TRANSATLANTIC

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Transatlantic are a progressive rock supergroup formed in 1999 by Neal Morse (Spock's Beard) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). Originally the duo intended to include Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) but he was unable to participate. It was then that Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) was brought in, followed by Pete Trewavas (Marillion) to complete the line-up. Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) has additionally served as a fifth live member of the band.

They released their debut album SMPT:e (a play on their names as well as a common machine time protocol used in high end recording studios) in 2000. A follow-up, Bridge Across Forever, was released in 2001. The band ended in 2002 when Neal Morse found religion and left both Transatlantic and his main band Spock's Beard.

Morse and Portnoy would continue to work together and eventually, in 2009, the band reunited to work on a third studio album. The
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TRANSATLANTIC Discography

TRANSATLANTIC albums / top albums

TRANSATLANTIC SMPTe album cover 4.42 | 20 ratings
SMPTe
Metal Related 2000
TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever album cover 4.46 | 22 ratings
Bridge Across Forever
Metal Related 2001
TRANSATLANTIC The Whirlwind album cover 4.24 | 21 ratings
The Whirlwind
Metal Related 2009
TRANSATLANTIC Kaleidoscope album cover 3.79 | 13 ratings
Kaleidoscope
Metal Related 2014
TRANSATLANTIC The Absolute Universe - The Breath of Life album cover 4.19 | 4 ratings
The Absolute Universe - The Breath of Life
Metal Related 2021
TRANSATLANTIC The Absolute Universe - Forevermore album cover 3.93 | 6 ratings
The Absolute Universe - Forevermore
Metal Related 2021

TRANSATLANTIC EPs & splits

TRANSATLANTIC live albums

TRANSATLANTIC Live in America album cover 2.75 | 2 ratings
Live in America
Metal Related 2001
TRANSATLANTIC Live in Europe album cover 4.61 | 5 ratings
Live in Europe
Metal Related 2003
TRANSATLANTIC Whirld Tour 2010 album cover 4.25 | 4 ratings
Whirld Tour 2010
Metal Related 2010
TRANSATLANTIC More Never Is Enough album cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
More Never Is Enough
Metal Related 2011
TRANSATLANTIC KaLIVEoscope album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
KaLIVEoscope
Metal Related 2014

TRANSATLANTIC demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Europe Tour 2001 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Bridge Across Europe Tour 2001
Metal Related 2001

TRANSATLANTIC re-issues & compilations

TRANSATLANTIC SMPTe: The Roine Stolt Mixes album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
SMPTe: The Roine Stolt Mixes
Metal Related 2003
TRANSATLANTIC The Absolute Universe - The Ultimate Edition album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Absolute Universe - The Ultimate Edition
Metal Related 2021

TRANSATLANTIC singles (0)

TRANSATLANTIC movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
4.50 | 1 ratings
Live in America
Metal Related 2001
.. Album Cover
4.50 | 1 ratings
Building the Bridge - The Making of Bridge Across Forever
Metal Related 2002
.. Album Cover
4.42 | 2 ratings
Live in Europe
Metal Related 2003
.. Album Cover
5.00 | 3 ratings
Whirld Tour 2010
Metal Related 2010
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Official Bootleg DVD
Metal Related 2011
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
KaLIVEoscope
Metal Related 2014

TRANSATLANTIC Reviews

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever

Album · 2001 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
Transatlantic are the dream team of modern progressive rock. Comprised of Neal Morse (keyboards, vocals), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Roine Stolt (guitars, vocals) and Pete Trewavas (bass, vocals), the project brings together some of the best musicians from the best bands (Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, The Flower Kings and Marillion, respectively) of the contemporary prog rock and metal scenes. Supergroups are not always a recipe for success, but in this case the class, expertise and artistic integrity of the four musicians involved is guarantee of quality and genuine musical value. Bridge Across Forever is perhaps not perfect and shows one or two rough edges, but it is nevertheless a great album, far superior to ninety-percent of the prog rock that was released around the same time.

The music “formula” that underlies the album is straightforward: full-blown prog rock extravaganza. This is music that harks back to the golden days of progressive rock and the work of bands like Yes and Genesis, albeit revisited in contemporary fashion and bringing in the metallic bite of prog metal. It can be described as a cross between Spock’s Beard and The Flower Kings, with a slightly more metallic undertone relative to these two bands. The Marillion and Dream Theater influences are instead much less pronounced. The emphasis is on long-form compositions with multiple sections, extended instrumental run-throughs and recurring themes that tie together the different parts of the song and give the listener a reference point to hold on to as they navigate the sprawling compositions. The playing is highly-technical and virtuosic – it could not be otherwise given the calibre of the four musicians involved in the project -, but it never loses sight of melody and accessibility. Whether you are into extended guitar solos, flamboyant keyboard parts, spectacular bass grooves or six-armed drum extravaganza, Bridge Across Forever has it all and it’s guaranteed that you can spend hours dissecting the monstrous performances of the Morse, Portnoy, Stolt and Trewavas.

The vocal department is also strong. A difference between this album and its predecessor, Transatlantic’s debut record SMPTe, is that on this one Morse, Portnoy, Stolt and Trewavas share duties behind the mic. This was a more or less conscious attempt at making Transatlantic sound like a Neal Morse’s solo project, after the debut album, where Morse had a leading role in the vocal parts, had been criticized for its excessive similarity with Morse’s and Spock’s Beard’s output. The alternation between four voices is interesting and freshens things up, although Morse does remain the most accomplished vocalist of the four, followed with some distance by Stolt.

The album is comprised of four songs for a total duration exceeding 70 minutes. Two tracks, the opener “Duel with the Devil” and closer “Stranger in Your Soul” are approximately 26 minutes each, “Suite Charlotte Pike” clocks at 14+ minutes, and the title-track is only a mere 5:33 minute long. “Duel with the Devil” and “Stranger in Your Soul” are the two “prog epics” of the album, where Transatlantic pour all of their creativity and skills and then some more. The two pieces share some common musical themes (the strings section that opens both tracks) and a similarly complex structure, with multiple parts that feed into one another, alternating between furious musical workouts and more atmospheric and mellower sections. Although both songs are great fun to listen to, “Duel with the Devil” is the one where Transatlantic truly reach near-perfection, thanks to a beautiful melodic theme (the chorus “Motherless Children…”) that recurs throughout the song in multiple arrangements (including a sublime choral arrangements near the end), and a balanced structure that does not abuse with too many digressions but is firmly grounded around its central melodic idea. “Stranger in Your Soul” is instead slightly less satisfactory and shows some of the pitfalls of long-form songwriting. It opens strongly with some of the most exhilarating musical passages of the album (“Pt I: Sleeping Wide Awake” and the heavily metallic “Part II: Hanging in the Balance”), but it loses steam afterwards (the dull section “Pt III: Lost and Found pt 2”) and then gets tangled into a messy conclusion, with a faux finale (the orchestral crescendo at the end of “Pt IV: Awakening the Stranger”) and a repetition of quiet/loud sections that goes on for too long.

The other two tracks of the album are less spectacular, but nevertheless enjoyable. The title-track, a simple piece for piano and vocals beautifully sung by Neal Morse, is especially endearing. “Suite Charlotte Pike” is a sort of “glorified blues jam”, where Transatlantic showcase their love for The Beatles and 1960/70s pop rock. It’s fun to listen to, but it lacks the depth and musical nuance of the two epics, which makes its 14+ minutes perhaps a tad unwarranted.

Overall, Bridge Across Forever is a strong album that will surely not disappoint prog rock/metal aficionados. It has everything that the genre is known for: tight musicianship, sprawling compositions, clever songwriting and sophisticated arrangements. Most importantly, it packs four songs that strike a great balance between melodic accessibility and musical complexity, making this a record that is both instantly enjoyable and with great replay value.

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever

Album · 2001 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
When TRANSATLANTIC released its debut album “SMPT:e” in 2000 it was met with wild enthusiasm by both prog traditionalists as well as revivalists and the critics alike but had it not been heralded as one of the greatest prog albums of the second coming, it’s unclear if the team of Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Roine Stolt and Pete Trewavas would have continued. However since the album was a smashing success the band wasted no time crafting a follow up that was worthy in capturing the majesty of the debut without directly copying it. The answer was the sophomore release BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER which quickly followed the very next year.

One of the main criticisms of “SMPT:e” was that it was a bit overly dominated by Neil Morse’s Spock’s Beard compositional style along with his vocal performances so the band made a deliberate attempt to have each member participate on a roughly equal footing thus making BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER a much more diverse stream of music that like its predecessor featured a lengthy playing time of over 70 minutes with two massive sprawling compositions “Duel With The Deveil” and “Stranger Across Your Soul” which both featured multiple suites and clocked in over the 26 minute playing time. Together they sandwiched two shorter tracks with the tiny title track at nearly six minutes long a mere blip in comparison.

While very similar in construct, BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER wasn’t just a mere clone of the debut although it was clear that TRANSATLANTIC didn’t want to stray too far from the goose that had laid that golden egg. While all the expected Yes and Genesis symphonic prog influences were in full affect along with the respective band member’s own projects ranging from Spock’s Beard, Marilion and The Flower Kings (Portnoy’s Dream Theater was the only influence least adopted), the band also experimented with new sounds which included guest musicians that added violin, viola and cello sounds as well as a bit of swinging saxophone and a beautiful backing vocal section referred to as The Elite Choir.

The near 27-minute “Duel With The Devil” begins the album and is arguable the strongest track on board with five fully developed suits stitched together with all the right proggy glue to make the proper sound collage complete with all the symphonic prog pomp and excess that made “SMPT:e” stand out and usher the classic prog sounds of the golden years into a new millennium. While the two massive tracks are very much in vein of the debut, the two shorter tracks sandwiched in between were quite different. Although the 14 1/2 minute “Suite Charlotte Pike” shows a series of evolving concepts and nerdy prog workouts, at its core was a simple blues rock jamming session only embellished with the keyboard heft of Hammond organs, Fender Rhodes and piano.

The track that makes the least impact is the overwrought piano ballad of a title track which serves as an intermission between the heavier rocking tracks and multi-suite epic tracks but in reality is a bit too winy and unfortunately breaks the continuity of the epicness. Personally i could totally live without this one. The final “Stranger In Your Soul” concludes the album in a grandiose way with a six-suite 30-minute performance that goes for the symphonic prog jugular and delivers all the expected prog gymnastics teased out into a series of varying instrumental workouts and lyrical earnestness, once again mimicking the success of the debut’s appeal to the true proggers who just can’t get enough of those ridiculously long suites that in the vinyl years could’ve swallowed up a whole album’s playing time.

For my money BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER is a worthy followup to “SMPT:e” but a serious step down in continuity. Whereas the debut just had a certain flow that was perfectly maintained through its 70 minute plus running time, BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER just feels a bit clumsy in how it meanders from idea to idea without the proper connective tissues to pull it off. The two epic tracks are well worth the price of admission but the two middle tracks are less engaging and could’ve easily been nixed from the final cut. There was also a special edition with a bonus disc that featured everything from non-essential covers including a 15 1/2 minute version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as studio casts, demos and other non-essential material. When all is said and done, BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER is an excellent followup but for my liking lacks the masterpiece perfection of the debut.

TRANSATLANTIC SMPTe

Album · 2000 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
The prog revival of the 1990s found the complex excesses of the 1970s return in full regalia with all the musical attributes that gained a loyal following as well as critics who couldn’t stand the fact that they couldn’t figure it all out in a single listening session but alas the independent fiery nature of the underground had prevailed against the money grubbing record industry that had systematically been dumbing all musical expressions down to a common single denominator. The 90s found a whole host of newbies such as Porcupine Tree, Anglagard and Anekdoten reinterpreting the classics of the past as well as newer metal bands like Dream Theater and Ayreon eager to cross-pollinate their more extreme excesses with the myriad styles of the prog history books.

With all these new bands rekindling the progressive rock scene, it didn’t take long at all for some of these musicians to start the musical chairs game of switching things up and forming new bands. One of the first supergroups to emerge around the beginning of the 21st century was TRANSATLANTIC which resulted when Dream Theater’s drummer Mike Portnoy had broken up his other project Liquid Tension Experiment once Jordan Rudess had left to join his main band. The project came to fruition as a true progressive rock project that eschewed the bombast of the Dream Theater metal heft and focused on the classic symphonic prog sounds of Yes, Genesis and other classic 70s bigwigs. The first member to join the team being Neal Morse due to the fact Portnoy had become such a huge Spock’s Beard fan. Also signing up was long-term Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas but when it came to scoring Portnoy’s top pick for guitar duties, Fates Warning axe master Jim Matheos didn’t quite work out.

When and was said and done, the role of guitarist was filled by none other than The Flower Kings’ mainman Roine Stolt and together this quartet of powerhouse musicians released a couple of the best supergroup prog albums in all of history before taking a hiatus. The first of these albums was the debut album SMPT:e which may look like a secret code for some computer software instruction manual but in reality simply referred to the member’s last initials. S-tolt. M-orse. P-ortnoy. T-rewavas. The :e part is what may throw that assumption off but was added because the initials SMPTE referred to The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers which is a global professional association of engineers, technologists, and executives working in the media and entertainment industry, thus providing a secondary reference for all those in the know when it comes tech talk.

By all accounts, TRANSATLANTIC was the real prog deal delivering an unforgiving slice of modern contemporary prog operating within the classic standards, namely uncompromising compositional majesty with little regard to time lengths, commercial palatability or modern trendiness. SMPT:E immediately goes for the prog jugular with the whopping 31-minute opener “All Of The Above” which featured no less than six distinct movements all tied together through interconnecting motifs which brought aspects of all the members on board into a much greater sum of the parts. Upon a single listen, it’s obvious that TRANSATLANTIC was all about enhancing the strengths of each musician rather than the watering down of great talent which unfortunately is often the case in rock-based supergroups. If that wasn’t enough, this 77-minute plus listening experience features not only one but two more epic tracks that both exceed the 16-minute mark.

While TRANSATLANTIC certainly ticked off all the boxes of the prog check list with inspiration from the classic era ranging from epic Yes-like classically infused compositional fortitude, Pink Floydian space rock moments and the pastoral folk-flavored moments of classic Genesis to the more modern symphonic prog approaches of Morse’s Spock’s Beard and Stolt’s Flower Kings. Add excellent diverse dynamics, irresistible melodies laced with Beatles-esque harmonies, time signature workouts and instrumental gymnastics without sacrificing the emotive expressionism and it’s no wonder why TRANSATLANTIC hit the ground running on full steam and has remained relevant in the decades since this debut hit the scene. Many have rightfully proclaimed that the first two early TRANSATLANTIC albums are amongst the best progressive rock albums ever created. I certainly can’t argue with that.

Despite the pompousness that exceedingly lengthy tracks can exude, TRANSATLANTIC avoided all the pitfalls on SMPT:e with an emphasis on keeping the music accessible with irresistible almost ear-wormy hooks that if crafted into shorter chunks could easily qualify as brilliant pop rock but what TRANSATLANTIC so successfully mastered was the ability to craft a series of brilliant melodies and harmonies and thought provoking lyrics and teased them all out into epic symphonic prog masterpieces that found a series of varying ideas strung together like a string of pearls that sparkles in the sun. Every one of these four guys was really firing on all cylinders with excellent musicianship while performing highly engaging compositions of epic proportion. This is one of those albums where no single person steals the show as its the careful and thoughtful weaving interactive instrumentation that makes this one so utterly divine.

If nothing else, TRANSATLANTIC proved that the prog revival scene was no fluke and provided the perfect example of how prog was in no danger of burning out any time soon as the odometer was changing to a new millennium however this music goes well beyond merely proving prog was still a force to be reckoned with as TRANSATLANTIC went well beyond the call of duty in crafting some fo the most compelling symphonic prog ever recorded and although the following “Bridge Across Forever” was roughly of equal caliber, this quartet of prog heroes certainly raised the bar so high that few have been able to match including the band itself on its later albums. There also exists a special edition that features a bonus disc with alternative mixes of “My New World” as well as some demos and a couple pointless cover songs and hardly essential but this original album collection of five ridiculously strong tracks is nothing less than a masterpiece through and through.

TRANSATLANTIC The Absolute Universe - Forevermore

Album · 2021 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
[Review of both extended version (Forevermore) and abridged version (The Breath of Life)]

It is well known that the world of prog rock is quite bizarre. Just take a look at the dozens of memes on the internet about 60-minute long prog songs, three-hour concerts and endless drum solos, and you’ll see what I mean. But with their new album, The Absolute Universe, multinational progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic have just reached a new high. Because, you see, The Absolute Universe is actually two records, of which one is a double-album. Confused? Let me explain.

The initial version of The Absolute Universe was a 90-minute musical suite divided across eighteen songs and two CDs. However, upon re-listening to the album, vocalist/keyboardist Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard) started to believe that a shorter, more compact version of the record could actually work better. When he presented the idea of a shorter album version to his bandmates, bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion) approved, while drummer Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and guitarist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) were not convinced. Ultimately, the band could not agree which version to put out. The stalemate was eventually solved by Portnoy’s suggestion to release both versions of the album, which now have reached our earbuds under the names of Forevermore (extended 90-minute version) and The Breath of Life (more compact 60-minute version). Now, you may be excused to think that The Breath of Life is simply a cut-down version of Forevermore. But this is prog, and that would have been far too simple! Instead, the two albums actually contain different music, either different versions of the same songs (different arrangements, different singers, different vocal lines and lyrics, etc.) or altogether different songs. They are effectively two different pieces of music, built around common musical themes. Isn’t this prog heaven?

Now, grandiose release projects aren’t much to write home about if the music isn’t any good. Fortunately, this is not the case for Transatlantic’s new album. Readers who are familiar with names such as The Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard should know exactly what to expect. This is modern progressive rock that pays tribute to the giants of the 1970s (Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis) but that at the same time tries to push things into the new millennium by exploring heavier and more metallic territories. The ambition to write long-form compositions means that, although the records come divided in separate and fairly short songs (from 2 to 9 minutes), there are recurring themes that surface over and again throughout the album, convincingly tying together the various pieces into a proper suite. A lots of these recurring themes are introduced in the (largely instrumental) opening track “Overture”, and they are then developed to full effect across the rest of the album, before album closer “Love Made a Way” wraps everything up with a sweet medley of the key passages. It is a very satisfying listening experience, true to the spirit of the progressive rock standard, but with enough vigour and inventiveness to sound fresh still today, more than 50 years apart from the golden era of prog.

Given the quality of the four musicians involved, the playing is of course sublime. Both album versions are a lot of fun to listen to as they brim with superb instrumental passages. From Portnoy’s manic drumming to Stolt’s blues- and jazz-infused guitar solos, from Trewavas’s rumbling bass grooves to Morse’s synth extravaganza, every single musician manages to contribute some of the absolutely best heavy rock playing that you’ll hear this year. Things are no less impressive when it comes to the vocals department. The four musicians share duties behind the mic, which makes for an interesting and varied approach. Morse and Stolt are experienced singers, having held the lead singer role with their respective bands for decades now. Unsurprisingly, the tracks where they sing on are the most convincing from the point of view of the vocal melodies. Trewavas is slightly weaker, although his heart-on-the-sleeves performance on “Solitude” is moving. Portnoy is the true surprise, though. His gravelly rock voice is really good and fits perfectly a darker piece like “Looking for the Light”, one of the highlights of The Absolute Universe.

Although I enjoyed very much listening to The Absolute Universe, one thing that is undoubtedly lacking on this album is innovation. This is not music that covers new ground and expands horizons, it is firmly rooted in the classic prog rock tradition and does not move very far from that territory. If you are looking for new sounds and boundary-pushing music, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. However, when the quality of the music is as high as on this release, this does not detract too much from the pure enjoyment of listening to the album.

Now that I hopefully convinced you that this album is worth listening to, the real question is: which of the two versions should you get? Well, it depends. If you – like me – are a full-blown prog aficionados you’ll probably want to get both. Call me a nerd, but I had a lot of fun comparing the various versions of the songs that appear on Forevermore and The Breath of Life. One difference that is quite noticeable between the two versions is that Stolt’s musical influence is much more marked on Forevermore than The Breath of Life. Three songs that only appear on Forevermore ("Rainbow Sky", "The World We Used to Know" and "The Sun Comes Up Today") could have easily been released on a The Flower King’s album. More generally, there are many more mellow instrumental guitar passages on Forevermore, showcasing Stolt’s signature guitar playing , that have been instead cut out of The Breath of Life. No wonder Stolt did not like Morse’s idea of a more compact album! In contrast, on The Breath of Life, one can perceive more distinctly Morse’s hand. So if you are more a fan of Spock’s Beard's / Morse's music, I would recommend to get the shorter and punchier The Breath of Life. If you instead prefer the brand of modern prog heralded by The Flower Kings, you should go for Forevermore. Ultimately, it does not matter which version you get: if you are a progressive rock or metal fan, you simply have to give this album a listen!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

TRANSATLANTIC The Absolute Universe - The Breath of Life

Album · 2021 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
[Review of both extended version (Forevermore) and abridged version (The Breath of Life)]

It is well known that the world of prog rock is quite bizarre. Just take a look at the dozens of memes on the internet about 60-minute long prog songs, three-hour concerts and endless drum solos, and you’ll see what I mean. But with their new album, The Absolute Universe, multinational progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic have just reached a new high. Because, you see, The Absolute Universe is actually two records, of which one is a double-album. Confused? Let me explain.

The initial version of The Absolute Universe was a 90-minute musical suite divided across eighteen songs and two CDs. However, upon re-listening to the album, vocalist/keyboardist Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard) started to believe that a shorter, more compact version of the record could actually work better. When he presented the idea of a shorter album version to his bandmates, bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion) approved, while drummer Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and guitarist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) were not convinced. Ultimately, the band could not agree which version to put out. The stalemate was eventually solved by Portnoy’s suggestion to release both versions of the album, which now have reached our earbuds under the names of Forevermore (extended 90-minute version) and The Breath of Life (more compact 60-minute version). Now, you may be excused to think that The Breath of Life is simply a cut-down version of Forevermore. But this is prog, and that would have been far too simple! Instead, the two albums actually contain different music, either different versions of the same songs (different arrangements, different singers, different vocal lines and lyrics, etc.) or altogether different songs. They are effectively two different pieces of music, built around common musical themes. Isn’t this prog heaven?

Now, grandiose release projects aren’t much to write home about if the music isn’t any good. Fortunately, this is not the case for Transatlantic’s new album. Readers who are familiar with names such as The Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard should know exactly what to expect. This is modern progressive rock that pays tribute to the giants of the 1970s (Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis) but that at the same time tries to push things into the new millennium by exploring heavier and more metallic territories. The ambition to write long-form compositions means that, although the records come divided in separate and fairly short songs (from 2 to 9 minutes), there are recurring themes that surface over and again throughout the album, convincingly tying together the various pieces into a proper suite. A lots of these recurring themes are introduced in the (largely instrumental) opening track “Overture”, and they are then developed to full effect across the rest of the album, before album closer “Love Made a Way” wraps everything up with a sweet medley of the key passages. It is a very satisfying listening experience, true to the spirit of the progressive rock standard, but with enough vigour and inventiveness to sound fresh still today, more than 50 years apart from the golden era of prog.

Given the quality of the four musicians involved, the playing is of course sublime. Both album versions are a lot of fun to listen to as they brim with superb instrumental passages. From Portnoy’s manic drumming to Stolt’s blues- and jazz-infused guitar solos, from Trewavas’s rumbling bass grooves to Morse’s synth extravaganza, every single musician manages to contribute some of the absolutely best heavy rock playing that you’ll hear this year. Things are no less impressive when it comes to the vocals department. The four musicians share duties behind the mic, which makes for an interesting and varied approach. Morse and Stolt are experienced singers, having held the lead singer role with their respective bands for decades now. Unsurprisingly, the tracks where they sing on are the most convincing from the point of view of the vocal melodies. Trewavas is slightly weaker, although his heart-on-the-sleeves performance on “Solitude” is moving. Portnoy is the true surprise, though. His gravelly rock voice is really good and fits perfectly a darker piece like “Looking for the Light”, one of the highlights of The Absolute Universe.

Although I enjoyed very much listening to The Absolute Universe, one thing that is undoubtedly lacking on this album is innovation. This is not music that covers new ground and expands horizons, it is firmly rooted in the classic prog rock tradition and does not move very far from that territory. If you are looking for new sounds and boundary-pushing music, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. However, when the quality of the music is as high as on this release, this does not detract too much from the pure enjoyment of listening to the album.

Now that I hopefully convinced you that this album is worth listening to, the real question is: which of the two versions should you get? Well, it depends. If you – like me – are a full-blown prog aficionados you’ll probably want to get both. Call me a nerd, but I had a lot of fun comparing the various versions of the songs that appear on Forevermore and The Breath of Life. One difference that is quite noticeable between the two versions is that Stolt’s musical influence is much more marked on Forevermore than The Breath of Life. Three songs that only appear on Forevermore ("Rainbow Sky", "The World We Used to Know" and "The Sun Comes Up Today") could have easily been released on a The Flower King’s album. More generally, there are many more mellow instrumental guitar passages on Forevermore, showcasing Stolt’s signature guitar playing , that have been instead cut out of The Breath of Life. No wonder Stolt did not like Morse’s idea of a more compact album! In contrast, on The Breath of Life, one can perceive more distinctly Morse’s hand. So if you are more a fan of Spock’s Beard's / Morse's music, I would recommend to get the shorter and punchier The Breath of Life. If you instead prefer the brand of modern prog heralded by The Flower Kings, you should go for Forevermore. Ultimately, it does not matter which version you get: if you are a progressive rock or metal fan, you simply have to give this album a listen!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

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