Inside Out [Release date: 05.02.21]
Supergroups – don’t you just love them? Remember, back in the day, when England used to play various sporting matches against “The Rest Of The World”? England always won because they all knew each other’s game and were not just cobbled together.
Supergroups are cobbled together and Transatlantic are an example of what happens.
Individually, every one of them is a superb musician in his own right – Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs, et al), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Steve Hackett, Kaipa), Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse Band) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion), but somehow, collectively, it just doesn’t click.
There are two main issues at play here – one is that it sounds like they’re all trying to out-do each other and although you could never describe ‘The Absolute Universe’ as a bad album, the whole is worse than the sum of its parts.
Portnoy in particular stands out in this respect – he’s really a prog/metal drummer and his pounding double kick-drum salvos come across as ill-suited to the songs and tend to become over-bearing and rather tiresome.
The second is the obvious lack of a decent vocalist. Apparently they all had a go of the microphone and the results range from the so-so to the risible – one in particular (and I don’t know who as we only got mp3’s to review) sounds suspiciously like the dreaded William Shatner.
And even if they had a decent vocalist they would still have to sing Neal Morse’s pious, God-bothering lyrics which are scattered like detritus all over this album. With tracks titled ‘Swing High Swing Low’, ‘Looking For The Light’, ‘Love Made A Way’ and ‘The Greatest Story Never Ends’ and with lyrics like ‘Cry for a saviour and God he just sent a rebel’ you can’t say you haven’t been warned.
As you would expect with the personnel involved there is some exceptional playing. However, Stolt’s fretwork and Morse’s Hammond on ‘Looking For The Light’ are rare standouts on an album that comes across as quite cold and calculating and very much ‘Prog by numbers’.
Which is a shame, as you would be entitled to expect better.
England 3 Rest Of The World 0 **1/2
Review by Alan Jones
ps Just as a footnote, the album is available as, (deep breath):
The Absolute Universe – The Breath of Life’ is available as a Limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. ‘The Absolute Universe – Forevermore’ is available as a Limited 2CD Digipak, 3LP+2CD Boxset & as Digital Album. ‘The Absolute Universe – The Ultimate Edition’ collects both versions together as a Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP + 3CD + Blu-ray box-set, featuring expanded 16page LP-booklet, 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals, making-of documentary, 60x60cm poster – contained within a lift-off box finished with silver foil.
As I said, cold and calculating…
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