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SPOCK'S BEARD

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.35 | 273 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

StrangeWorld
5 stars Spock's Beard is back. This is an album I wasn't expecting to emerge after the departure of the mastermind Neal Morse. Following the lame Feel Euphoria and the total let down Octane, this self-titled SB album is a very positive surprise. It seems they have revealed their true songwriting skills which probably were pushed aside when Neal was still on the lead and writing stuff continously. It took three records for the remaining Beard to make this achievement, but it certainly was worth it. I say this is one of the best progressive rock records released within few years, while many other bands like Pain Of Salvation have been totally drying out of ideas. I don't think this band really needs Neal Morse anymore, which takes a lot from me to say.

The first two tracks offer inspired composition and wicked musicianship, especially the guitarist extraordinaire Alan Morse (one of the best rock guitarists of our time, actually) shines with his without-pickup-technique doing some great acoustic passages on the first track, fast-speed but unique solo on Skeletons At The Feast (which in terms of composition reminds me a bit of the Flower Kings) and a bunch of other things. Anybody who's interested in some influential guitar playing should also check out Alan's new solo album which came out recently, not a long time after this album. Nick D'Virgilio's drum patterns on the second track are also very clever and the time signature hard to keep up with, so I most eagerly wait to hear this song in a live set. I was also amazed by Nick's wide vocal capabilities, having a good tone in both baritone and tenor range, and it seems he has got back his high range which was a little lost on Gluttons For Punishment -live record. He's certainly one of the most talented vocalists out there.

Is This Love and All That's Left are embarrassing pop-songs which should have been left out of because there would have still been 70 minutes stuff here. When I first time listened the record through, during these two songs I already thought that the two amazing opening songs had promised more than this album actually could give and SB wasn't getting any better after all. Thank God I was wrong! With Your Kiss is a very original prog epic with no prog-cliches included and have three moody sections, reminds me of The Bottom Line from Feel Euphoria except is done far more better. Especially the first part is moving and is what I believe the New Beard will sound like in the future. This band is clearly making a way of it's own.

Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go is an OK blues track with a fine vocal spot from Alan and The Slow Crash Lading Man isn't either anything wonderous, but keeps up with the overall quality of the album having an interesting orchestration within the realms of a pop composition. Wherever You Stand is a brilliant rock piece and proves that SB did not forget how to rock hard. A melodic intersection gives the song a proper balance and reminds that this is no Led Zeppelin after all, this is progressive rock! Also I'm glad to hear on this song that the Beards haven't lost their sense of humour and sometimes lightweight attitude towards their music.

Even though Ryo Okumoto doesn't stand out on this record with his keyboard playing having too little solo spots, he contributes with the most beautiful song of the album, Hereafter, an outstanding ballad where we have just Ryo's piano and Nick's heart-wrenching vocals. After hearing this you can't even believe that they have done before something as boring as Ghost Of Autumn!

The Epic of the album, As Far As The Mind Can See may be their best output ever since Neal left, actually this one even stands up with such old epics as Time Has Come or At The End Of The Day, and completely outrules A Guy Named Sid and A Flash Before My Eyes. Surprisingly, Dave Meros has taken the writing credit on this one, so it seems that he could be the next mastermind of the band who writes the most over blowing and "sky's the limit" stuff which we prog fans like so much. Standouts of the epic are the symphonic intro which becomes a recurring theme and Here's A Man which has a good touch of jazz and proves how widely talented these guys really are.

The closing track is a poppier tune with a few prog elements. Not mind blowing, but a good way to end this mind blowing album. All in all, this is the best album of 2006 along with Paradox Hotel from the Swedish comrades The Flower Kings. Great work!

StrangeWorld | 5/5 |

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