Friday, April 5, 2024

Archive Review: Transatlantic's SMPT:e (2000)

Transatlantic's SMPT:e
The “progressive rock” label isn’t an albatross that too many bands are quick to hang around their necks these days, which makes the press materials accompanying SMPT:e – a clever acronym representing Roine Stolt, Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy and Pete Trewavas – all the more confusing. Transatlantic has proudly taken up the prog-rock mantle and they don’t care who knows. A literal alt-rock supergroup, composed of various members of Dream Theater, Marillion, and Spock’s Beard, these guys have obviously done their homework, polishing off those old Yes, King Crimson, and ELP records and taking heavy notes. The five songs on SMPT:e may have their roots in 1970s-styled, classically-influenced progressive rock but Transatlantic has brought the genre into the new millennium with some fresh new ideas and more than a few original hooks. Even the cover artwork for SMPT:e resembles one of Roger Dean’s hallucinogenic paintings that used to grace so many prog-rock album covers.

SMPT:e opens with an obviously Yes-inspired thirty-minute track titled “All of the Above” which manages to imprint each of its six suites with a different sound and feel. Mixing elements of classic rock and improvisational jazz with prog-rock roots, “All of the Above” never drags or annoys in spite of its considerable length. Other cuts also manage to breathe new life into the prog-rock corpse: “We All Need Some Light” is a dark-hued, melancholy work while “Mystery Train” is a syncopated, more upbeat number that utilizes the various band member’s voices in creating some nice harmonies. The lone cover on SMPT:e is the appropriately chosen Procol Harum’s “In Held (Twas) In I,” offered here as an extended aural painting, a textured composition complete with zen-like spoken word into. A complex, multi-layered, and ambitious work, Transatlantic’s SMPT:e is a hard album to get a handle on, but one well worth the effort. (Radiant / Metal Blade Records)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ zine, 2000

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