Forevermore – 9.5
The Breath of Life – 9
Never a band to shy away from doing things over the top, prog rock supergroup Transatlantic here takes it to another level. Considering that their entire output on four records (SMPTe, Bridge Across Forever, The Whirlwind, Kaleidoscope) comes up to only 15 tracks, eight of them are longer than 14 minutes. So, for the love of Patty´s Papal Paypal pal, just how can they top the enormity of their previously longest track of “The Whirldwind” which came in at a whopping 79 minutes?
By doing a song across 2 albums, one in an edited brief 60 minutes, “The Breath of Life” and the other a 90 minute long excursion in all things prog (“Forevermore”), of course! Just as The Flower Kings did last year, the albums consist of separate songs that is held together by a grand concept. Here you have just about everything myself and many with me love about progressive rock in general and Transatlantic in particular. Neal Morse´s (lead Vocals, keyboards, guitars) husky voice and grandiose themes, Swedish flower king Roine Stolt (lead vocals, guitars) fluent and flowing melodies, Marillion maestro Pete Trewavas (lead vocals, bass) laying down the groovy foundations in union with the force of nature that is Mike Portnoy (lead vocals, drums) equals musical perfection to these ears.
Not unlike the seamstresses of ancient lore they weave a couple of recurring themes through the fabric of these albums with so much skill and precision it borders on the ridiculous.
You might say that they´re formulaic and I wouldn´t argue in the least. But when you have the ingredients to a magnificent seven course meal, you don´t change the main ingredients, you change the seasoning. So everything that you expect to find on a Transatlantic record is here in full regalia and man, do these guys deliver. Again.
From the rousing, epic tones of “Overture” (just how many overtures has Neal written now, on his own and with able help? 19? 72? Nevermind, they´re all awesome) and the following “Heart Like a Whirlwind” (called “Reaching for The Sky” on “The Breath of Life” but I´ll concentrate this review mostly on “Forevermore”) to the emotional payoff of album closer “Love Made a Way”, “The Ultimate Universe” brings sheer creative joy.
When TA released the video and single for “Looking For The Light”, a fair share of the progsphere took a deep breath and prepared for disaster since it featured a certain former Dream Theater drummer on lead vocals. But the guy absolutely kills it, dude! Holy sh*tsnacks, Mike Portnoy can sing! So can Mr Trewavas who takes on the heartfelt and Fab Four-esque “Solitude” with gusto and aplomb.
And so the band just keeps on piling magnificent part after magnificent part; Roine Stolt´s warm, earthy voice calls for contemplation on “Darkness in The Light” that echoes The Flower Kings of the 90s. Neal Morse´s fire and conviction is evident all over the two versions (well, three if you count the 5.1 mix on the blu-ray) of this absolute musical marvel and when he lets loose his Gentle Giant tribute in the counter point singing extravaganza in “The Greatest Story Never Ends” it is destination: Goosebump City for the guy behind this keyboard.
So here´s my recommendation: buy both versions as they complement each other so, so well and if you have the money opt for the Deluxe version with a whole bunch of extras and a really cool package as well. Seriously, how in the hell is anybody going to top this record in 2021?
Title: The Absolute Universe – Forevermore – The Breath of Life
Label: Inside Out Records
Date of release: 5th of February 2021
Forevermore: 90 minutes
The Breath of Life – 60 minutes
Forevermore – 9.5/10
The Breath of Life – 9/10
Standout tracks: Looking For The Light, Lonesome Rebel, The Greatest Story Never Ends