Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope
Written by Mark Nagy
For those unfamiliar (which, up until a short time ago, included myself), Transatlantic is a progressive rock/metal supergroup consisting of members of Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, Marillion and The Flower Kings. The band comfortably exists in a common ground between those other four bands’ sounds, with complex, highly melodic, long form songs. This by itself it to be applauded, because my experience with each four of these bands separately has been to hear the music drift into listless complexity, only to snap into empty, uninspired melodies. That’s not to insult any of these bands, because these are all musicians with some absolutely incredible music along with the missteps. It’s just the nature of the territory. Still, before I go farther in discussing the latest Transatlantic release, Kaleidoscope, I do want to say that just striking the balance between melody and complexity so naturally is to be applauded, especially in a supergroup.
That being said, because Transatlantic exists in the comfortable middle ground between the collected musicians’ illustrious careers, that comfortable middle ground is remarkably small, and while ‘epic’ in scope, the musical ambitions of Kaleidoscope are disappointingly small. This also goes with the supergroup territory, but I still have to address it, especially if you’re familiar with the careers of Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas: don’t expect to hear anything you haven’t heard before. That’s not to say that these specific combinations aren’t fresh, because combining the symphonic talents that Roine Stolt brings to the table with Portnoy’s distinct drum passages creates some really cool moments.
What made this album difficult to review though was the expectations. Transatlantic isn’t a band I’ve followed closely at all in the past, but since Portnoy has left Dream Theater, the quality of his output has been improving notably. On top of that, I have an appreciation for what Stolt, Trewavas, and especially Morse ought to be capable of. So when the four put together a completely predictable, but also excellent album, I’m torn. There’s a part of me that wants to come down hard on Kaleidoscope, but then I look around and see albums far more ambitious that I’m enjoying far less, and realize that it wouldn’t be fair.
What finally brought me around was “Shine.” When I was drawing my attention to the bookend epics, the title track, and “Into The Blue,” I found them both too long to be significantly memorable. They’re excellent songs in their own right, but the more restrained “Shine” is what gave me the outstanding vocal melodies to latch onto, and ignited my real appreciation for this record. Even if I was a bit disappointed in the level of creativity, I can still appreciate when a progressive rock album just sets out to do the genre proud, and there’s really something to be said for familiarity done right.
3.75 // 5