As I wrote it in my foreword to the interview with drummer Mike Portnoy, it was certainly expected that the fourth album by the progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic would appear much earlier due to the drummer’s divorce with the band he co-founded back in 1985. But since then, Portnoy has planted many different musical seeds, what resulted in Transatlantic taking an almost five-year break since the release of seminal The Whirlwind album.
Kaleidoscope sees the band returning to a standard song-oriented album format, with five separate numbers constituting an entity, unlike the previous record which was a 78-minute suite indexed into twelve tracks. Having said that, it will doubtlessly be compared with the group’s first two studio releases – 2000′s SMPT:e and 2001′s Bridge Accross Forever. Though it would definitely be ungrateful to compare an album that is just a week old with two teenage records that clearly brought the four-piece act to fame.
Since the release of the mentioned debut, one thing is easy to notice about every new Transatlantic offering. The band continues to use pre-formatted patterns and formula established with SMPT:e – grandiose symphonic openings and vintage keyboard and guitar soundscapes, multiplied by intricate rhythm section. Bookended with two epics and centerpieces – Into the Blue and the title track, Kaleidoscope offers material that demands time. Maybe because of that, Transatlantic could described as a leap-year band.
Kicking the album off with Into the Blue suggests that quartet provides the most in a 20+ minute time frame. With members being experienced in composing lengthy tracks, it was clear since the beginning that Transatlantic has full potential to compose some of the best epics in the contemporary progressive rock. And that proved right on several ocassions. Kaleidoscope‘s opener features a vocal performance by Pain of Salvation‘s Daniel Gildenlöw, what also marks his first studio appearance on a Transatlantic record (Gildenlöw previously toured with the band as a session musician and will also provide support on the upcoming tour). But before that, Into the Blue opens with an instrumental section that shows full power of the band. The cohesion of the group members has never been more shown than now making it feels as a real band for the first time in 15 years.
Shine is the first of the three shorter tracks on Kaleidoscope, and is the first song ever the band put out a real video for. It is also the first single off the album, receiving polarized reactions from the fans. Portnoy compares this piece as a song of the We All Need Some Light caliber, calling it a little bit more universal. It includes parts sung by all four members. Black as the Sky changes the pace and brings the classic prog vibe back. With its something less than seven minutes in length, this piece crystallizes as one of the better short songs TA have ever written. On a side note, many people objected about the keyboard part (around the 40th sec in the song) being rehashed from the Spock’s Beard‘s Devil’s Got My Throat.
The second ballad on the album Beyond the Sun is basically a Neal Morse‘s solo piece that kind of serves as a ouverture for the closing, almost 32 minute long title epic. Musically, Kaleidoscope justifies its name – it is comprised of plenty of different pieces broken down further into particles. With members having different music backgrounds and experiences, this tune is a great example of the mentioned cohesion. While Into the Blue relies on a recurring theme, on Kaleidoscope the accent is on letting the song floats from distinctive soundwalls and creating an organic connection between them. That, in particular, is quite a challenge, but when you have four of them who previously co-wrote masterpieces like The Great Nothing, A Change of Seasons, Seasons End or Stardust We Are – it comes as the natural order of things.
Transatlantic continue tradition of releasing bonus cover tracks with Kaleidoscope as well. The accompanying CD brings eight songs, but the numbers that grab attention are Yes‘ classic And You and I and King Crimson‘s Indiscipline. The other songs include Electric Light Orchestra‘s Can’t Get it Out of My Head, Procol Harum‘s Conquistador, Elton John‘s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Small Faces‘ Tin Soldier, Focus‘ Sylvia and The Moody Blues‘ Nights in White Satin.
As I wrote, the new Transatlantic album demands time and considering the busy schedules each of the band’s members, that is what it will get. Kaleidoscope is not an experimental album, the band has set their own standards they tend to keep within. It’s a record with a Transatlantic watermark that certainly has what to offer and another cruise for demanding prog fans.
1. Into The Blue (25:13)
2. Shine (7:28)
3. Black As the Sky (6:45)
4. Beyond The Sun (4:31)
5. Kaleidoscope (31:53)
CD2 (Bonus CD on special edition):
1. And You And I (Yes cover) (10:45)
2. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (ELO cover) (4:46)
3. Conquistador (Procol Harum cover) (4:13)
4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John) (3:20)
5. Tin Soldier (Small Faces cover) (3:22)
6. Sylvia (Focus cover) (3:49)
7. Indiscipline (King Crimson cover) (4:45)
8. Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues cover) (6:13)
* Neal Morse – vocals, keyboards, acoustic & electric guitars
* Mike Portnoy – drums, vocals
* Roine Stolt – vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, mellotron, percussion
* Pete Trewavas – bass, bass pedals, vocals
* Daniel Gildenlöw – vocals on Into the Blue