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Spock's Beard - Octane CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 394 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Spock's Beard has been for years one of the top acts in progressive rock, but the departure of Neal Morse would not be without any consequences for this American prog band, as for the late super group TRANSATLANTIC. Not that this group has disbanded, but the influence of 'uncle' Neal was so big, everyone feared that they would never fill up the gap. And indeed, I (and many others with me) was not very euphoric about their first album 'Feel euphoria' after the departure of their leader. But let it not be misunderstood, "SPOCK'S BEARD is back", and how. It starts very promising with a pure progressive introduction, a bit in the vein of THE FLOWER KINGS with a sparkle of KARMAKANIC, where after the song continues in a smoothly way, varied with many keyboards (piano, synthesizer, mellotron), beautiful vocals and an intriguing guitar solo? It even becomes a bit acoustic and 'retro' on op 'I wouldn't let it go', a melodramatic song ending with church organ, has Neal something to do with this? And then the very first surprise of the album arises, probably a cultural shock for die- hard Spock's fans, because from the very first notes of 'Surfing down the avalanche' I have to remind of the musical violence of DREAM THEATER. The tempo changes, the pumping bass and guitar riffs, the fragments played simultaneously by all musicians, dark interplay la Dead Soul Tribe, they succeed to make a very strong track in less than 4 minutes. But if you really don't like progressive metal, you don't have to despair, because this is the only really 'hard' song of the album, but I would not mind to hear more of that in the near future . What a contrast with 'She's everything', a typical progressive ballad. Sung both beautifully and emotionally, this track tends to be a musical highlight, mainly because of the extraordinary guitar solo, after the first listening this becomes a moment of goose-flesh. SPOCK'S BEARD proves on 'Octane' that progressive rock is not necessarily based on long (read sometimes boring) songs, composition gets the highest priority, so there is no place whatsoever for annoyance! 'Climbing up that hill' is more or less straightforward rock, while Ryo can do his Japanese thing on 'Letting go' by introducing ambient melancholic keyboard sounds. And then it is time again for a next highlight on 'Of the beauty of it all', beginning very quiet but culminating towards true symphonic rock, it seems as if that they have hired a complete symphonic orchestra. Also a special attention for the nice drumming of Nick D'Virgilio, is all seems so easy, but it is damn strong and original.

Nwc is an instrumental track, that will blow you away, the rhythm section is playing once again a very important role, guitar and keyboards are interacting smoothly. Again a very short track of just above 4 minutes, but you get the feeling that a lot is happening here. 'There was a time' is a typical Spock's-song with a modern touch and a catchy refrain, why not trying to reach the (better) hit parade? From the first notes of 'The planet's hum' is seems very clear, this is 'SPOCK'S BEARD plays GENTLE GIANT' (like formerly in 'Welcome to NYC' of Snow), again demonstrating the clean production of this album. This song has lot more to offer, just listen to it and you will undoubtedly discover other influences, very good! 'Watching the tide' is another ballad, perfect variety, and Nick d'Virgilio has clearly found his way as lead singer, here he pulls out all the stops in a beautiful song, ELO in a modern way. And the album ends with a rocking' song, but where on 'Feel Euphoria' certain tracks tend to be a bit boring, enough special elements have been inserted to get you on a grip until the very last second.

A special edition with a few extra tracks and a video will be released, sadly enough I was not able to listen to them because of the lack on the promo cd. Should it be told, this is a sublime album, maybe it's difficult to compare it with their former work like V and The Light, but it's certainly of the same quality level, in fact 'Octane' is the right successor of 'Snow'. This band has started his second childhood, apparently they have switched from normal gasoline to super. I will certainly not miss their next tour, the octane level will be at the top. And maybe I should listen again to 'Feel Euphoria' ;-)

Review by Claude 'Clayreon' Bosschem

Clayreon | 4/5 |


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