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Transatlantic - SMPTe CD (album) cover

SMPTE

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.07 | 744 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars What an ensemble- this quartet borrows members from four of the most revered bands of modern progressive rock. Neal Morse, best known for his work as the mind behind Spock's Beard, clearly handles the brunt of the songwriting duties, while tackling the lead vocals and keyboards. He is joined by Roine Stolt, the mastermind and guitarist of The Flower Kings. Mike Portnoy, a drummer for whom with every performance my respect grows, comes from that behemoth of progressive metal, Dream Theater. The fourth and least outspoken member is Pete Trewavas, the bassist for a band that is credited with beginning a movement, Marillion. As a whole, these four men create some remarkable music. Even still though, the entire project resonates more closely with the Spock's Beard sound overall, meaning that if I didn't know any better, I would have believed this to be another a lost Spock's Beard album, with Stolt as a special guest.

"All of the Above" Bristling with energy and finesse, this half-hour expedition is a grandly formulaic piece of modern progressive rock music. The piece contains a Trewavas-led riff that serves as a main theme throughout, but largely this epic piece is a playground for Morse and Stolt, the former on keyboards and the latter on guitar. Trewavas uses his bass almost as a rhythm guitar in the middle section, playing smoothly and evenly. Portnoy demonstrates his awesome versatility, always providing the music exactly what it needs rhythmically. The composition does not flow as smoothly as I prefer songs of this length to do, but these thirty minutes contain many memorable passages and some downright exquisite playing. Overall, I would not consider this the tour de force many would make it out to be, but it is still a solid suite of musical craftsmanship.

"We All Need Some Light" The shortest track is also the predominantly acoustic one. It features a pair of acoustic guitars, gentle vocals, and a gorgeous refrain.

"Mystery Train" This is a funky, almost psychedelic rocker with quirky tones from all over; once again, it sounds like something right out of the second or third albums from Spock's Beard. As expected, then, it has a catchy chorus with funkier fare for the verses, made complete by an excellent, bass-driven instrumental section.

"My New World" Lovely strings begin this exceptional song. Electric guitar leads the band through an interpretation of the majestic introduction. Piano and light bass take over, and finally, Stolt steps up to the microphone for lead vocal duties. There are some stellar keyboard passages throughout, and a very delicate middle section featuring lovely counterpoint vocals. This piece is the one that does sound more like The Flower Kings, which is natural, since Stolt was the main writer. Also naturally (because of this), several minutes should have been slashed to make the song much better.

"In Held ('Twas) in I" The final track is a Procol Harum cover, beginning with spoken word and spacey music. I'm not really sure what Transatlantic was meaning to accomplish by covering this piece. I think they do a respectable job, but it would seem a debut album (or any album) should close with something original...perhaps that is a foolish and arbitrary preference on my end. Stolt sounds incredibly strange during his vocal moments, as though trying to overcompensate for his vocal deficiencies, and to this date I cannot decide if I like what he is doing or not. In fact, I question whether the band had made the right choice in terms of what to cover, as this piece seems unsuited for their talents. All the same, I don't consider this the throwaway track some others consider it to be, and the dual lead guitar work that concludes the piece makes for a stalwart and worthy end to a fine album anyway.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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