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 4.33 | 21 ratings
SMPTe
Metal Related 2000
TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever album cover 4.55 | 23 ratings
Bridge Across Forever
Metal Related 2001
TRANSATLANTIC The Whirlwind album cover 4.38 | 22 ratings
The Whirlwind
Metal Related 2009
TRANSATLANTIC Kaleidoscope album cover 4.04 | 14 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 4.38 | 7 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 The Absolute Universe - Forevermore

Album · 2021 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Transatlantic's fifth album, The Absolute Universe, comes in two distinct version - an extended and abridged edition. In fact, it's not true to say the latter is a mere abridgement - it includes some different pieces of music, and even the bits which overlap have some differences.

That said, if you're into Transatlantic's retro-prog leanings at all, your instincts will likely lean towards the longer version of the album, which isn't actually that much long - 90 minutes vs. 64 minutes. It's more of the band's usual sound, mashing up elements of Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings as they have since SMPTe, and of the same high quality as they've sustained since Bridge Across Forever.

TRANSATLANTIC Kaleidoscope

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Before Kaleidoscope we hadn't really had what you could call a "business as usual" Transatlantic album. The debut saw them not having gelled yet as a group, Bridge Across Forever found them delivering a more cohesive sound and later took on extra weight due to immediately preceding the hiatus of the band, and The Whirlwind was not just the return of Transatlantic, but also a return of Neal Morse to working as a part of band projects.

Since then, Neal seems to have found a new balance between his turning out his overtly Christian-themed solo work on the one hand and participating in bands whose music have less specifically religion themes on the other hand; after The Whirlwind he'd also crop up in Flying Colours and make guest appearances live and in the studio with Spock's Beard.

With Neal's creativity spread out like this, one might expect him to take a back seat compositionally speaking - reserving his most Transatlantic-like ideas for this, using other ideas on projects better suited to them, and giving his other bandmates room to contribute. Certainly, it's hard to judge what proportion of the music is contributed by which band member on Transatlantic releases, since they generally share the credit communally - but I certainly hear more of The Flower Kings on here than I remember on previous albums, suggesting that Roine Stolt's quirky, sometimes Zappa-influenced approach to prog had a particularly big influence this time around. (He also sings lead on Black As the Sky and certain other sections.)

It's not that the other members are absent here - far from it. Neal's combination of uplifting, soaring crescendos, lyrics which you can read a Christian meaning into if you want but don't have to, and nods to the 1960s pop scene that early prog grew out of are all here too, Portnoy and Trewavas are still pulling their weight in the rhythm section, this might be a Kaleidoscope but it isn't a revolution in the band's sound.

Since their reunion, Transatlantic haven't exactly been cranking out albums at a massive rate - part of that is probably down to everyone having day jobs with other musical projects to balance, of course, but to my ears it seems like they're also trying to make sure that each Transatlantic release is a little special. As I said at the start of this review, they hadn't put out a "business as usual" album before this one - and they don't do it this time either.

TRANSATLANTIC The Whirlwind

Album · 2009 · Metal Related
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Warthur
The return of Transatlantic in 2009 with The Whirlwind, an album-long prog symphony in some twelve parts or so, was perhaps just as surprising as their original hiatus. The project had gone into hibernation back in 2002, when Neal Morse quit it (and Spock's Beard), declaring that he felt a calling to make more explicitly religious-themed work and he didn't think it would be right to drag those band projects down that same rabbithole. Whilst Spock's Beard was able to solider on with a reconfigured lineup, Transatlantic was explicitly constructed as a supergroup of four personalities, and so didn't feel they could keep going without Neal onboard.

However, Neal's departure was not as final as it might have first appeared. For one thing, there was an extra dimension to Neal's decision which hadn't been widely aired at the time, though it would eventually become more generally known: his young daughter had been diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition, which had apparently corrected itself. Such an incident not only explains why Neal felt an intensifying of his religious feelings (because he attributed this recovery in part to prayer), but clearly would have given him ample reason to dial back on band projects with significant touring requirements associated for the sake of spending more tame with the family.

The passage of time would eventually cure Neal's need to distance himself from band projects; in his solo career he would not only put out a range of prog albums which combined his distinctive musical approach with various Christian themes, but also had a little cottage industry going when it came to putting out more straight-ahead worship music. Furthermore, as the years passed and his daughter's health troubles were more firmly in the past, perhaps it became easier to contemplate doing the odd Transatlantic project and tour, with the immediate need to spend as much time as possible together as a family being alleviated.

In retrospect, there were clues all along that Neal wasn't 100% done with Transatlantic. For one thing, Mike Portnoy of the band had also performed drums on all of Neal's solo prog albums, so it's not like he was out of contact with the rest of the group; for another, during his solo career he had been producing a steady trickle of cover versions of mostly secular songs (compiled on the Cover 2 Cover series), so it's not like he felt every single musical endeavour he turned his had to had to be 100% exclusively Christian-themed. Moreover, Roine Stolt of Transatlantic has worked in some Christian themes into his music here and there - such as on The Flower King solo album which provided the seeds of the Flower Kings project to begin with. Transatlantic might not have been the right project to do entire concept albums explicitly based on Biblical stories or Church history, but the other musicians are hardly the sort you'd expect to toss their instruments down and leave the studio in a huff if there turned out to be a religious theme here and there in the music.

As it stands, 2009 feels like it was the perfect time for a Transatlantic reunion to come together. Neal's prog solo albums were for the most part pretty solid, but listening to Lifeline - his last prog solo album before this reunion occurred - I can't help but think he might have been running a bit short of ideas, and so pivoting to a band-based project might have been the perfect opportunity for Neal to recharge his prog batteries, with collaborators to both propose their own ideas and to help refine his own.

Roine Stolt, meanwhile, had just put the Flower Kings on hiatus after wrapping up their 2008 tour commitments, and wouldn't come back to that project until 2011. Marillion had put out Happiness Is the Road in the previous year and were finding their creative reserves a little tapped - they'd do the Less Is More album of acoustic rearrangements of existing material in 2009, and then take some three years to bring Sounds That Can't Be Made to fruition - so Pete Trewavas wasn't so busy with the day job that he couldn't come around for bass. As for Mike Portnoy, he hadn't officially left Dream Theater yet, but they had completed what would turn out to be their last studio album with him, and when he did leave in the following year he cited enjoying other projects more than he was enjoying Dream Theater himself.

Clearly, then, the weather was blowing in the right direction for the good ship Transatlantic to set sail again, and this return voyage turns out to be a real treat. On Bridge Across Forever the band had found a sound in which their different musical personalities were all finding expression and which by and large sounded like its own entity, rather than "Spock's Beard By Other Means" as their debut album, SMPTe, sometimes came across. Neal Morse takes the bulk of the lead vocals, but hasn't pushed Roine Stolt out entirely here - rather, Roine is given those sections which his voice better does justice to, so both of them are playing to their strengths in that respect. In return, there's a better demarcation of duties when it comes to guitar: Neal is handling acoustic, Roine is on electric, which means that Roine's presence is better expressed (because any time you hear electric guitar - and there's some great solos there - it's Roine). Meanwhile in the rhythm section, Portnoy and Trewavas let rip with their particular skills, providing the engine which really gives the album a sense of forward motion.

As far as the overall composition goes, it sounds like another Neal Morse long piece in structural terms, but that's fine - Neal's always been a dab hand at structuring these things, and whilst there's moments here and there which sound a little bit like a Neal-ism, there's just as many which sound like a slice of the Flower Kings. More to the point, whilst parts sound like something you could imagine Neal contributing to the stew, none of it entirely sounds like his solo career, despite half the band being key musicians on those solo albums. If Neal was being the "big picture" guy here, taking everyone's contributions and fitting them into a framework, it's worked out just fine, because the mosaic that results sounds distinctly different from the sort of thing he'd cook up by himself whilst still having his fingerprints on it.

Thematically, you can certainly still pick up some of Neal's religious convictions if you've a mind to, but it's not as front and centre as in his solo work. Sure, his solo work is often very unsubtle on this point - but here he's not giving any explicit thoughts on church doctrine or delving into particular incidents from the Old or New Testaments, it's more the sort of material you might hear any cosmically-inclined, slightly hippy-ish prog band wheeling out where you can probably track where the lyricist's head was at when they wrote the words, but they're more interested in expressing broad universal themes than getting into specifics.

I've spoken a lot about Morse in this review, but that's largely because his decision to first leave Transatlantic and then come back to the project hangs so heavy above the project. As it stands, The Whirlwind ends up being the best sort of supergroup project, in that it simultaneously clearly makes best use of the strengths of the various contributors and allows their different personalities to be felt within the music, but at the same time it becomes a whole greater than the sum of its parts, producing music which shows the trademarks of all the contributors but at the same time doesn't quite sound like the sort of thing any one of them would produce on their own.

Of all the members of the group, Morse is the one who had been most immersed in producing stuff on his own rather than in band projects in the time since Bridge Across Forever, so it's gratifying to see him moving smoothly back into a band project and finding new ways to express his particular compositional style whilst at the same time embracing the opportunity to work with collaborators as equals. As far as the band as a whole goes, this really sounds like they haven't missed a beat; had Transatlantic stuck together after 2002 and produced a new album instead of Neal going off on his solo career, I can't imagine them producing something much better than this.

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever

Album · 2001 · Metal Related
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Warthur
It took me a long while to see the appeal of Transatlantic. Bridge Across Forever, when I first heard it, sounded a lot like their debut album, which meant that to my ears it sounded a bit like a lot of bits which fell off the back of a Flower Kings or Spock's Beard album and weren't especially missed.

Perhaps I'm coming around to it now because I've found myself warming to Spock's Beard and the Flower Kings, or maybe it's that I have a better ear for what they are doing differently here. The original SMPTe did, admittedly, sound a little like "Spock's Beard by other means", largely because of the major role Neal Morse played in the compositional approach; this can be explained in part by the fact that the Transatlantic project began with Morse and Portnoy getting together, and Roine Stolt and Peter Trewavas were later additions to the lineup.

This time around, things feel a bit more balanced. Mike Portnoy's letting rip on the drums a bit more and adding just a touch more fire, whilst Stolt and Morse's songwriting contributions seem to do a better job of finding an interesting common ground between Spock's Beard and the Flower Kings, so the music still sounds somewhat similar to both bands but a) there's a bit more Kings in the mix (note how Morse and Stolt share lead vocals on Duel With the Devil!) and b) the band feels like they are breaking into a niche which those two groups occasionally touch on but don't dwell in exclusively. (Indeed, some of the Flower Kings-ish moments on here, like the soaring conclusion to Duel With the Devil, end up pulling off the emotional side of the equation better than the Kings do.)

What of Trewavas? Well, there isn't really much of the Marillion sound here - neither in terms of what the band were doing at around the same time (the sessions for this came about at around the same time as the final touches were being put on Anoraknophobia) or way back in the Fish era. Perhaps the closest comparison I could draw with Pete's "home" band is the way that the band's sound seems somehow fresher and more modern than that of Spock's Beard or the Flower Kings, even though there's just as much 1970s worship going on here as in those two bands.

Then there's that instrumental section midway through Duel With the Devil which incorporates jazzy saxophone, spacey guitar, and feels like it might slip all the way into being a prog-trip hop mashup like Marillion's Interior Lulu or Cathedral Wall before it breaks back again - and come to think of it, there's enough 1960s pop influences in Morse-era Spock's Beard and late 1990s Marillion that there's that point of connection too. And the jamming at the start of Suite Charlotte Pike is absolutely held together by his bass line, as well as coming across like some of Marillion's poppier numbers from this era - it could have just as easily come off Radiation, come to think of it.

It's really only Dream Theater's sound which is less represented here, and that's largely because the centre of gravity of the album is very much in the realm of progressive rock, not progressive metal. At the same time, it's possible to get too hung up on the individual ingredients which go into this stew and lose sight of the main attraction, which is how the album successfully merges these sounds together into a seamless whole.

With Transatlantic finally finding their sound here, it would have been a crushing shame had Neal Morse's subsequent withdrawal from many of his previous musical projects caused the band to end forever. Fortunately, Neal would see a way forward to balance his spiritual commitments with re-engagement with old projects (as well as reuniting Transatlantic, he's made the odd guest appearance with Spock's Beard), but if he hadn't, this would have been an astonishing note for the supergroup project to go out on.

TRANSATLANTIC SMPTe

Album · 2000 · Metal Related
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Warthur
Are Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy the two closest BFFs in modern prog rock? It seems likely; after all, when Morse shocked the prog world by leaving Spock's Beard after Snow, it would be Portnoy who'd become one of most his most regular collaborators, appearing on a slew of his post-Beard projects (both solo and in side groups like Flying Colors and Yellow Matter Custard).

Before all that went down, however, Morse and Portnoy put together Transatlantic - recruiting Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings after Jim Matheos of Fates Warning couldn't participate and filling out the lineup with Marillion's Pete Trewavas. With Morse still in Spock's Beard at this point and Portnoy a good decade or so away from leaving Dream Theater, the band represented a true supergroup of modern prog, and expectations were high of their first album.

That said, don't go into this setting those expectations too high, or hoping for something with significant doses of, say, the prog metal of Dream Theater or the indie rock-influenced modernised prog sound that Marillion were exploring at the era (or, for that matter, a throwback to Fish-era Marillion). The centre of gravity of the band's sound at this point in time was very much skewed towards the approach of Spock's Beard, with perhaps a healthy pinch of The Flower Kings.

A big part of this comes down to the fact that there's a strong 1960s influence underpinning some of what's going on here - the album ends on a cover of a Procol Harum epic, after all - which both Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings had also been incorporating into their music. Between that and the way Neal Morse and Stolt take point on lead vocals, and the use of vocal harmonies in particular, the parallels are rather prominent, and without the sort of jazzier or more Zappa-esque detours which the Flower Kings take, the balance of the album's sound leans somewhat in a Spock's Beard direction.

Perhaps this was to be expected - the group were still feeling things out. In the long run, Transatlantic would prove to be more than a one-off flash in the pan and develop their sound further from this early pass. The album is a solid start from the project, but they don't yet have an identity distinct from Spock's Beard, and some listeners might be thrown by that, especially anyone who was hoping for more Dream Theater or Marillion-ish moments.

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