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Spock's Beard - V CD (album) cover

V

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 599 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Prog's still kickin' into the new millennium!

Truly a marvel of modern music, V stands at the top of it's genre looking down and laughing at it's competitors. Often noted as Dream Theater's [DT] biggest rival by the press (why? I haven't the slightest, maybe because they're both prog bands?.), Spock's Beard [SB] definately delivers. Often bashed for being too pop, SB actually does a great job of mixing short form pop-rock songs and full out progressive-pomp-epics. With the powerful Morse brothers behind the guitar and keyboards this band is a force to be reckoned with.

On the topic of Morse, he's not be the best singer in the world, or lyric writer for that matter. He's also a little too over insistent on both fronts, choosing to put lyrics in everywhere where their contemporaries, such as the notorious DT, choose to over insist on the wanking solos. This is completely okay, though. What Morse sings he sings well, and his voice is actually quite soothing once you accept it's limits. As far as his lyrics go; yes, sometimes they're fairly simple, but that's okay, they're a lot easier to relate to personally. People may prefer to listen to AT THE END OF THE DAY to relax rather than try to dissect every section of Neil Peart's Hemispheres and wind up going into a coma over it. Exaggerated, yes, but the point remains.

Moving onto the music, shall we?

The music itself sports a nice bookend of epics containing a number of shorter numbers in the middle. This structure in itself should be familiar to prog-heads, as most Masterpieces are structured this way. Maybe they were simply copying the masters, but hey, it works.

The opening track AT THE END OF THE DAY is quite a work. Opening with some interesting keyboards we're eventually brought into a lush soundscape that is truly soothing on the ears. Shortly in the drum cymbals start and the keys start to pick up. A couple pounding bass chords later and the song explodes into motion. Moving all the way along this song is more or less carried by the drums, keys and bass as it pound along, Morse's voice in tow. Definitely a strong start to the album.

That one aside here comes the short tracks!

Definitely some variety here, the short tracks range from 'great!' to 'meh...'. REVELATIONS is the first short track to be heard and is fairly good. A slowish song with some good Morse screaming moments. Not the best song on the album, but definitely worth listening to. THOUGHTS (part II) sounds like something Gentle Giant could have recorded any day of the week, but it's a very fresh thought on such a 'modern' album. Great song, the harmonizing vocals are used superbly well.

High points? Low points?

In the short tracks there's one of each, actually. ALL ON A SUNDAY is the definitive high point of the shorter tracks ('Gasp! Blasphemy!' cries the crowd). Is it poppy? Certainly! Is it an incredibly uplifting, catchy song? Yes! So poppy as it may be, it's still a great song, and maybe even the best of the short tracks. GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY is the obligatory slow song on the album, clearly put there by some higher power who pointed down from the clouds and said, 'This album is too perfect, it needs a flaw!'. Not a bad track but not a great track by any means, GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY just drags along and fills some time until the next masterwork.

And then the ever controversial...

THE GREAT NOTHING, SB's big epic journey. Compared to previous 20+ minute prog masterworks does this one compare? Well, it's certainly in a different style yet clearly influenced by the old works. The song opens wonderfully with some guitar and soon the song begins. Defined by some great guitar and keyboard solos that go on long enough for one to get the point without bashing it into your skull (looking at you DT), this track just works. There's some recurring riffs and motifs int here, and they're so wonderfully used that any prog fan might just bob their head along to it. It also features a nice breakdown near the middle not dissimilar to some kind of modern 'Willow Farm' with it's fitting quirkiness. Yeah, sure it can get poppy at times, but this is a truly refreshing epic that fits nicely between DT's instrumental-show-off-look-at-me-I'm-excellent epics and The Flower King's [TFK] look-at-us-we're-Swedish-and-can-play-long-long-long-songs epics. Then, at the end of it all it simply fades out with the piano still ringing.

Erm, ending this now.

4.5 stars. Just short of a masterpiece. Being a bit too poppy in parts and one weak track are all that's keeping this one down. Recommended for DT fans, DT haters, TFK fans, TFK haters and prog fans in general. Like the two band SB is always compared too they're somewhat of an acquired taste, but what prog isn't? Excellent prog album, one of the best from this side of the millennium. Recommended!

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |

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