Transatlantic drummer and founder Mike Portnoy has been bucking and setting trends since the early '90s by immersing himself in progressive rock at a time when grunge and teen bands ruled. His primary band, Dream Theater, raised the bar for musicianship and complexity while helping to establish the progressive metal genre. Portnoy showed his depth and diversity by forming the critically and commercially successful bands Liquid Tension Experiment and Transatlantic. The latter's SMPTe proved to be a groundbreaking release by reviving the progressive sound of the '70s, while injecting an updated '90s approach. With this release, bandmates Neal Morse of Spock's Beard, Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings, Pete Trewavas of Marillion, and Portnoy continue to push this forgotten genre into newfangled directions. As expected, there is a surfeit of technical wizardry, but there is also an increased focus on rich harmonies, memorable melodies, and recondite lyrics. The lead vocals are shared among the four members in order to avoid the session sounding too much like a Spock's Beard recording, making this release sound more original than its predecessor. All four members offer unique talents, but Morse and Portnoy are the two who raise the band to a higher level. Portnoy, in particular, continues to be one of the most original voices on the drums, kind of like a John Bonham for progressive rock. Of the selections, there are two epics -- a Beatles-influenced jam and a striking ballad -- that should rightfully be placed alongside the likes of "Close to the Edge" and "Supper's Ready." The limited edition contains additional tracks of cover tunes. This may not be one of the most historic progressive recordings of all time, but it is surely one of the best.
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AllMusic Review by Robert Taylor