Album review: TRANSATLANTIC – Kaleidoscope

Inside Out – Out Now.

‘Super groups’ are complicated affairs. What some treat with deep suspicion as nothing more than vanity projects, others see as a way for musicians to indulge in ideas unsuited to their day jobs. There is, however, one such ‘gathering of greats’ which has managed to establish itself as an individual musical entity, one deserving both the attention and appreciation of Prog fans around the globe.

Don’t try to guess –  it’s Transatlantic I’m referring to – a quartet which features in its ranks, four of the most naturally gifted musicians this genre has to offer, namely Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Pete Trewawas (Marillion), Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater).

Following the unprecedented success of their 2009 opus “The Whirlwind”, and having managed to come up with enough common free time to work on new ideas, the four maestros are ready to present us with their latest musical offspring, entitled “Kaleidoscope”.

If you are afraid that the guys’ decision to move away from the ‘one track / one album’ motif of “The Whirlwind” would have a negative impact on their ability to present their fans with technically challenging material, do not worry – this album has enough time signature changes and jazz-infused tunes to satisfy an army of Prog fans and then some!

What makes “Kaleidoscope” a truly irresistible musical offering is its ability to bring together rhythmical themes of conflicting musical origins and interlink them with melodies that are surprisingly straight forward and attractive to a variety of music enthusiasts.

You can both hear and feel how excited these guys are playing together again and, though all being clearly at the top of their game, it is Pete Trewawas who steals the show with his impeccable bass work which is, in technical terms, as far away from Marillion as you can possibly imagine.

“Into the Blue” opens the album in epic fashion, with the band indulging in a seven minute rhythmical orgy before Neal Morse introduces an emotionally stunning tune that, through repetition in key parts, becomes the main theme of “Kaleidoscope”.

While the addition of Hammond and cello add much colour to this beautiful track, it is Daniel Gildenlow’s (Pain of Salvation) impassioned vocals round the seventeenth minute mark which provide the highlight of this twenty five minute epic.

“Shine” is a fine ballad crafted in the style of “We All Need Some Light” which almost found its way onto the Neal Morse solo album “Monument” but which, with the clever addition of sitar and 70s Floydian guitar solos, has soon proven to be classic Transatlantic staple.

Fans of 70s Yes and Peter Gabriel era Genesis would appreciate the dynamic keyboard solos of “Black As The Sky”, while in “Beyond The Sun” we have an even more soul-tearing ballad with clear Hogarth-era Marillion vocal influences.

Not many bands decide to close an album with a thirty two minute song but I assume we all agree that Transatlantic are hardly what you would describe as an average band.

Equally daring in terms of experimentation with “Into the Blue”, but introducing melodies that are darker in nature, what we have here is a masterpiece of compositional organisation. This is a monster of a song that allows the members of the band to stretch their technical muscles, while melodies and solos benefit its structural integrity.

It took the quartet almost five years to presents us with a new studio album but believe me when I say that the quality of the material on offer is such that it will only take you a couple of spins to realise that it was definitely worth the wait.

While still embracing and capitalising on their impressive classical influences (Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd), Transatlantic continue to follow a path unique to them, creating, in the process, their trademark style and sound.

There are not many Prog bands out there that are capable of providing you with such a rich and rewarding musical journey so do yourselves a favour and buy this album – you will not regret it!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)


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