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Spock's Beard - Snow CD (album) cover

SNOW

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 522 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A lot of bands at certain points in their career will release a double album of sorts, most of them live albums, but a good portion of them are concept albums. Now, concept albums are usually a mixed bag. Some of the concepts presented work well and are easy to understand (albums like Scenes from a Memory from Dream Theater and The Who's Quadrophenia) and some are just downright dense and most of all contrived (Pain of Salvation's BE comes to mind first, and IQ's Subterranea has a pretty cryptic subject as well). This album, Spock's Beard's last album to feature Neal Morse, lies gently between the two categories. While the concept is easy to understand, the story is just a bit too prolonged and could have been a single disc affair, instead we are dragged through nearly two hours of a story about an albino man who gains notoriety as a prophet of sorts. Still, though, there are plenty of good moments on the album and some moments of pure brilliance to back them up. I guess it all comes down to if you're a fan of two things: Spock's Beard and concept albums.

The first disc is where the best songs are played. Most of the songs on the first disc are very well conceived and they give the story the necessary pushes to progress the overall idea. There are some really coherent riffs and motifs is generally every piece on the album as well as some easy to understand and not too out there lyrics. If this album was just the first disc, I would almost rate it a masterpiece, but since it is not and the second disc goes on way too long I can't give it that rating. Standout tracks on the first disc include the opening Made Alive/Overture (which brings in the first recurring theme of the album), beginning with gentle acoustic guitars and some somber french horn lines to give the feel of the piece an epic boost. The music of the overture is also fantastic with descending riffs and watery organ lines taking up most of the foray. Welcome to NYC begins with a fantastic organ motif (that makes nice use of the lower register organ notes) and some fun riffing from the rest of the group. The lyrics and vocals are also very fun and don't feel anything but magnificent. Devil's Got My Throat is an interesting piece musically (arguably one of the best on the album) but the lyrics during the chorus is a bit contrived if you ask me. Solitary Soul/Wind at My Back concludes the first disc with fantastic multi-harmonic vocals from the group as well as a fantastic acoustic feel. Wind At My Back is the second recurring theme of the album with the chorus repeated over and over again (and it may be one of the catchiest things Spcock's Beard has done yet).

The second disc opens with magnificent Second Overture which is another magnificent instrumental piece from the group. But from there it really goes downhill. There isn't really a piece that captivates me like the pieces off of the first disc did. And come on, a piece titled Ladies and Gentleman, Mister Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards (I guess within the context of the story Snow goes to a Spock's Beard concert)? Besides the first piece and some interesting musical parts interspersed throughout the rest of the second disc, the only song I can really recommend off of it is the finale Made Alive Again/Wind at my Back. This piece brings back both themes from the first disc, and like The Who did with the, "Listening to you" section off of the song We're Not Gonna Take It (the final song on their first concept piece Tommy), the song ends in a magnificent and epic reprisal of that chorus. It actually makes up around 6 minutes of the piece, and I can't think of a more fitting and better ending that the album could have had. If I were to rate each disc individually, I'd rate the first a 4.5/5 and the second a 2.5/5, which averages to around a 3.5/5.

In the end, Snow is a concept album wrought will the problem of over ambition and excessive length. It's an interesting concept and it comes off better than most concept albums I've heard (with a few exceptions of course). If you like Spock's Beard than this will probably be of interest, but you won't find any pieces about catfish men and none that exceed 10 minutes so if you're not used to that from Spock's Beard you'll be in for a surprise. For me? I'm in the middle, this album certainly has some great moments but there are certainly some monotonous and prolonged sections that should have been cut out during the editing process (in my opinion of course). 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |

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