More than seven years after the release of its then latest album, Kaleidoscope, prog rock super group Transatlantic returned this year with its fifth album, The Absolute Universe. The then long-awaited album has since proven to be quite the interesting presentation from the band – Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard, The Neal Morse Band, Yellow Matter Custard), and Pete Trewavas (Marillion). One key point of interest in this latest offering from Transatlantic is its very presentation. This will be discussed shortly. The arrangements that are featured throughout the expansive record add their own level of interest to the record. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this album. All things considered, they make The Absolute Universe a unique new addition to this year’s field of new rock albums.
Transatlantic’s recently released fifth album, The Absolute Universe is a presentation that its fans and those of the band’s members will agree is itself absolutely interesting. That is proven in part through the album’s presentation. The presentation in question is that of a concept record. The catch here is that while the expansive recording is a concept record, it is not the typical presentation that audiences expecting a story-based concept album will expect. Rather, it is based on one, central theme, according to Portnoy. Portnoy said in a recent interview of the concept, “The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” Stolt expanded on Portnoy’s comments, stressing, “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual. The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.” So essentially what audiences get in this album is a concept record that technically is concept in the loosest sense of the word possible. That aside, the fact that the songs’ lyrical themes are so accessible and do in fact work with the noted overarching theme here, it all combines to make the record unique in this aspect. Case in point is ‘Swing High, Swing Low.’ This song is clearly about the myriad emotional ups and downs that a person experiences daily in life. ‘The World We Used To Know’ is just as clear. It is a person commenting on the state of the world today. This is something that every generation does. To that point, it is just one more way in which the album’s overall presentation generates a certain engagement and entertainment and just the tip of that proverbial iceberg. The arrangements that are featured throughout the album add their own layer of interest to this presentation.
The musical arrangements that are featured throughout The Absolute Universe are of interest because of the various influences that are evident throughout. From one song to the next, the songs show influence not only of the band members’ own work past and present, but also evidence of vintage prog influence. Case in point is ‘Heart Like a Whirlwind.’ The layered keyboard line immediately lends itself to comparisons to works from Emerson, Lake & Palmer as well as hints of The Flower Kings. At the same time, audiences can also clearly hear a Spock’s Beard influence here when the keyboards are joined with the guitars and vocal harmonies. On another level, the influence of The Neal Morse Band is just as evident. The addition of the classical music tributes peppered throughout the album makes for even more interest here. One can ever argue that there are hints of influence from Transatlantic itself at other points here. Simply put, the arrangements featured here are everything that audiences have come to expect from this band. Taking this into consideration along with the album’s unique presentation, the album gains even more interest. It sill is not the last of the album’s most important elements. The album’s production puts the final touch to its presentation.
The production that went into The Absolute Universe is important to examine because of its role in the album’s general effect. As noted, there are a lot of influences exhibited within each song. What’s more, there is a lot going on in each arrangement in terms of items, such as instrumentation, dynamics, and even vocals. The production in each song pays off because it takes all of that into account. The result is that each song evokes a wide range of emotions and thoughts from listeners as they remain engaged and entertained in each composition. Considering the impact of the record’s production, its featured arrangements, and its very approach, the whole presents itself as a truly unique new offering that any prog-rock fan and Transatlantic fan will find interesting.
Transatlantic’s latest album, The Absolute Universe is a presentation that will appeal to any prog-rock fan as well as those of the band. That is proven in part through the band’s approach to the album. The approach taken to the album is that of a concept record that defies the standard definition of a concept album. Rather than being story-based, it is a concept album that instead centers on one overarching theme. The musical arrangements that are featured throughout the album add their own interest to the album. That is because of the diversity that they show in regards to their influences. There are hints of vintage prog influence as well as the influence of the band’s own work and that of the band members’ own projects. The production of those arrangements rounds out the most important of the album’s elements, as it brings everything together. The production ensures that everything is balanced in each song, thus evoking the fullest emotional response and impact. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album a work that prog-rock and Transatlantic fans alike will agree was worth the wait. The Absolute Universe is available now.
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