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Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe - The Breath of Life (Abridged Version) CD (album) cover



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5 stars Forevermore broke the record for longest epic in progressive rock history, The Breath of Life version also enters the top 10 with 64 minutes and 12 seconds of prog goodness. I do like the idea of having a more digestible version of this album, this version has a song that isn't included on the Forevermore version, "Can You Feel It". I find that this version is a great way to listen to the Forevermore (full version) edition in a more compressed and digestible format. So to the tracks!

Overture: The version more like the one found on the single released a few months ago, an amazing way to open up the album yet again. 5/5

Reaching For The Sky: The lesser version of the second track on both versions of this amazing album. I still love this track and how much this shows the accessible side of prog. Stellar. 5/5

Higher Than The Morning: The Neal version of this track interests me a bit more than the Roine version, I like how prominent the harmonies are on this version of the song. Still an amazing track, 5/5.

The Darkness In The Light: Its the same on both versions of the album, despite the mix being a tiny bit different and this version sounding a bit more compressed in the production area. 5/5

Take Now My Soul: Swing High, Swing Low, just get me through to tomorrow, oh wait... wrong track, technically the same song. Incredible still, not sure if I prefer this version or the Forevermore version more. Both are incredible. 5/5

Looking For The Light: A bit longer on this version but ultimately the same, just as incredible on the Forevermore version. 5/5

Love Made a Way (Prelude): About a minute longer on this version with more to go on with flow on this version of the album, great but I ultimately find the other version a tad more forgiving on the flow of the album. 4/5

Owl Howl: Same as the Forevermore version, just longer, still incredible playing. Well done. 5/5

Solitude: Just as incredible as the Forevermore version, just a tad shorter. Lovely singing and lovely songwriting. 5/5

Belong: Same as the version on the Forevermore version. 5/5

Can You Feel It: The only track that isn't included on the Forevermore edition of this album. This track is back to sounding like Spocks Beard, lots of acoustic guitars, keyboards and soft singing throughout. Incredible. 5/5

Looking For The Light (Reprise): Identical to the version on Forevermore, still great, still love how this song works on the album. 5/5

The Greatest Story Never Ends: Amazing but... compared to the Forevermore version, this is just not on par with it. Great but... I need those Gentle Giant vocals! 4/5

Love Made a Way: Similar to the Forevermore version but the way this one ends the album off gives you a different feeling, a new feeling of completion but with such a warm feeling. Love that custom percussion at the end, its nice and warm. 10/10

Overall, still amazing but I prefer Forevermore just a bit more.

Fraction Rating: 73/75 Percentage Rating: 97.33%

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#2502261)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2021 | Review Permalink
2 stars Some bias in this review as I heard Forevermore before the Breath of Life (Abridged). To be fair, this review is largely a comparison of the two albums.

The first almost half of it is very similar to Forevermore. A different name here and there, and a bit trimmed (which is done well, actually). Then it diverges when it transitions straight into Love Made a Way (prelude). For me, that skipped too many great songs - Bully, Rainbow Sky (very Beatle-y, which won't surprise any long-time fans), and the World We Used to Know.

I do love the variation on The Greatest Story Never Ends. Otherwise, you're just not getting the full experience. If you're a fan of the band, why not more?!

Report this review (#2507555)
Posted Sunday, February 21, 2021 | Review Permalink
2 stars More of just the same. However I enjoyed it more than the full version, and found it to be more direct, including mostly the best tracks from the full version of the album remixed/altered in some certain way or another which was a pretty cool idea. It makes me happy that I checked this album because it definitely has its moments (and has less filler than the extended version) so I'm giving one more star to this version than the extended one. Both albums are drastically different, so you might wanna check both of them.

After the somewhat stale Kaleidoscope, Transatlantic took a considerably long break, only to return later on with The Absolute Universe. And although I can say it's better than Kaleidoscope, I can't say anything more. The musicality is there. There's absolutely no doubt about it, each musician highly contributed to this project, it's just that there simply is no evolution from their previous works. This isn't necessarily bad, but the same dish over and over again can get boring.

If you're a Transatlantic fan you will really enjoy this album I suppose, it features all the elements from their previous works, so good for you!

Report this review (#2508131)
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars [Review of both extended version (Forevermore) and abridged version (The Breath of Life)]

It is well known that the world of prog rock is quite bizarre. Just take a look at the dozens of memes on the internet about 60-minute long prog songs, three-hour concerts and endless drum solos, and you'll see what I mean. But with their new album, The Absolute Universe, multinational progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic have just reached a new high. Because, you see, The Absolute Universe is actually two records, of which one is a double-album. Confused? Let me explain.

The initial version of The Absolute Universe was a 90-minute musical suite divided across eighteen songs and two CDs. However, upon re-listening to the album, vocalist/keyboardist Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard) started to believe that a shorter, more compact version of the record could actually work better. When he presented the idea of a shorter album version to his bandmates, bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion) approved, while drummer Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and guitarist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) were not convinced. Ultimately, the band could not agree which version to put out. The stalemate was eventually solved by Portnoy's suggestion to release both versions of the album, which now have reached our earbuds under the names of Forevermore (extended 90-minute version) and The Breath of Life (more compact 60-minute version). Now, you may be excused to think that The Breath of Life is simply a cut-down version of Forevermore. But this is prog, and that would have been far too simple! Instead, the two albums actually contain different music, either different versions of the same songs (different arrangements, different singers, different vocal lines and lyrics, etc.) or altogether different songs. They are effectively two different pieces of music, built around common musical themes. Isn't this prog heaven?

Now, grandiose release projects aren't much to write home about if the music isn't any good. Fortunately, this is not the case for Transatlantic's new album. Readers who are familiar with names such as The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard should know exactly what to expect. This is modern progressive rock that pays tribute to the giants of the 1970s (Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis) but that at the same time tries to push things into the new millennium by exploring heavier and more metallic territories. The ambition to write long-form compositions means that, although the records come divided in separate and fairly short songs (from 2 to 9 minutes), there are recurring themes that surface over and again throughout the album, convincingly tying together the various pieces into a proper suite. A lots of these recurring themes are introduced in the (largely instrumental) opening track "Overture", and they are then developed to full effect across the rest of the album, before album closer "Love Made a Way" wraps everything up with a sweet medley of the key passages. It is a very satisfying listening experience, true to the spirit of the progressive rock standard, but with enough vigour and inventiveness to sound fresh still today, more than 50 years apart from the golden era of prog.

Given the quality of the four musicians involved, the playing is of course sublime. Both album versions are a lot of fun to listen to as they brim with superb instrumental passages. From Portnoy's manic drumming to Stolt's blues- and jazz-infused guitar solos, from Trewavas's rumbling bass grooves to Morse's synth extravaganza, every single musician manages to contribute some of the absolutely best heavy rock playing that you'll hear this year. Things are no less impressive when it comes to the vocals department. The four musicians share duties behind the mic, which makes for an interesting and varied approach. Morse and Stolt are experienced singers, having held the lead singer role with their respective bands for decades now. Unsurprisingly, the tracks where they sing on are the most convincing from the point of view of the vocal melodies. Trewavas is slightly weaker, although his heart-on-the-sleeves performance on "Solitude" is moving. Portnoy is the true surprise, though. His gravelly rock voice is really good and fits perfectly a darker piece like "Looking for the Light", one of the highlights of The Absolute Universe.

Although I enjoyed very much listening to The Absolute Universe, one thing that is undoubtedly lacking on this album is innovation. This is not music that covers new ground and expands horizons, it is firmly rooted in the classic prog rock tradition and does not move very far from that territory. If you are looking for new sounds and boundary-pushing music, then you'll have to look elsewhere. However, when the quality of the music is as high as on this release, this does not detract too much from the pure enjoyment of listening to the album.

Now that I hopefully convinced you that this album is worth listening to, the real question is: which of the two versions should you get? Well, it depends. If you ? like me ? are a full-blown prog aficionados you'll probably want to get both. Call me a nerd, but I had a lot of fun comparing the various versions of the songs that appear on Forevermore and The Breath of Life. One difference that is quite noticeable between the two versions is that Stolt's musical influence is much more marked on Forevermore than The Breath of Life. Three songs that only appear on Forevermore ("Rainbow Sky", "The World We Used to Know" and "The Sun Comes Up Today") could have easily been released on a The Flower King's album. More generally, there are many more mellow instrumental guitar passages on Forevermore, showcasing Stolt's signature guitar playing , that have been instead cut out of The Breath of Life. No wonder Stolt did not like Morse's idea of a more compact album! In contrast, on The Breath of Life, one can perceive more distinctly Morse's hand. So if you are more a fan of Spock's Beard's / Morse's music, I would recommend to get the shorter and punchier The Breath of Life. If you instead prefer the brand of modern prog heralded by The Flower Kings, you should go for Forevermore. Ultimately, it does not matter which version you get: if you are a progressive rock or metal fan, you simply have to give this album a listen!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

Report this review (#2523587)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2021 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars In September 2019 the four-piece of Neal Morse (vocals, piano, Hammond organ, Minimoog, Mellotron, acoustic guitar, charango), Roine Stolt (vocals, electric & acoustic 6- & 12-string guitars, ukulele, keyboards, percussion), Pete Trewavas (vocals, bass) and Mike Portnoy (vocals, drums & percussion) met up to discuss what would be their fifth album. After a couple of weeks of working on material and mapping out songs each musician returned to their own studio to work on the recording. It was during this period that the album kept growing, and discussions were had as to whether this should be a double or single CD. Pete and Neal favoured the shorter version while Roine and Mike preferred the longer, so in the end they decided to do both. But it is important to understand that one is not a shorter/longer version of the other in that there are alternate recordings, new recordings, and even different singers on the single album.

'The Breath of Life' comes in at 64 minutes long, so some 26 minutes shorter than the other release. Some songs have been cut in length, others have been cut out altogether, but due to the relationship between the two releases it is virtually impossible to review them both, as in many ways they are different sides of the same coin, and the largest variation is actually in time. Yes, we have different recordings and singers, different versions and edits, but this is pretty much the same album, just shorter. 'Short" is not a word often associated with Transatlantic, as they have built a reputation on not only being master songwriters and performers, but also stretching performances. I still remember the first time I heard 'Live In Europe' ? I was absolutely blown away, even there were only five songs on a double CD release which was 140 minutes in length.

We don't want brevity, we want excess, and while 'Forevermore' isn't massively overly dramatic, it does give us 26 minutes more than this, and if I was only to own one then it would be that one, and not this. But, given I am reviewing both it is obvious I have both albums, and love them dearly. I guess the only real solution is to buy the limited deluxe clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set ? contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster. This is yet another superb release, yet not quite as good as the longer one.

Report this review (#2631694)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2021 | Review Permalink

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