Thursday, April 16, 2009




TRANSATLANTIC, the progressive rock "supergroup" comprised of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Pete Trewavas (Marillion), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), have reunited after a 7 year hiatus to begin work on a brand new studio album.

The band began work on the album in early April in Nashville and are expected to have it released by year's end if all goes as planned.

TRANSATLANTIC have previously released two studio albums to tremendous critical and fan acclaim: 2000's SMPTe and 2001's Bridge Across Forever. The band toured on the heels of each release with an American Tour in 2000 and a European Tour in 2001 and released subsequent Live DVD's/CD's from both tours before going their separate ways for an indefinite hiatus which lasted almost the entire decade.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Masterpieces of Music: Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence

Dream Theater is one of my favorite bands. They were one of the first I discovered when I was looking into newer prog. I had already gotten a Spock's Beard album and a Flower Kings album, and it seemed from my research that the next logical step was to get a Dream Theater album. At the Best Buy, I couldn't help myself so I actually got two Dream Theater albums: Scenes From a Memory and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (their two newest albums at the time). I immediately became a fan when I listened to these two albums and still consider them to be the best two Dream Theater albums.

One of my favorite Dream Theater moments is their performance of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence on the Score DVD. They unveil a full orchestra who proceed to play the complete overture. It is brilliant and really shows how great of a composer Jordan Rudess is. The overture on the album is already brilliant, being mainly a keyboard piece, but the orchestral version really takes it to new heights. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is an epic song split in to 8 parts. It fills the entire second disc of the double album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It really showcases all the things I love about Dream Theater, from the Proginess, the heaviness, and even some heartfelt, slower parts. It is truly a remarkable piece of work.

It opens with the Overture, which I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. The overture highlights the whole rest of the piece, giving you a preview of the brilliance to come. There are even some bits that sound like they are straight from Disneyland's "Fantasmic". It is very exciting and epic and gets the listener ready for the song. I love it. This leads into "About to Crash" where the actual song starts with some brilliant keyboard playnig from Jordan Rudess before the whole band kicks in to start this rocking section. It has a great groove to it due to Mike Portnoy's brilliant drumming. I don't how to describe it, but the song just makes me really happy due to its uplifting melody. It is so great. There is a great guitar solo near the end that really allows John Petrucci to shine, he is one of the greatest modern guitarists. This all leads tot he next part...

"War Inside My Head" is a heavy piece that really takes the mood in a different direction. While "About to Crash" is more fun, this is more metal. But, that is why I love this piece, each section has a different mood to it. Everybody is playing at the top of their game here, down to the impeccable druming, crunchy guitar riffs and pounding bass lines. I like the trade-off vocals between James LaBrie and Mike Portnoy during the chorus, it really illustrates the war inside the head. This leads to the next section, kicked off by some amazingly fast guitar and keyboard. The next section, "The Test That Stumped Them All" is even heavier than the previous song. It allows for James Labrie to add some growl to his vocals. I love the drumming in this piece, it is killer! There is also another amazing guitar solo followed by a great keyboard solo--a trademark Dream Theater solo-off.

Then, things slow down considerably for "Goodnight Kiss". It is like a beautiful lullaby with a fantastic keyboard solo and James LaBrie at his most tasteful vocally. Not to be outdone by Jordan Rudess, there is a heartmelting guitar solo from John Petrucci in this piece towards the end that is truly one of my favorite moments of the whole song. This leads to a very fun piece called "Solitary Shell" which starts with some light-hearted acoustic guitar playing complemented by some great proggy keyboards. This is a great section with a wonderful sing along chorus. There is also a great acoustic guitar solo in there which really gives this section almost a Morsian Latin flavor, followed by a great little solo bit by Jordan Rudess. They are always complimenting each others solo never giving the other a chance to upstage them.

This leads into the fantastic guitar-led opening of "About to Crash (Reprise)" which is an incredible section that obviously harks back to "About to Crash". The whole band is rocking on this piece and it is one of my favorite sections of the whole song. The end is a soaring instrumental section that is simply too awesome for words with everybody having their moment to shine- it is very classic progressive stuff, and I love it that way! What would an epic be without a grand finale? The last section is appropriately called "Losing Time/Grand Finale" and it definitely lives up to the title. I really can't describe the heavenly beauty of this closing section. James LaBrie gives what I consider his best vocal performance ever, and the band complements him in epic fashion.

I just love this song because it shows everything that Dream Theater is about. There are plenty of amazing solos from both Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci. There are heavy, rocking sections. There are light, more progressive section. There is a ballad. Everything about Dream Theater is summed up in this one song. I love Dream Theater and am thankful to them for providing me with so much great music over the years. I am very excited to see them live this year at Prog Nation. This song is a monument to the greatness that is Dream Theater. Hopefully, their new album contains a song (or more) that can top this one, but I have my doubts because of how brilliant this song is. Keep on rocking/proggin'!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Agents of Mercy- The Fading Ghosts of Twillight

I love this album! It is simply beautiful. It has grown on me through repeated listens, and now I really have a great appreciation for each song. First, a small background on the album, it is mainly the brainchild of one of my favorite prog musicians of all time: Roine Stolt. His signature sound is all over this album. Another notable feature of this album is the singing of Nad Sylvan. I'll admit, his voice took me a little getting used to, but once I did, it really enhanced the music. His voice is a cool cross between Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Fish- 3 of my favorite singers. He has a lot of character in his voice that really comes out in the compositions of this album.

The album is a little more laid back than your average prog album, but I love it that way. It gives the album a really cool mood that is consistent throughout. And, don't be misled, there are moments when it rocks hard. It is a brilliant combination of classic Genesis, Beatles, and the signature Flower Kings sound that comes with Roine Stolt's songwriting. It makes for a rather enjoyable listen that I just can't get enough of. It has stayed in the CD player in my car since it was released and has been a joy to listen to.

The title track kicks off this album with some tinkling piano and Nad's signature vocals. It is a brilliant piece that moves seamlessly. "Unwanted Brother" took a little more getting used to, but once I did, I found myself in love with this song. I love the "like a thief in the night" part and how the harmonies really fit together. It is just really fun, calm little song. "Afternoon Skies" is a delightful song strengthened by some strong acoustic guitar playing. It is really peaceful with wonderful vocals. Then comes one of my favorite songs of the whole album "Heroes and Beacons". It starts out softly before it builds into a powerhouse of a song. It is full on prog in all its glory at its best moments, with great mellotron and guitar playing from Roine. I do have to make a special note of the guitar solo from Roine Stolt towards the end of the song, it is beautful and tasteful. Just another reason why Roine Stolt is one of my favorite guitarists. I just find myself captivated by the song from start to finish. Another captivating song for me is the next one, "Jesus on the Barricades". It is a slow ballad, but it is emotionally powerful and features some excellent basswork from Roine's bandmate, Jonas Reingold. It is one of my favorite moments of the album and a strong contender for best song of the year.

What I like about "Wait For the Sun" is that we finally get to hear the wonderful vocals of Roine Stolt. I've always really liked his voice. "A Different Sun" is another delightful song with some big prog sounds and another wonderful guitar solo from Roine. "Ready to Fly" is another song with Roine Stolt on lead vocals. It is a wonderful acoustic piece that is really uplifting and fun. "People Like Us" is also a great song with a bouncy, fun melody. I must admit, it is probably the least memorable song on the album for me. This leads to my favorite song of the album "A Soldier's Tale" that has everything I love in prog rock. There are even some great horns in the mix that really enhance the whole song. It is a powerful song that is beautiful, rocks, and is extremely proggy, often all at the same time. I can't express how much I love this song. I love the lyrics too, about a soldier who feels guilty about killing in war and never gets rid of that guilt no matter how much he is forgiven by God. It is brilliant. "Bomb Inside Her Heart" is another fun, poppier tune that is really catchy with a lot of good acoustic guitar. This leads to the awesome conclusion of the album, "Mercy and Mercury". This song brings the album full circle with some brilliant rocking bits along with call backs to the title track. I really love this track and think it is the perfect ending to a wonderful album.

As you can tell, I'm having a difficult time really putting my feelings for this album into words. I really love the laid back mood of the album, a great soundtrack to spring and summer. There is a lot of great acoustic moments, which makes sense since Roine Stolt originally intended for this album to be an acoustic solo album. But, there are also a lot of great prog moments that really call back Genesis at their best. Nad Sylvan also has managed to really capture the mood of this piece with his vocals. This album gets a high rating merely for the joy it gives me and is a strong first contender for album of the year, although there are many great albums coming, so I'm not sure if it can hold that spot for long...

Rating: 9/10