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Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe Forevermore Award winner

The Absolute Universe Forevermore
by Emily Schneider at 09 April 2021, 6:50 AM

TRANSATLANTIC is a Progressive Rock supergroup comprised of Neal Morse, Roine Stolt (THE FLOWER KINGS), Pete Trewavas (MARILLION), and Mike Portnoy. During the heart of the pandemic, the foursome were craving a new challenge musically for their fifth studio album. What they concocted is quite unique. There are two versions of “The Absolute Universe” and it isn't just single disc and 2 CD. They rerecorded the songs for each version, so basically, the songs on the single disc version “The Breath of Life” sound different than the ones on this version I am reviewing “Forevermore”. It's rather ambitious, but with a group of professionals like these guys, they pulled it off splendidly. I narrowed down this 90 minute version with plenty of song highlights.

The album begins with the big setting builder “Overture”. It's an interstellar Prog paradise full of 'floating through the cosmos' feeling melodies and groovy synth/organs that illuminate the planets and stars surrounding. “Heart Like a Whirlwind” is a hopeful song, lyrically. There's a nice contrast of some vibrant melodies then some slower, more gloomy portions throughout the track. It flows right into “Higher Than the Morning”.This song is like a brilliant supernova, full of vivid colors and a burst of pure light. A lot of this vibrant feel comes from the variety of instrumentation, including the plethora of percussion (xylophone, drums, tambourine). The guitars were like rays of sunlight through thick clouds, the layered vocals are so warm and encouraging. The orchestration is really lovely too, such euphoric melodies.

“The Darkness in Light” has some interesting style shifts; there's some 70s Prog vibes, a bit of Flamenco style in one of the guitar solos, and some space-age flair toward the end. “Swing High, Swing Low” is more of a ballad like track with some slower pacing. The solo portion is great though with great guitar work, classy drums, and some organ to carry through to the next song “Bully”. This song is just over 2 minutes long, but they layered the instruments right in with plenty of dimension. “Rainbow Sky” could have easily flowed in from the second track with it's upbeat feel and keep on moving forward theme. It's vibrant like a kite on a breezy spring day.

 “The World We Used to Know” closes the first disc with another excellent instrument heavy song. There's such whimsy to the melodies at first, then it shifts to a slower feeling of longing. A bittersweet nostalgia bleeds into the song, especially at the passionate guitar solo at the halfway mark. The last 4 minutes of the song takes on a more optimistic turn lyrically, but the longing of what once was still lingers within it.

“The Sun Comes Up Today” begins with a purely euphoric vocal layer to create a vision of the sun rising above the horizon. The guitars and all else follows suit with joyous melodies and rather encouraging lyrics. “Owl Howl” has a mysterious energy to it, especially with the sneaky low bass line. The vocal style sounds like a wise owl, telling the unfolding story. Then the instrumental interlude was the best part with some awesome synthwork (I'm a sucker for some MOOG!). I felt like I was listening to a modernized morph of CAMEL and KING CRIMSON and I didn't want this particular song to end.

“Looking for the Light (Reprise)” and “The Greatest Story Never Ends” are both spectacular synth and organ soundscapes with some great melodies within the guitars too. Not to mention the intricate time signature changes that create a cool listening experience. The final song “Love Made a Way” closes the album with a cheerful and borderline spiritual 8 minute track.

Overall, “The Absolute Universe” is an uplifting escape from a chaotic world. Positive messages in music is something I welcome these days after experiencing a bleak year for the entire globe in 2020 and this well-seasoned quartet certainly know to to create it. They not only create an audible form of light in the darkness, they manage to give the music warmth and evoke joy and hope with every intricate note they play. It did get a bit corny at times, mainly lyrically, but it was enjoyable altogether. It's easy to allow yourself to get lost in the pure Progressive Rock instrumental portions and there's plenty of it on this hour and 30 minute wonder. I have a feeling this is one I'll likely spin a handful more times, just to see what new details flutter in as time goes on.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Disc 1:

1 Overture
2 Heart Like A Whirlwind
3 Higher Than The Morning
4 The Darkness In The Light
5 Swing High, Swing Low
6 Bully
7 Rainbow Sky
8 Looking For The Light
9 The World We Used To Know

Disc 2:

1 The Sun Comes Up Today
2 Love Made A Way (Prelude)
3 Owl Howl
4 Solitude
5 Belong
6 Lonesome Rebel
7 Looking For The Light (Reprise)
8 The Greatest Story Never Ends
9 Love Made A Way
Neal Morse – Vocals, Keys, Guitars
Roine Stolt – Guitar, Vocals
Pete Trewavas – Bass, Vocals
Mike Portnoy – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: InsideOut Music


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