Hard Reviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Transatlantic - SMPT:E
(Radiant/Metal Blade)

That a record like this can exist, and exist on Metal Blade, must surely be a sign that progressive rock has now arrived back in all its resplendent, non-ironic glory, no nods to crossing over, no acquiescing to brevity (lead track All Of The Above is 31 minutes wide). The band consists of Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas, Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment drummer Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt from six record Swedish nutters The Flower Kings, with Spock's Beard's Neal Morse as main writer and driver. And man, what you get is a cheeky, slightly psychedelic spread, wallow and float, sort of a cross between Phish and Platypus, no surprise, closer to Spock's Beard than any of the other contributors' main gigs. All Of The Above is the most traditional of the lot, opening like Close To The Edge and then offering prolific galleys of keyboard arrangements and melodies toward Genesis. Much of the rest, well there's a taste of everything old-is-new-again proggy, Mystery Train sounding like experimental King's X, My New World like cut-and-splice Sgt. Pepper. Casual, jammy, accessible . . . don't let the long songs keep you away. It's musician's music to be sure, but it wants to bring you aboard in the gleeful spirit of replenishment and cleansing.
Rating 8

Digital Ruin - Dwelling In The Out
(InsideOut Music America)

Record two for Rhode Island's Digital Ruin finds the band expressing their unique dualities, one being this LaBrie-styled vocal idea of calm singing breaking into anthemic chorus operatics, two being the band's grinding post-power riffery (thing Lefay or Nevermore or Vanden Plas) bedding down with a number of keyboard textures, some modern, some archival and plainly silly, something which works because you never hear them like this. Adding to the mix is an interesting, exotic rhythm section, many tracks structured into a complex, methodological and/or tribal plod (think late '80s/early '90s Rush), paid off by gorgeous chorus melodies and harmonies. In the true spirit of progressive, the collision of all these forces makes for a refreshing and panoramic metal, important in its scope, an idea supported by the purely emotional, universal lyrics. One negative: crackly, live, un-bassy production, although you can tell this was intentional for a sort of futuristic effect.
Rating 8.5

Hard Reviews Page 4