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Spock's Beard - Noise Floor CD (album) cover

NOISE FLOOR

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.62 | 124 ratings

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thesimilitudeofprog
4 stars Spock's Beard ? the very words will elicit shivers of excitement in any self-respecting Prog fan. Noise Floor is the Beard's thirteenth studio album, the third with Ted Leonard on lead vocals, and the eleventh with the mighty Nick D'Virgilio (guesting on this album) on drums. The historical core members Alan Morse, Dave Meros and Ryo Okumoto, have appeared on every album (bar Ryo on the first), and they still combine to create a unique sound that no other band seems able to emulate. While very melodic throughout, Noise Floor allows the Beard to demonstrate that they have retained their identity, despite everything. There might be more immediacy in melody and hook, and there is definitely some progression in the band's compositions on this album. The opening Hammond riff of "To Breathe Another Day" torpedoes into complex melodious power rock, which is played superbly. It is undoubtedly Spock's Beard, and all is well in the world. The second song "What Becomes of Me" starts with the ticking of a clock and middle-eastern themes that give way to some massive Meros Rickenbacker off-beats. One of the world's most under-estimated bassists. The verse is a slow, Leonard meander about the contemplation of life. The contemplation ends with the clock ticking again. "Somebody's Home" is immediately a high point on the album. The song is filled with heart-searing melodies, power, light, shade, counterpointed accents, real strings and just about everything else that any Prog fan could ask for. D'Virgilio's drumming is particularly tasteful on this song, and Morse's lead solo (played with his unique pick-less finger technique) is as powerful as anything he has delivered. The forth song "Have We All Gone Crazy Yet" is eight minutes of Prog heaven. Melodic folk guitar strumming reminiscent of early Jethro Tull leads to a captivating vocal switch between D'Virgilio and Leonard. The verse and chorus are spine-tingling, gut-wrenching stuff, and the resulting composition is as good as anything in Spocks Beard's vast catalogue. This song has everything, and in my opinion will eventually be recognized as one of their best songs. "So This Is Life" is a lazy ballad that has a distinct Beatles feel. It is a great song, and for any other band, it would be remarkable. For the Beard, it's par for the course. There are no low points on the album, but this is certainly the most derivative composition on the album. The sixth track "One So Wise" starts with an Okumoto Moog riff that brings the listener right back to where he/she belongs ? Prog heaven. As elsewhere on the album, Meros shines on this track. His sound and playing are so distinctive that he fully deserves a place among the Prog bass gods. "Box of Spiders" opens with a mystical keyboard riff that is then soon accompanied by complex synthesizer stabs, ascending into keyboard mania. It is a terrifyingly complex celebration of all that is Ryo Okumoto, but it is also clearly Spock's Beard as we know them. Despite the fact that the song is a keyboard-fest, special mention must also be made of Alan Morse's guitar solo, which is no less terrifying. The boys really tortured their instruments on this one. Final song of the album "Beginnings" is a suspense-filled description of a man experiencing a new dawn. Leonard is on the top of his game, and trades vocal lines with Morse and D'Virgilio with ease. The instrumental section in the middle contains much harmonic interplay and a pause that is symbolic of the rebirth in the lyrics. A final note wails into the distance as the album ends.

There is a bonus disc/EP (named "Cutting Room Floor") of four songs that are not part of "Noise Floor", but apparently do form part of the official release. "Days We Remember" is a pleasing yet simple ballad with a strong Styx influence. "Bulletproof" is also a ballad, but contains more of the rousing chord progressions, variation and soaring choruses associated with Spock's Beard. "Vault" is darker in subject matter than most of the album, and possibly would have fit in well with the rest of the Noise Floor album.I suppose a choice had to be made between the last track on the Cutting Room Floor "Armageddon Nervous" and "Box of Spiders". But "Armageddon Nervous" still exposes the Beard at their high-flying instrumental best, and is worth your attention, as is the whole EP. Noise Floor and Cutting Room Floor are sensational and a great listen.

thesimilitudeofprog | 4/5 |

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