Released: Oct 23, 2009
Genre: Progressive Rock, Symphonic Rock, Progressive Metal
Label: Metal Blade, InsideOut
Number Of Tracks: 1
Love it or hate it, it's pretty unique, and its impressive scope makes it a rather daunting listen for the uninitiated. It's worth your 78 minutes, trust me.
travislausch, on february 26, 2013 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: When Transatlantic broke up following Neal Morse's born-again Christianity, many fans were dismayed, though the precedents for new Transatlantic material were still present in his solo material, which often featured Mike Portnoy on drums. "The Whirlwind" seems like a rather natural place for Morse and Portnoy, and it wouldn't have been much to get bassist Pete Trewavas and guitarist Roine Stolt back on board.
Transatlantic has always seemed to be quite an ambitious, arguably overblown, prog band, not afraid of pushing boundaries, and on this one, they opted for extreme progginess by creating an album consisting of a single 78-minute composition. The scope of this is huge, the piece being longer than many renditions of Beethoven's "9th Symphony". But while this is most definitely any prog fan's wet dream, there are moments that I'm certain anyone who likes music can appreciate, if they're willing to take the plunge.
That's not to say that the band truly expands past the prog genre into territories unknown, but this album sees the band doing what they do best, but better. Vocal harmonies throughout remind one of The Beatles, early Yes and Genesis, Pink Floyd, and carry a poppy enough flair that many of the individual movements could be quite acceptable to the general population. In fact, I dare say much of this album is quite catchy.
Prog fans will still find the technicality of the music quite acceptable, though. Roine and Neal take many solos throughout, Mike Portnoy's drums are exactly what you expect, and Pete's bass playing cuts through the mix like a knife. The bass tone is actually among my favourite aspects of this album. Their groove under the awesome keyboard solo during "On The Prowl" is one of the best parts of this album. "Is It Really Happening" is an especially powerful and technical movement, starting at a slow pace until the band gradually increases tempo, ending the song with a breakneck synth solo.
One common criticism of Transatlantic's music has been its similarity in sound to many of Neal Morse's projects (solo and Spock's Beard), but "The Whirlwind" really allows the other members to come into their own. In fact, Roine's voice is the first you hear on the record, and he gets ample lead vocal time, especially on "A Man Can Feel". Musically, you can hear a lot less of Spock's Beard and more of a melting pot of the band's influences. Dare I say there are a few moments that will make the more metal-minded Dream Theater fans happy?
Production-wise, I have no complaints with this album. Everything sounds spacious and grand, the keyboards lush, the drums and bass punchy and loud, and huge vocal harmonies. It's almost like they're what all the great prog bands of the 70s would have sounded like with today's technology.
All in all, this album is damn-near perfect for prog fans, and has many moments that others should enjoy as well.
Included in the deluxe edition is a bonus disc featuring four original Transatlantic songs and four covers. The four originals are much, much shorter (averaging 4 and a half minutes), and carry on the styles of the mammoth title track, in a much more concise manner. The covers were well-chosen, and my favourite would have to be "A Salty Dog", originally by Procol Harum, sung by Mike Portnoy. I didn't expect his voice to be that gorgeous, even though he did a great job in Dream Theater. // 10
Lyrics: "The Whirlwind" is a bit cryptic to me, lyrically. It seems that there are references to major tragic events and the comparison of life to a storm. I've always taken "Rose Colored Glasses" as having a double meaning with a John Lennon reference, something I wouldn't put past Portnoy and Morse. Though Morse's recent musical output has heavily Christian themes, he doesn't really reprise that here, though one could fault closing movement "Dancing With Eternal Glory" for sounding a little too close to contemporary Christian music for comfort.
This is perhaps further influenced by a greater presence of the other members as vocalists. Roine Stolt especially gets more room to sing on this record, with many tracks featuring as much Roine as Neal, and one or two entirely sung by Roine. Mike also gets more room to sing, and performs lead vocals on two tracks on the bonus disc. Pete even gets a crack at the mic for many of the harmonies, especially on "Is It Really Happening?".
Though I'm still hung up on most of the lyrics, I have to rate this record pretty highly for vocal skills. It's not too often you have a band with four good singers all getting to shine. // 9
Overall Impression: You can't really compare a 78-minute-long song with anything else on the market right now. Love it or hate it, it's pretty unique, and its impressive scope makes it a rather daunting listen for the uninitiated. But once you get into it, the catchy melodies really get stuck in your head. It might just be another one of those perfect albums. There's really nothing I wish they did differently, though I'm just not feeling the CCM vibe of "Dancing With Eternal Glory", but it's still an acceptable part of a massive, awesome whole.
The bonus disc is worth a listen, as well, the original songs are decent, but nowhere near as memorable as the title track. The covers are well-done, and Steve Hackett features on the band's cover of Genesis' "Return Of The Giant Hogweed", a song that introduced tapping to guitarists years before Van Halen. It's worth your 78 minutes, trust me.