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Transatlantic - SMPTe CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.07 | 760 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The sum of the whole...

Transatlantic is likely the biggest prog supergroup to emerge since ELP did in the 70s. With musicians from each of the biggest modern stars in the genre what we have here is quite a mix of style that mix quite well. What's quite ironic about this band is that their albums rank above what most of the members have done with their original bands despite the fact that it really just sounds like all those band blended into a puree. Neal Morse of Spock's Beard is arguably the leader of this project with his name at the front of every song, but worry not those who think it will be highly religious because this album comes even before Snow (by Spock's Beard) which is where it could be argued that Morse became kind of an acquired taste. His voice is also the lead one here, even if it is a bit strange to hear his voice backed by the gruff Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and the ethereal Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings (who also takes the lead for one track). Pete Trevawas of Marillion also appears to play a mean bass.

The style is basically as you'd expect it to be. If you said to your friend, ''oh! they're this new band that sounds like Spock's Beard meets Dream Theater meets The Flower Kings meets Marillion... but without Fish'' you'd be spot on. Each of the members brings an uncompromisingly large amount of their own style to this band and it actually works really well. I suppose the ego of any of these guys can't be too big - although at the time of writing this review the band is no longer around, so who knows. With each of the members considered the top of their respective instruments this album can really get over the top with it's sound, but who in the prog community really has a problem with that? It's not quite as out there as some prog metal can get, really it's just at the level of some of the old masters (however, we are only talking about over-the-top-ness right now though).

There aren't many tracks on the album, but it's a very long one none the less. The music on this album stuffs the cd to the max, with around 77 minutes of play time in 5 tracks. Mike Portnoy has been quoted as saying, ''our first album was just full of f***in' epics!'' and yes - yes it is. This can make the album both appealing and inaccessible since right off the bat you have a titan of a song hit you square between the eyes without any time for the listener to warm up as All Of The Above kicks into gear. This one really takes on the uplifting features of a Spock's Beard epic while keeping the outerworld feel of The Flower Kings in the slower bits. What's great about the song is that even though it comes to an abrupt stop and continues in a slow fashion right about the middle it really doesn't ever lose momentum. The meditative bass carries on where everything dropped off and then everything picks up again and carries us onto the end. Is this song really worth the 30 minutes of your time though? Short answer - Yes. Long answer - Yes, this is how modern symphonic prog should be played. It's retro, but it's contemporary, it's exciting and it grabs your attention. You really can't do much better than this when it comes to wanting to do a really, really long song. And believe me, each of these guys has tried (with varying degrees of success) in their other bands.

A couple of short songs follow the big one, these ones with different degrees of success. We All need Some Light and Mystery Train are both good songs, but not quite up to the standard of some of the other tunes on the album. We All need Some Light is your standard Morse tune with a slow pace thats full of emotion but fairly out of place coming right out of the giant uplifting epic. Mystery Train is the rocker on the album, still more to the mispaced side of things. Portnoy somewhat spoils this one with over ambitious drumming that becomes particularly annoying as he starts to drum out of time with the vocals coming into the second verse. Intentional - probably. Well used? - not really. Still a fun song that leads us into the next two epics.

Coming into the end we get a couple of real treats. My New World is the last original composition on the album and it's wonderfully highlighted by Stolt's vocals (it's strange because I like his voice in everything but The Flower Kings) and the backing of the rest of the band. This one is fairly boppy sounding as it skips along, it's another very uplifting tune that works very well on the album. Finally we get to the one that a lot of other people have been looking at with raised eyebrows... the cover of Procol Harum's In Held 'Twas I. Well, worry not, these guys do a wonderful modern version of the song. You can tell that each of the band members is really passionate about what they're doing since they each try to get their voices in there at least once (and it works each time) and they play the hell out of it in general. This one will likely never be known as better than the original, but it works in context very well anyways.

Like many modern prog supergroups this is prog music by prog fans for prog fans. Very well performed and executed this one is going to have to get 4 blimps out of 5. An excellent addition to any prog collection. Fans of each of the band involved in the project may enjoy this one more than others, but it's a good chance for those who are skeptical of the other bands to give their members another shot in a different light.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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