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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 937 ratings

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The Ace Face
4 stars I have recently returned to progressive rock, the music of my high school days, after long periods exploring other genres. More specifically, I have gotten back into Neal Morse and all of his projects in a major way, and I wanted to explore the new Transatlantic albums that had been released since I put them aside several years ago. I enjoyed SMPT:e, but overall the the songs and sections of the various epics seemed strung together, the solo sections were a bit too long, and Neal seemed to dominate the composition, not allowing much room for Roine Stolt or Pete Trewavas to really show their composition styles. Bridge Across Forever had some of those same problems, but there was much more of a focus on band composition, and at least Neal and Roine traded singing on different sections. Not only that, but the recurring musical themes tying the different epics together and the sheer scope and grandeur of Stranger In Your Soul give the album a transcendent quality that puts it amongst my favorite progressive albums.

With The Whirlwind, I think they've finally nailed what they set out to do from the beginning. Setting the difficult task of composing a 78 minute long song actually gives the whole band a lot of room to stretch out and really dig into their various ideas with gusto. The typical opening instrumental opener is longer, given about 7 minutes to introduces the various musical themes and it hits the right balance between musical composition and instrumental virtuosity that really kills, with Roine and Neal both showing their skills with flourishes and riffs but never threatens to dominate. The first vocals, surprisingly, come from Roine Stolt which is indicative of how much of a collaborative effort this is. The Whirlwind vocal theme is as melodic and catchy as anything they've ever written, and gives a wonderful driving start for the album.

"The Wind Blew Them All Away" gives way to eerie minor key acoustic guitars and an offbeat vocal from Morse. Roine gets in a nice solo in the middle, and we get a reprise of one of the dark and heavy themes from the overture near the end. Then the upbeat theme kicks in and melds seamlessly with the chorus of this section to create a powerful climax. As the final note winds down, Pete's bass leads the way into "On The Prowl", a 6/8 section that seems structured to give plenty of room for extended solos but really offers Neal and Roine space to kind of play off one another with their different instruments, and then roars into the vocal section with some darker lyrics and singing from Neal.

"A Man Can Feel" is probably my favorite section taken as an individual song, and sounds very much like Roine got to write this whole section. Spooky harpsichord and singing from Roine give way to a driving rhythmic pre chorus and burst open into the soaring chorus with excellent backing vocals from the rhythm section. Excellent bass riffing here as well, with another great guitar solo backed by Neal's Mellotron-Chorus. After the second chorus, the melody starts in line with the chorus and another guitar solo followed by Neal's first organ solo of the album follow, and a darker instrumental section misleadingly leads into the driving "Out of the Night", another Roine-led section that alternates verses and choruses with Neal reprising the album's main theme.

"Rose Colored Glasses" is a longer section led by Neal that starts as a slow acoustic piece that builds and builds into a strong climax with interweaving themes and a soaring guitar solo. After it winds down, "Evermore" begins with a haunting piano riff constantly interrupted by some darker riffs and drum fills. After some instrumental fireworks, the singing comes in and alludes to a later section before kicking into "Set Us Free", picking up one of the most drivingly rocking themes from the overture and really hammering it home before settling into a kind of funky groove that sets the stage for Neal's vocals. Some ambient piano riffing takes us into the next section, another favorite of mine.

"Lay Down Your Life" kicks in with heavy cello riffing and some deep grooves from the drums. Neal sings this section with high falsetto and some screams that suit the heavy groove, and the chorus is incredibly hard rocking and creepy at the same time. Another great guitar solo and another chorus takes us into "Pieces of Heaven", a short instrumental section. This doesn't last long before going into "Is It Really Happening?", a slower, ambient mood piece for the first half, with chanting from all four members that seem to be spoken from a trance. As the drums get louder and more complex, the song gets faster and a truly killer guitar solo kicks in and tears the sky open, and then Neal's synths join in to drive the section home.

"Dancing With Eternal Glory/The Whirlwind (Reprise)" follows with a slow piano introduction from Neal. A brief word on Neal Morse's epic compositions: he loves to end them with the same theme that began them and this is no exception, but this final section introduces his religious tinged epic ending, and then throws in several of the main themes from the album to boot before literally ending the album of the same riff that began it, and maybe I just love the riff, but its a damn solid way to bring this epic to a dramatic close.

I didn't mention Mike Portnoy once during this review, and I just wanted to include some words on him here. He's an incredible and versatile drummer, and he just kills it all over this album, going crazy with riffs and fills at all the right moments, giving a driving beat and extra few beats to really keep the tempo, slowing down when he needs to, and holding back when he needs to. I can't say a bad word about the guy, he's just constantly on point no matter whats happening in the music.

The music never bores you, I can listen to it several times over and find new parts to love, this album is a true delight from some of the best progressive rockers out there.

The Ace Face | 4/5 |


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