Review Summary: When progressive means more of the same.
I have come to the slow realisation that progressive music is more or less dead. The corpse has stopped being warm and the only thing that is bothering it at the moment are flies trying to find little places to lay their eggs. Thus creating a new generation of the annoying, fluffy black creatures. There is a reason why progressive is dead, and unfortunately it is entirely self inflicted.
Progressive rock has been around since the late 1960s, it has spent fifty years partying and doing all kinds of hard substances. If you can think of a mind altering drug, there is a good chance that it has influenced the progressive genres, namely rock and metal. But the heart has given out and the party is over for now.
Transatlantic are a fine example of why progressive metal has died. Kaleidoscope is their forth album, the last one being the 70+ minute song Whirlwind. Kaleidoscope happens to be more or less the same length, over one hour of music cut into five separate chunks. Two of these tracks are over twenty five minutes in length, which even by progressive standards is a very long time.
“But Transatlantic are a progressive metal band,” I hear you say, “Progressive Metal isn't dead, I have evidence right here!” But in truth, what is really progressive about it? Sure Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse know how to make music, and from this album it is clear that they know how to make long music too. But that doesn't make it progressive, not one bit. What Transatlantic have done is release exactly the same album three times, there is something very 'un-progressive' about that very fact.
Progressive suggests that the music has somewhat moved on from what it was before, but Kaleidoscope is more regressive metal than progressive. It is put together exactly the same as the first two albums, epic songs shoved and both ends, with nice juicy tracks cuddled together in the middle. There is even a second disk full of covers.
Don't get me wrong, Kaleidoscope is still a good album and it is very well done musical wise. The title track is one of their best, and you will be hard pressed to find a better song of that type anywhere, but there is nothing here that you will not have found before and that is the crux of the argument. Transatlantic haven't done anything new, they have their method and they are sticking to it like sticky the stick insect, stuck on his sticky bun.
Sure, this album has tracks like 'Into the Blue' the first 25 minute epic, and no doubt about it Transatlantic take you on this interesting journey as they dance and play from minute to minute. Everyone does play well, Portnoy bashes those drums with all the skill he can muster, Roine can play some excellent guitar work and his solos are epic to say the least. Morse plays keyboards that feel very Rudess-era Dream Theater, and Trewavas works well with his drumming budding, giving this airship a very solid base. Lyrically, this album is more religious than its predecessors, and that is the most progressive thing about it.
This album has its fair share of influences, there are Dream Theater parts, Beardfish parts and many more, but instead of actually putting them to good use, they end up clumping them all together in a bloated mess. Kaleidoscope could do with some trimming, because the music often loses track of itself from time to time. Instead they bring you this façade. “Yes this album is excellent, look how good our musicians are.” You can hear it scream at you, surely something with this much musical talent cannot be so wrong?
But the album has its own back on its creators. Namely by the song 'Black as the Sky'. The reason that this songs shows them up is because it is the best song on the album, it is far tighter than the rest of its brethren and it shows. But when the best track on this album comes it at a rather short seven minutes, you begin to wonder what the point of having such long tracks is. Well, they are there because people seem to believe that long tracks are progressive tracks. Changing the tempo and the style of a track over and over again doesn't make it progressive. Progression is something that is gained, the ability to tell an excellent story that you wouldn't find anywhere else in the musical world. Progressive music has the time to tell you everything that is going on, it may be emotional, it may be intricate and it may change style more rapidly than you'd think humanly possible. But Kaleidoscope is none of that, it ends up being exceedingly shallow for what it is worth, erringly similar to all the other albums that came before it.
Despite everything that has been said, Kaleidoscope isn't a bad album. In fact some parts of it are exceedingly good and very well done. When you hack away at all the chaff that clogs up the gears you get some excellent music. The four man team really do put together an excellent show. But do not let them fool you, Kaleidoscope is far from progressive, it is exactly the same as their previous work. If you like Transatlantic or any of the bands that the members have been a part of over the years then no doubt you will like it, but it is not the type of album that you should show to people to convince them to come back to progressive music.