. 5 stars.

Andy Webb | 5/5 |

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