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Spock's Beard - Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

4.01 | 683 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars The pinnacle of Spock's Beard's career!

I just put this latest Spock's Beard album on one late lazy Friday night after listening to a bunch of other bands. To be honest I just wanted a relaxing music experience to settle me down for sleep, but what I got instead was more than enough to wake up my senses. This is an absolutely stunning album from start to finish. I had to reawaken my brain to really take in the immense intricacies in each track and by the end of this I was completely in awe of the brilliance of a band that has been around for so long and still manages to create such incredible music, as good as they have ever achieved even after 11 studio albums in the catalogue. The previous album 'X' was X-cellent but they have surpassed themselves with this latest release 'Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep', an instant masterpiece.

What stood out from the outset is the bright production and mixing of the album where every instrument simply shines with strength. Spock's Beard have reinvented themselves after losing their lead singer and who would have thought they would return with such a ferocity releasing such a brilliant album. The heavy riff on 'Hiding Out' is glorious and kicks the message home without dominating too much. The keyboards are a force to be reckoned with played with incredible virtuoso strength by Ryo Okumoto. Alan Morse is a fantastic guitarist but it is the voice of Ted Leonard that enhances the songs and his guitar work is very well executed too. Nick D'Virgilio was a fine vocalist but Leonard injects an unreserved enthusiasm and much needed passion into this new sound. Jimmy Keegan's Drums maintain a strong rhythm and have a great timbre amongst the layers of musical excellence. Leonard's voice is crystal clean and easy on the ears, reaching many octaves it seems effortlessly such as on the melodic uplifting 'I Know Your Secret'.

There are some beautiful passages of flute on this album too such as on 'A Treasure Abandoned' accompanied by gorgeous lead guitar licks and synth flourishes. The bassline by Dave Meros is certainly a feature on this track too. There are many twists and turns on this song with extended keyboard and guitar trade offs and an organic soundscape culminating in a stirring finale of grand proportions; simply amazing and emotional music to caress the ears.

The next track is 'Submerged', with a strong melody and sing a long chorus 'throw me a line, I'm sinking down, submerging further, further from you, not doing so fine, further and further, further from you'. The rhythm guitar riff is terrific too the way it breaks all the keyboard layers; a great song that could easily be a hit single.

Following this is a synth and guitar feast on 'Afterthoughts' embellished by vocoder by John Boegehold. The vocal style is akin to vintage Neal Morse SB style. The riff is heavy and endearing throughout, but the main showcase is the jittering organ notes that are played with staccato rhythms. There is even a monosyllabic lead break and then a Gentle Giant harmonised a Capella section. In fact this is reminiscent of some of the vocal harmonies on Neal Morse's masterful 'Momentum Live' album. The synth solo is wonderful and echoed by fret melting lead guitar work as good as I have heard from SB.

It is nice that Neal Morse guest stars on guitar along with Craig Eastman on violin, viola, hurdy gurdy, both featuring on 'Something Very Strange'. This showpiece opens with ethereal howling wind and psychedelic phased vocals. A happy Hammond sound follows a fractured time sig and some glorious keyboard string pads. The guitar riff is heavy following the broken rhythm of the organ. Then it locks into a glorious prog time sig repeating a motif until it breaks again into lush Mellotron soundscape and warm synth washes. The vocals sing of a journey and something coming fast our way, 'a race to revelation with the ringing of the bells'. The song is infectious melodically but the musicianship is outstanding in itself, a lead and synth break by Okomuto and Morse that even surpasses other work on the album, making this a spellbinding experience. It is stunning innovative music at its highest calibre, and I was not really expecting this on the latest Spock's Beard album as many of their earlier albums do not measure up to such virtuoso musicianship. What a pleasant surprise and there are still 5 songs left. The question is will it remain consistently so masterful? I hoped so when I first heard this.

Next is 'Waiting For Me', with a slow measured cadence at first building with backwards violin and pulsating bassline that dominates wonderfully. Leonard really sounds a bit like Neal Morse as it has his influence and similar melody that he pens. The bassline during the lead break is absolutely killer and I like the way it settles down and some quiet vocals are heard over gently piano, a release after all the tension in the music previous. Alan Morse violins out a solo of exquisite beauty, so emotional and captivating it made tears fill my eyes. I love those tremolo passages and speed picking after all the high string bends. Ryo launches into a mind bending solo and enhances this song into one of the masterpieces of the album in a long line of masterpieces. I am just stunned at the brilliance of this album; it is virtually flawless in every department.

Next on the menu is 'The Man You're Afraid You Are' that opens with some loud bombastic music and merges into a funky instrumental break with guitar vocoder and some amazing bass work from Meros, as good as Geddy Lee gets. The keyboard and guitar lines over this bass are incredible interplaying so well and so whimsically answering each other in a musical conversation. An acoustic vibration comes in with sweet guitar tones and harmonised vocals. It really is a beautiful composition of immeasurable virtuosity.

'Down A Burning Road' has a warm lead break to intro it before it builds to a stirring Mellotron layer and some gorgeous guitar picking in the background; did I mention virtuoso? The vocals are reflective and melancholy 'all alone, carry us back to a better way, carry us back with the setting sun, carry us back on a wave of love and grace, carry us back as the day is done.' The meaning becomes clear of a man searching for the past when things were better, obviously suffering some trauma. The twin guitars cry over a layer of keyboards and more Mellotron washes; a sensuous soundscape. The band can do no wrong with this latest lineup or incarnation, that much is sure.

'Wish I Were Here' follows and it is a synth driven track with some very heavy lead guitar distortion and a formidable riff as harmonised vocals take over. That riff is very catchy and always a moment on the album on every listen. The other version of 'Something very Strange' the Sanctified Version is one of the bonus tracks and is shorter but still as powerful with that cool voice vocoder reminding me of 'The Raven' by Alan Parson's Project. The melody is so endearing it is impossible for me not to enjoy this compelling track. There are other bonus tracks too but the main album is worth the price of admission on its own.

I honestly did not expect a masterpiece with this album as it has not really stirred up too much conversation in the prog community outside of a bunch of reviews, but it hit me with full force on a late night listen. I did notice the reviews overall are arc welded to the 5 star rating and I have to throw my iron in the fire and add to those 5 stars too. Every listen adds so much more depth and it really grows on the ear after a while too. It is too great to award it anything less as it captivates on every listen and exudes such a dynamic energy it is quite extraordinary. This is the type of music I was mesmirised with on Neal Morse's 'Momentum Live' that is absolutely outstanding. 'Brief Nocturnes and Endless Sleep' is equally as exceptional; a masterpiece undoubtedly as it encompasses everything that makes prog great. When prog reaches such a brilliant standard it is because it does not rely on just clever complex musicianship and a myriad of excellent breaks but it also has to have some meaning in the lyrics and reach the listener on an emotional level. This album does that instantly and also has some of the most infectious and melodic songs I have heard from the Beard and they are confident on every song injecting so much passion and dynamism, seemingly reborn after some turmoil in the ranks. I was entertained by 'Spock's Beard Live', enjoyed 'Octane' immensely, loved 'The Light', adored 'Snow' and "V" and also was knocked out by 'X', but 'Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep' is on another level in terms of musicianship and innovative song structures. It is simply the pinnacle of Spock's Beard I am delighted to report to the prog faithful!

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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