Transatlantic definitely knows how to keep their fans waiting. On October 27th they’ll release The Whirlwind, their first album in eight years. Fans don’t have to worry. Even after such a long break, the band is back in full force, reminding us why we’ve spent the past eight years with our fingers crossed, hoping these guys would finally get back together.
If I had to describe the album in one vague, ambiguous word, it would be, “upbeat.” Transatlantic doesn’t exactly do dark stuff. And while “darker” rhythms (that may not be the right word — more like somber) do pop up in a few tracks, most of the album is the up-tempo stuff we know and love. Think Duel with the Devil and Stranger in Your Soul.
The Whirlwind is one giant, 77-minute long song, and writing an album like this obviously has its pros and cons. Pros. It’s 77 minutes long! The album is constructed around a handful of major themes, and it’s interesting to see how those themes come back at different points in the music. We get everything we love and have come to expect from these guys. The melodic guitar and the playful keyboard riffs. The jazz rhythms and the hard rock. And while you can hear the influence of groups like Pink Floyd and the Beatles, the band has done a better job of incorporating those styles into their own music. The result is a richer, more mature sound.
Cons (?). If you’re a fan of Neal Morse’s solo albums, you know his music is very similar to Transatlantic, and I’m not really sure who influences who more. If I had to make comparisons, I would liken The Whirlwind to Lifeline, rather than Morse’s other albums, like Testimony or One. And while Morse has long since left the prog rock scene to pursue his career as a Christian singer, the church-centric lyrics are tamped down here. Notice I say “tamped down” and not “gone altogether.” It’s never bothered me that much. Other people feel differently. It’s all a matter of taste. I’m not sure that any of this stuff really counts as a complaint. Transatlantic has really delivered another solid album. And after such a long absence, that’s what fans are going to want. They don’t want something that’s been taken in an entirely new direction. They want to be reminded why they fell in love with these guys in the first place. Those people won’t be disappointed.
Just a short note about the album’s length. It is 77 minutes long. The promo copy I got had the entire album split up into twelve tracks, which personally, I like. But I’ve heard that the retail version will have the entire thing as one, giant song. If that’s the case, fast-forwarding through to your favorite parts is going to get really old really fast. Some people just aren’t going to like that. My copy only included the first disc, so I can’t speak as to what the special edition will offer. But if it’s anything like disc one, it’ll be some good listening.
At first, it took me a while to get into these guys. I picked up their first album back in 2000, gave it a spin and said, “Well that’s not for me.” I put it away and didn’t pick it up again for a few years. I gave it another spin and suddenly, I loved it. It was like turning on a switch. If you’re like me and these guys don’t immediately grab you on the first try, stick with them. You won’t be sorry.