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Spock's Beard - Beware of Darkness CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.68 | 529 ratings

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4 stars Now this is one of those albums where I draw the lines on originality. Some of the best tracks on this album seem to have borrowed pieces from influences, but Beware of Darkness has enough ideas to go around. The addition of Ryo Okumoto is good, with the band now having some Mellotron to play with. Songs are of a shorter length, but there's enough variety to go around. Morse's voice is already changing, there's more inclusion of acoustic guitars than the previous album, and Meros bass is louder (thank god). D'Virgilo's drumming is becoming more complex, its still rather difficult to notice it, while Alan's playing has become slightly advanced. I must warn though, that a lot of the sections in the songs seem to mesh.

Beware Of Darkness, as most of us probably know, is a cover of a song that the band was unaware of its original creator; George Harrison. It opens with some wailing and noises, but then goes into a interlude to the verse (the drums sound similar in beat to the opening section of Siberian Khatru). When it comes to the beginning of verses there's some guitar pitch distortion then soft Mellotron playing over Morse's singing. This is the basis for the song except for the main theme and soloing. It ends rather abruptly while the next song starts immediately after.

Thoughts has already been described as the Gentle Giant influence song, so yeah. This is one of the best songs on the album as there is use of some pretty cool counterpoint vocals, while there is alteration between which instruments are playing. There is constant repetition of the "Thoughts are racing", while during the verses Neal Morse alternates different vocal filters and channels. When the chorus comes in with gritty guitar sounds, they all pick up in terms of sound. A slow middle section comes after two choruses where Morse sings rather sickly and with synths in the background. The song returns to the main sound of Thoughts, even playing the main line once backwards! At last the song decays with playing where it began, but even more distorted.

The Doorway is fairly reminiscent to Firth of Fifth in terms of structure. It opens with a piano solo sounding similar to the opening of Firth of Fifth then segues into the verses. The verses involve minimal guitar while D'Virgilo plays his drums loud and true. The chorus is the most fulfilling part, "As the sunrise comes down the doorway". After repeating the chorus for a second time, the song goes into a double acoustic spot with Morse singing on top of it. The prolonging section returns to the main theme, kind of like Firth of Fifth again. The rest of the song is a blur as the chorus pops up one last time before an intense "You are the door" from Morse and fast snyth playing. A door slams and the rest of the song is a instrumental before ending with Alan playing on top; ending strongly.

Chatauqua is a soothing acoustic piece, similar to many acoustic songs in prog. It's sort of complex compared to some of the acoustic played on this album. Soft and smooth, the song repeats twice before ending.

Walking On the Wind comes as a whiplash after that soothing song, mellotron plays quietly between the loud parts. When the verses are played, Morse sings melodically, with the bass and hi-hats providing the backing track. The chorus has Morse singing off the beat while the other members sing "Time will not begin... etc." A really good chorus on this album. After it going twice, the song exits to an interlude featuring quiet sections, acoustic to band back and forth, and some quiet singing. It returns back to the chorus and has a big ending as well.

Waste Away is another acoustic driven piece. With Morse having vocals ranging from horse to shouting to harmonizing. The song has its first verse and chorus before going into a heavy rock mood. It continues before becoming quiet, then delving right back into the sound. Neal has some "who-oh" vocals come in over top his "Waste Away!" shouting. A good live favorite and fun to sing along to.

Time Has Come, to me, can be boring to listen to sometimes. It has a three minute introduction before a guitar/ vocal only verse. Morse sings through some distorted filter again before the chorus where the organ and backing vocals layer on top. There are acoustics again, while there are some soft sections in between including repetition of the opening theme. A "We can be one" section comes in with multiple vocals and the "If you leave" lines. The song ends with the verses and chorus except must louder and bombastic. Time Has Come lastly ends rather softly with the synths/organ.

If you get the remastered version, there are two demos for songs; The Doorway and Beware of Darkness. If you want to listen to early recordings of songs, then get this. I feel they are not really needed as they have been released before.

Overall, its a decent step forward for Spock's Beard. It's not as good as The Light but it pedals the band full speed ahead to more variety and improvement in skill. Still, get The Light, then get this one.

FromAbove | 4/5 |


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