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Spock's Beard - X CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 571 ratings

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3 stars Even four albums into their post-Neal Morse career Spock's Beard are still having a tough time living up to their earlier output with their former leader in the eyes of many fans. While Feel Euphoria had been a promising start, Octane was a step back and an overall weak effort. Then in 2006 on their eponymous third post-Morse release they really nailed it and came up with one of the best albums of their career period. They displayed not only the excellent musicianship they are known for but now had the songs to match with some killer hooks and consistently strong melodies. Four years later X sees them coming back with an album that has many moments of excellence but tails off a bit two thirds of the way in.

Edge Of The In-Between is a strong start with a typically grand instrumental opening before descending into an instantly catchy vocal section. It's an overall powerful piece with the kind of instrumental prowess you'd expect from a band of this calibre. Well-structured and paced over its ten and a half minutes and things are looking good. The Emperor's Clothes is a more straightforward song apart from a jazzy piano dominated instrumental break from Ryo Okumoto but keeps things moving along nicely. Better still is the instrumental Kamikaze. It's the kind of thing that's all over many a Beard album but nevertheless manages to impress with a dynamic performance.

The album contains two long tracks, the first being the four part From The Darkness. It gets off to quite a heavy start and Alan Morse turns in some impressive guitar work alongside Nick D'Virgilio's and Dave Meros' always excellent drumming and bass work respectively. Fortunately it maintains my interest throughout as it moves through the expected numerous changes and closes with a suitably grandiose finale. Morse seems hell-bent on proving he can rock like the best of them and on The Quiet House alternates between metallic staccato riffs and lilting sustained notes and turns in a fine solo too.

Their Names Escape Me is really the first weak moment. Some time ago the band in an attempt to raise some funds to record this album they did a Marillion and asked fans to buy it in advance. In return they were promised to have their names written into a song. As a result the second half becomes a recital of people's names. Something for these people to dig out and impress their friends at gatherings no doubt, but a little tedious for the rest of us. The Man Behind The Curtain also lacks substance being no more than average so it's down to the second epic and album closer Jaws Of Heaven to get things back on track. This it does to some extent but takes a while to really get going. When it does there's more dynamic instrumental interplay on a track with an overall quite dark vibe. Sadly it drops off again on the third part, Deep In The Wondering but Morse closes it with a powerful solo. Not destined to be a Beard classic but nevertheless a decent close to a very good album.

There's certainly plenty of stuff here to keep the faithful happy, it's just a shame the album tails off a bit towards the end. However despite being a very good album if you don't already like Spocks's Beard this probably won't convert you. 3 stars.

Nightfly | 3/5 |


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