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Progressive rock supergroup TransatlanticPermanent travel through time

Music: "Pieces of Heaven"

Music: "Looking for the Light"

"Looking for the Light" from the new Transatlantic album "The Absolute Universe". With the screeching Hamond organ in the intro, the almost doomy 6/8 bass line and the rough vocals of Mike Portnoy, the song is not only unusually heavy - with four minutes it is also one of the shorter tracks. The supergroup has been around for around twenty years, founded by ex-Dream Theater drummer Portnoy, Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas, Neal Morse, ex-singer from Spock's Beard and Roine Stolt, guitarist from the Swedish prog rock institution The Flower Kings.

Roine Stolt: "I'm pretty sure Mike sent me an email back then. A mutual friend told me that Dream Theater played a Flower Kings song on the PA before the concerts. And I thought Dream Theater that It's interesting. Great band, great guitars, great drums and stuff ... but the metal sound wasn't the kind of progressive rock that interested me - at least then. And then about a year later I got an email from Mike It said that he and Neal Morse wanted to start a band. And I wrote back, sure why not. He also wrote that he was thinking about getting Marillion's bass player on board. I knew Marillion, I had a record from the 80s, after they said they are the new Genesis, but if I am to be honest, I thought ... not quite the new Genesis, I mean the music was good, but not as good as Genesis.

Marillion hasn't sounded like Genesis for decades. At Transatlantic, on the other hand, Seventies Prog is an integral part of the DNA. From the musical mixture, in addition to the individual sound of the four members, a few ingredients can be clearly heard: Yes, Genesis, Kansas, and last but not least, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

Music: "The Sun Comes Up Today"

On the current Transatlantic album "The Abolute Universe" the many musical influences flow together even more organically than on the first four works. Maybe because the band had more time in the studio this time. With the debut album 20 years ago, according to Roine Stolt, everything happened very quickly.

There were no plans, no tour was planned

Roine Stolt: "There were no plans at all, no tour was planned, I don't even know if we had a record deal. Maybe ... maybe not. Anyway, we met and then we recorded pretty quickly. I think we did whole first album was ready after three or four days. "

"SMPTe" was the name of the first album; named after the timecode of the same name, which happens to contain the first letters of all four musicians: Stolt, Morse, Portnoy and Trevawas. On the longer tracks, the transitions between the different passages are sometimes a bit bumpy, but "SMPTe" is a clear statement and a guide for the successors: It consists of a half-hour epic, two songs of twenty minutes each - including a cover for Procul Harum Suite "In Held (` Twas in I) - and two shorter songs: The hooky "Mystery Train" and the acoustic ballad "We All Need Some Light"

Music: "We All Need Some Light"

A bombastic finale à la Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb", orchestral keyboard carpets and thundering tubular bells included. "We All Need Some Light" is still the slimmest song on Transatlantic's first album. The band regularly superimposes several keyboard and guitar tracks, and four voices are often not enough for vocals. This is why the quartet sometimes sounds a bit thinner on their first live album than in the studio; On later tours, the four brought the singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw from Pain of Salvation onto the stage as reinforcement. In the studio, Transatlantic remained a quartet, with the same line-up for twenty years, and not always without creative differences.

Roine Stolt: "We are four strong-willed musicians, especially Neal, Mike and I. Pete is a very gentle and careful person, very willing to compromise. That's a great quality when you're in a band, especially when your colleagues are so stubborn But I think that's how most bands work. With the Beatles it was John, Paul and George - and maybe sometimes Ringo, and so it was with Pink Floyd or Yes - there was constant discussion, and it has to be that way. What counts is that the music comes out well in the end, and that sometimes requires a bit of friction. "

Even if such friction is mostly productive in the end - sometimes the differences are so great that a compromise seems impossible. It was the same with the current album:

Roine Stolt: "Forevermore" was the original version. We worked on that the whole time, and that's what the album should sound like. And then, after several months of work and touring with other bands in between, it was time to finally finish the album. But then one day I got an email from Neal: Hey, I think the album is way too long. We have to shorten that ... "

Music: "Heart Like A Whirlwind"

The new Transatlantic album was as good as finished, but Neal Morse was suddenly no longer happy with it. He wanted couldn't imagine a double album anymore, wanted to throw out half of the songs, shorten them and / or replace them with others. Roine Stolt didn't want that.

Roine Stolt: "I thought the album was as good as it was. I think Mike felt the same way. Pete wasn't sure it could have been a little shorter for him. So we couldn't agree on what to do with it . "

Music: "Overture"

Roine Stolt: "And then I think Mike had the brilliant idea to just do both. Neal had a very strong vision, he wanted to shorten and simplify. And I thought we would have lost too many good parts that I knew about. that the fans will love it. That was the album we wanted to make. It had a natural flow, the songs interlocked well. And I didn't want to risk that; I didn't want to cut the scissors just for the sake of it make the music more accessible. "

Music: "Swing High, Swing Low"

Roine Stolt (Tobias Andersson)

Roine Stolt: "And there were great tracks like Rainbow Sky that Neal wanted to cut. I mean, it's his song, and I think it's his best on the album, poppy, totally uplifting, and just important to them Record. I fight for my ideas, but I also want to fight for the good ideas of Neal. Pete wrote part of it too, and that should all be thrown out. So I said, no, no, no, no! The song is exactly where it belongs! We need it! "

Music: "Rainbow Sky"

With "The Breath of Life" and the double album "Forevermore", Transatlantic created two equal versions of the new album. The compact version has 14 tracks, the longer, more playful one has 18. Ten of them can be found on both albums, but in different versions - sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, and sometimes with different solos and lyrics.

Music like from a parallel universe

Roine Stolt: "So Neal was supposed to put together the shorter version, that was his version. And I was responsible for the longer, the" Forevermore "version. And that solved the problem: we just did both."

An album as if from a parallel universe, in which the Beach Boys recorded the double album "Smile" as well as "Smiley Smile" - and in which, in addition to the "White Album", there is also a half-length version of "The Beatles" - produced by George Harrison. In fact, both versions of "The Absolute Universe" have their own identity. "The Breath of Life" is round, coherent, accessible and has little fat - at least for Prog standards. Comparable, perhaps, to "Leftoverture" from Kansas or "Moving Pictures" from Rush. The "Forevermore" version, on the other hand, is a sprawling old school prog odyssey.

Music: "The World We Used To Know"

Transatlantic is not only a good band name, but also the right adjective: Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse are American, Pete Trewavas is British and Roine Stolt is from Sweden. For the first four albums, Stolt and Trewavas crossed the Atlantic, but this time entering America would have been too difficult - and they had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Roine Stolt: "In the last couple of years it has become increasingly difficult to get a visa. You can apply for it, but there is absolutely no guarantee and it costs money. So I said early on that it would be for Pete and me It could be a problem getting to America. And Pete didn't want to risk future visas either - because once you've been denied it's a big problem. It's on the files, he's been denied. And he wants to someday Go on tour with Marillion again. That's why I suggested recording the album in Europe, but nobody took it seriously at first. It took a while for it to seep in how serious the situation is and that it is difficult to travel to America. I mean that sounds crazy - we're not terrorists; we just want to write music with a few friends. "

In the end, the four of them agreed on a studio in Sweden, for the first time this side of the Atlantic. The longer, more relaxed studio time made itself felt: The structure of the two fundamentally different albums is very consistent, and the leitmotifs that run through the entire suite are used particularly effectively this time. Whether with the force of the whole band or simply with an acoustic guitar.

Music: "Love Made a Way (Prelude)"

Transatlantic's music is so complex; it almost seems like magic that it comes into being in such a short time. The explanation is pretty banal though - a lot has already been written when the band meets for the first time. Before that, the musicians send their demos back and forth.

Accidentally Epic

Roine Stolt: "I already had a lot of music, Neal already had a lot of music and Pete had a lot too. But the first day in the studio it was about all the instruments being wired correctly. And then Neal said something like, I have a little piano piece here that came to my mind this morning. So all of a sudden there was music again that no one had heard before. I don't know if that really landed on the album, but it's typical of our spontaneous work process. Nothing is set in stone, we're open to ideas, we're working on a song without knowing where it's going. We didn't say, "Let's record ten songs." We work on something, then we'll see if it is us like, we'll record it and go on. And maybe I'll say something like, I heard a nice passage on Pete's demo, can we use it as a chorus? "

Mellotrons, polyphonic singing, spherical guitars, and pieces too long to fit on one side of a record; With the first album Transatlantic set an example more than 20 years ago and since then has raised the bar more and more: "The Whirlwind" from 2009 is a single, almost 80-minute long suite and "The Absolute Universe" are two of them - three if you count the Blu-ray version, which is even longer than the epic "Forevermore" and contains tracks from both versions. For "Islands", the current album of his band The Flower Kings, Roine Stolt wrote and recorded 21 short songs; with Transatlantic that would be difficult to imagine.

Roine Stolt: "I think there is almost the expectation that with Transatlantic we will be - as Mike calls it - the epic kings. We record a lot of long songs, I know that a lot of fans love that and I can understand it very well . In the meantime, people simply expect us to do something monumental. Personally, I don't really care. "

As much as Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Pete Trewavas and Mike Portnoy are attached to the prog of the 70s with their epics - even after more than two decades, Transatlantic is not an act of nostalgia. The new album "The Absolute Universe" happily quotes the past, but looks to the future - with modern production and a revolutionary "what if" approach that injects adrenaline into the concept album format. A lot has happened since the first album 22 years ago: Mike Portnoy no longer drums for Dream Theater. Neal Morse found God and left Spock's Beard, but smuggled some of the Spock's Beard sound into Transatlantic. The futuristic mothership that adorns most of the covers of Transatlantic, on the other hand, flies undeterred. Where exactly? That will be decided on the way.

Roine Stolt: "When we started recording the new album in September 2019, nobody said let's do an even bigger epic this time. We didn't discuss it. It just happened."

Music: "Set us Free"