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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 62 - 11/01/01

Bridge Across Forever

Following up last year's SMPT:e, the prog-rock heroes that are drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), keyboardist/singer Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion) and guitarist/singer Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) once again deliver a smorgasbord of epic, symphonic, grandiose and ever so slightly over the top progressive rock. For your money you get four songs - three of them being 26, 14 and 26 minutes long, with the title track clocking in at a modest five minutes. Twenty-six minute long songs... hmmm, what would Sigmund Freud have said...?

Transatlantic was initiated by Mike Portnoy with the goal of playing progressive rock - as opposed to the metal stylings of his main band. So for some Dream Theater fans, this might not be the all out metal extravaganza they're looking for, but for those of us open to things non-metal, Transatlantic is a goldmine of incredible music.

The first Transatlantic album showed a band often struggling to find a voice of its own. The songs were mostly obvious Morse or Stolt compositions, with occasional contributions from the rhythm section. That Morse, Stolt and Portnoy all are used to having the final say in their main bands probably made compromises hard to swallow. Not that it was a bad album, there was some really powerful "retro-prog" there, but there was perhaps a lack of direction. They were learning to write music together, and now we see - or hear, rather - that they have progressed. Oh dear, there's that p-word again.

Bridge Across Forever opens with a string section heralding the beginning the first epic, Duel with the Devil. The song goes through a lot of different parts, sown amazingly well together, with both musical and lyrical themes recurring throughout the song. The music is more of a collaborative effort this time, it sounds more like Transatlantic and less like "oh, that's a Morse part and that's a Stolt part." Also, the vocals are shared more among the four bandmembers, and there are some pretty incredible parts where they're singing one line each, the voices weaving in and out of each other like nobody's business.

There is the typical instrumental madness, lots of great moments where the music geeks will be counting out the odd times. Portnoy shines as always, and his British rhythm buddy Trewavas is rock steady. Neal Morse has his moments on the keyboard, wild organ solos is his main weapon of choice. And Roine Stolt gets to show what a brilliant guitar player he is when he gets the solo spot during the last few minutes of Duel with the Devil.

The somber title track, featuring only Morse and a piano, provides a nice and quiet moment before the incredible album closer, Stranger in Your Soul, where they pull out all the stops.

Some of the influences the four members of Transatlantic have in common are pretty obvious at times. Suite Charlotte Pike is basically a medley of shorter songs, modelled after Abbey Road, and it contains some very Beatles-ish vocal parts. Ironically, it contains the line "It's hard calming the Beatle inside of me". Meanwhile, the second part of Stranger in Your Soul (about six minutes into the track) makes you wonder what Dream Theater would sound like if they had Jimmy Page on guitar. But in the end, this is more Transatlantic, less obvious influences.

A truly excellent CD from some of the finest musicians of today's prog-scene. Do not miss!

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You may also want to check out our Transatlantic article/review: SMPTe (Stolt, Morse, Portnoy and Trewavas).

© 2011 Luna Kafé