5 Stars to all
Transatlantic are the ultimate Progressive Rock Supergroup.
Their name is very apt and self-explanatory. Transatlantic. Two of the players, Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater amongst others) and Neil Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard amongst others) come from one side of the Atlantic Ocean in the United States of America. Whilst Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion) come from Sweden and Great Britain.
Clear now? Well hang onto your Anoraks as it gets more complicated.
They have just released their fifth studio album (of course there are also many live albums) called The Absolute Universe, a concept album based on the hardship suffered by all living in the present age. So far so good.
Now for the next clincher: It comes in three different versions. A 64 minute version – The Breath of Life, or A Double CD Forevermore clocking in at 90 minutes, then finally an extended version, also on two CDs, which plays out for just over 94 minutes, which is a mixture of songs from both versions!
Now The Breathe of Life is not just an abridged version of Forevermore. Oh no, that would have been far too simple. Although the titles are the same on both albums they are completely new recordings of the songs using different instruments, vocalists, tempos, etc. There really is quite a difference, too. The Extended edition is a mixture of songs from the first two collections, so sounds like a different album again.
Progressive Rock fans are really put through the mill.
Unsurprisingly this is the first time any band has attempted anything like this on such a grand scale.
I’ll let you Dear Reader make of this what you will.
The actual music on all three is superb.
Multi-instrumentalists Morse and Stolte are in sparkling form and sprinkle their magic all over every second of music, mainly on keyboards and guitars.
Mike Portnoy is, without fear of contradiction, the best drummer in Rock Music at the moment. So his contribution is a master class, driving each song along with a precision that is mesmerizing.
The slight surprise on this album is the work of bass player Pete Trewavas. His playing has been mixed up higher than usual in the mix and is a real joy to rock along to. The bass guitar is certainly not being used as just a rhythm instrument.
All four musicians take turns on songs to do the vocals. With this format they all get a crack at most songs in some form or another. The harmonizing is beautiful.
The songs are all essentially well-structured, getting the balance between light and shade perfect, with great hooks, space for solos, plus when the band lock together to rock out they whisk you down the highway. The music has some almost simple acoustic interludes but that only leads you into a false sense of security as violence is always about to erupt.
It is difficult to pick out one song from any of the collections for special praise as they are all good, plus they are best listened to in context of where they are laid in the album. Always better to listen to concept albums as they were supposed to be heard from start to finish without interruption.
If anyone has not heard this magnificent band before and would like some sort of idea what they sound like, well the only opinion I can give is that if the Beatles had been born in a different era, were together and had been working today, this is roughly what they would sound like.
A huge leap there, I know, but one I feel Transatlantic are worthy.
By choice I prefer the Forevermore version as the keyboards and guitar are more centralized and sharper. But my advice would be to get hold of the complete collection.
The album is all the more remarkable as with the lack of travel at the moment the music had to be transferred from continent to continent to allow everyone to put in their parts. But it sounds as if they were all in the same studio together.
A true masterpiece.
Written by Mott the Dog from his little Spaceship on the Darkside.