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BEWARE OF DARKNESS

Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog


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Greger
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A good follow up to their debut masterpiece "The Light". Although this is strong progressive music too, this album doesn't, unfortunately, reach the same high standard as the debut album from 1995. Still there are those wonderful advanced vocal harmonies, interesting complex arrangements and good songwriting, but this album is almost too pop oriented. The title track is another reason why this album isn't getting a higher rating. There are some great moments on this CD though. One of the highlights being the GENTLE GIANT influenced "Thoughts". I know it's partly a carbon copy of the GENTLE GIANT song "Knots" from the "Octopus" album from 1973, but "Knots" are a good song and so are "Thoughts". I know that maybe I'm to kind on this point, but I think that maybe this was a knowingly move from SPOCK'S BEARD, like a homage to their influences. As I'm a big fan of GENTLE GIANT, one thing I like about SPOCK'S BEARD is their similarity to them. But beside this similarity they also got a lot of their own unique style and originality, and that is maybe a presumption to their obvious success among the fans of progressive rock. "The Doorway" is another great track. Besides the GENTLE GIANT influences there's also influences from YES, GENESIS, BEATLES, LED ZEPPELIN, JETHRO TULL, KANSAS, PINK FLOYD and EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER. As on their previous album there's a lot of Mellotron on this album as well, and to me it's fantastic. The Mellotron really fits in with this music. This isn't as perfect as their first album, but it's still a SPOCK'S BEARD CD that's worth a chance. But if you haven't got their debut album "The Light", I suggest that you get that one first.

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Send comments to Greger (BETA) | Report this review (#6919)
Posted Sunday, February 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am always impressed with Spocks Beards techinical ability and I know I have said some things about Neal Morse but I would be a fool not to see how great this cd is.The vocal harmonys are really good also.

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Send comments to James Hill (BETA) | Report this review (#6920)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars More of the same from the debut album but here, the surprise is gone . The tracks are shorter and slightly less prog (IMOHO of course ), but the evident trio of influences are still present: GG, Yes and most of all that typical huge Kansas sound. In concert, these guys developed the tracks on the album much better. These guys are impressive on stage, but again as with the albums, after repeated viewings, the novelty wears off and what is left , is a slight desillusion od déjŕ-entendu.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#6921)
Posted Monday, March 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Second studio release from SPOCK'S BEARD which is in my opinion is another superb album. I remember listening to this album when it was first released and being so amazed... even after being so pleasantly shell shocked by the previous release "The Light". Once again the lads here kick up some wonderful and highly energetic songs played with high precision and passion. On this album new member Ryo Okumoto adds his hammond and mellorton skills to this already so talented band. Once again Neal MORSE has written most of the material and therefore carries all of the classic "BEARD'isms" you would expect. Title song is a George HARRISON number which SPOCK'S BEARD has done a magnificient job in re-structuring. On the BEARD "Official Live Bootleg" they first introduced us to a fantastic number "Thoughts" (an ode to GENTLE GIANT) which appears on "Beware Of Darkness" and is a highlight for me. Vocals are excellent with loads of syncopation and harmony. Songs vary in length from the 5 minute format to a 16 minute number "Time Has Come". Sensational music for your mind and absolutely essential music.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#6922)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sometimes this album is superior than the stunning debut album "The Light", in other circumstances is less convincing... but naturally the music tunes played at the piano are so tasteful and, moreover, the presence of a second keyboardist, makes the wall of sound more complete. Recommended!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#6923)
Posted Saturday, April 03, 2004 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Spock's Beard never really gripped me. Their sound is cliché and the lyrics are barfable. They have a couple of good ideas like the Gentle Giantesque Thoughts. Bonus, for a Beatles fan like me, Harrison's Beware of Darkness reprise is a perfect candy. Still, the songs are too long, often go nowhere and are just a mish-mash of 70's influences. I just don't get all the buzz around them. They just sound big, but the delivery lacks serious. I won't pay more attention when I'll see the name Neil Morse. I thought he was the guy from Dixie Dregs...no that's Steve Morse? Oh well.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#6924)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This truely stands to be called a masterpiece. It sure is between my personal top 5 albums of the 90's. As in other albums, the influences of 70's best bands are clearly shown here, i can say that Genesis' "Firth of Fifth" is to "The Doorway" as maybe "Chatauqua" is to Howe's "The Clap" or "Mood for a Day", also you'll find one part of Yes' "Roundabout" very alike as one part in "Beware of Darkness" (the wakemanish piano part), and of course the spectacular "Thoughts" is to me an Ode to Gentle Giant. High points here? all songs are, i'd say my top 3 songs here are "The Doorway", "Beware of Darkness" and "Walking on the Wind"... but damn! all songs are excellent pieces of music. Prog at its best here! go buy this one!

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Send comments to eriksalkeld (BETA) | Report this review (#6926)
Posted Friday, September 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
tomas@thevort
1 stars Highly overrated. Their cover of the George Harrison song is the highpoint of the album. It quickly goes downhill from there. Spock's Beard is the epitome of all "neo-prog" bands that simply fall back on the tired, old cliches of prog music. It's all been done before, so why do it again? Prog became a "genre" when Yes made TORMATO. Up until then, it was just great bands experimenting with classical, jazz, and rock idioms and coming up with some amazingly new and - hey, PROGRESSIVE - stuff. Now, prog is like fusion - it's an endless set of repititions, performed by obviously technically adept musicians. Almost like these bands are trying to win awards, rather than make good music. A yawner, fer sure.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#6914)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
davidlevinson
4 stars This Band indicates that Prog Rock is definitley not dead as Disco. The album just wowed me!! There are hints of "Heart Of The Sunrise" On the title track, and some Chris Squire- esq base playing on track. They were truly inspired by YES that is for sure. Now I am not saying they are a rip-off of Yes but borrow the influences. They definitley have a style all their own. The voice of the lead singer is powerful. The songs have a great story to tell. and the over all production is magnificent. The pop, alternative and metal genres were @ the front of the music worlds list but this band sure showed that Progressive Rock was not dead, They were alive in the form of SPOCKS BEARD! A TRIUMPH!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#6930)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Inconsistencies abound on Spock's Beard's sophmore effort. I have to say that I struggled with how to rate this album since it contains some of the band's best work and some of its worst. Right off the bat, its obvious that the Beard did not intend to simply put out a copy of the 'The Light.' The song form on this album is (for the most part) shorter and the band shows its ability to craft more pop-oriented work right along side with modern prog. I feel like the band may have been trying a little too hard to be experimental on a few songs, especially the album's title track. Screeching sound effects pop up at bad times and I feel that Alan Morse is trying a little to hard to sound like Robert Fripp in a few places. Personally, I prefer George Harrison's original, serene version of this song. "Thoughts," despite starting out pretty weird, takes shape into a solid song, but it is far from one of the band's best. Despite my luke-warm feeling about the song, I do have to admit that it is one of the best demonstrations of the band's incredible vocal harmony. My attitude changes completely, though, when it comes to "The Doorway." Although it is bit derivative of Genesis' "Firth Of Fifth," "The Doorway" is an rousing number that changes from balls-to- the-wall rock, to acoustic ballad, to regae, and back again, much in the same vein as "The Light" from the band's debut album. "The Doorway" remains my favorite Beard song to this day. "Chatauqua" is a nice little acoustic number by Alan Morse, but it also represents one of the only "filler" tracks that Spock's Beard has put on any of their albums. "Walking On The Wind" and "Waste Away" are two more strong songs; the first being a soaring prog piece, while the other is a solid, straight-forward rocker. "Waste Away" predicts the direction that Neal Morse's lyrics would be taking on 'The Kindness Of Strangers' in that it involves a hefty dose of morality. The album's closing epic, "Time Has Come" falls far short of greatness. I simply find the song unpleasingly harsh, not unlike the title track. I think this album is definitely worth owning for "The Doorway" alone, but I don't recommend it if you aren't familiar with the Beard's other work. I rank this album sixth amongst the band's seven albums.

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Send comments to rangerm13 (BETA) | Report this review (#6931)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This has always been my all-time favourite SB album, and I haven't changed my mind so far. Now as a quintet, newcomer keyboardist Ryo Okumoto gave a special touch of energy and finesse to the keyboard department, while guitarist Alan Morse went for a rougher approach to most of his solos and riffs, and the duo D'Virgilio-Meros complemented each other in a more solid manner. The musical ideas tend to be a bit more concise, which doesn't stop the band from creating two new very long tracks, 'The Doorway' (a SB classic) and the closure 'Time Has Come'; but these are also songs, not collections of successive sections that together fill a suite. So yes, the conception and arrangements of a bigger amount of songs shows that Neal Morse feels more confident about his creative talents, not being so "desperate" to show off his progressive ambitions with one suite and another and another. Anyway, the album kicks off with the George Harrison penned namesake number, rearranged by SB with a harder edge, which gives Okumoto the opportunity to show his power and prowess as if stating a flamboyant salutation to all SB fans. Actually the whole ensemble performs beautifully here, setting a pace of genuine enthusiasm with skill and passion. But a major dose of skill and passion is yet to come with 'Thoughts', a fresh and unabashed homage to the massive vocal counterpoints of GG, destined to become the other absolute SB classic from the album (besides 'The Doorway'). Later on, 'Walking on the Wind' will bring us another exhibition of clever connections between diverse impressively catchy motifs and energetic playing (some hints to GG here as well, this time mostly in the counterpoints and countermelodies during the main motif), while 'Waste Away' shows a mixture of folk-oriented pop and hard rock, with the subtle addition of progressive complexity in the dialogues between the lead guitar and the organ. In the middle of the album's repertoire is the acoustic guitar performance 'Chatauqua', which is kind of a tribute to Hackett's 'Horizons' and Howe's 'Mood for a Day' in one single piece - talking about nostalgia for the old good 70s prog. I've kept the two longest compositions for the final part of this review: both the 12+ minute 'The Doorway' and the 16+ minute 'Time Has Come' contain the largest amount of bombast and emotional tension in the album, with the former heading for the reflective realms of introspection, and the latter sounding a bit more explosive and dense, with lyrics that seem to be focused on the subject of self-determination. I feel 'The Doorway' more rewarding, since I find it more cohesive than the closing epic, but generally speaking, both tracks are quite impressive, living up quite brightly to the standards of complexity, variation and dynamics that one should expect from an efficient long progressive track. The improvement that "Beware of Darkness" shows in comparison to their impressive debut "The Light" is a proof that the band kept on progressing as musicians while maturing their own sound: 4 ˝ stars for this one.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#6933)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The album starts off very well with a soothing melotron and Meros's Squire-like bass, Morse then begins to sing in his distinct style, Alan Morse's guitar can grate at times but the song is beautiful and very well done. Next up is "Thoughts", the Beard's first Gentle Giant inspired song, absolutely creepy and wonderful at the same time..Excellent! "The Doorway" starts out with some nice piano and acoustic guitar, lots of soft areas which reminds me very much of the previous album, "The Light". A guitar instrumental called "Chatauqua" is next which sounds very good. "Walking On The Wind" rocks Gentle Giant like with that Squire bass giving it a very nice Yes sound. Fantastic track! "Waste Away", unfortuately has one of the worse opening lines I've heard yet in prog, "Some people are like gravy/spilled on God's Sunday shirt." UGH!! The only saving grace on this one is the keyboard that runs throughout, otherwise it's a stinker."Time Has Come" is Beatle-like in spots and is the longest track on the album. It's your typical long track, nice keyboard, guitar and drum displaying, a tad too long with Morse's voice distorted towards the end but okay overall. So, in a nutshell, it has some of their best material (Thoughts, Walking On The Wind & The Doorway) but their better overall albums are ahead. (3.5 stars)

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#37995)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Spock's Beard's Second Album. This band is not bad. While their music does not reach the brilliance of the 70s, it is all pretty decent and well made. Here, The keyboards are much better than on their debut, since they hired a solid keyboardist.

1. Beware Of Darkness 6/10 : A solid cover to George Harrison's song. Good song instrumentally, but I prefer Harrison's vocals over this one.

2. Thoughts 5/10 : messy and hard to get into, this song draws influences from Gentle Giant with its vocal harmonies and weirdness. Not bad, and contains some good riffs, but it should have made its point across more briefly.

3. The Doorway 8/10 : The highlight of the album. Starting with a great piano solo (reminds me of firth of fifth), this song goes through lots of changes and moods and never disappoints.

4. Chatauqua 6.5/10 : Mood for a Day II !!! .. well, not exactly. It is just a pretty acoustic guitar piece.

5. Walking on the Wind 6.5/10 : Very 70s sounding, and very proggy and heavy. I like it and the bass guitar work is pretty good. I don't like its intro though.

6. Waste Away 7.5/10 : A very catchy and accessible pop/rocker, but what's with the lyrics "Some people are like gravy". That's one of the most embarrassing lines I have ever heard (but not as much as Greg Lake's "someone go get me a ladder")

7. Time has come 7/10 : A very 70s sounding epic with a bit of harshness thrown in. They made better epics in the future, but it is still somewhat of an improvement on "The Water" from their debut.

My Grade: C

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#41606)
Posted Thursday, August 04, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Spock´s Beard is without a doubt one of my favourites prog band, but in my humble opinion they have failed along the years in creating a true masterpiece. "Beware of Darkness" was close, like "The Light", but for me it lacks something else...

Beware of Darkness it´s a very fine George Harrison´s cover, with a marvellous Hammond solo by the great Ryo Okumoto. This album was the first with Ryo on keyboards...And it´s was in improvement, for sure!

Thougths is a good tune, but this choirs in the Gentle Giant style are a little ridiculous for me...

The Doorwar is maybe the perfect Spock´s Beard song. Very catchy, with a good mixture of electric and acoustic sections, a strong bass, great keyboard solo...And a good Neal Morse´s singing, although in this time he had not reached yet his best level with singing...

Chatauqua it´s just a fast aocustic song, beautiful but forgettable...

Walking of the Wing is the second and last true jewel in the album. Another great song with powerful bass lines and a great organ introduction. In the same style as The Doorway, and almost as good.

Waste Away is just a rocking short track, in the same style of another Spock´s songs like On The Edge or All on a Sunday. Nothing special, but pretty enjoyable.

Time Has Come it´s a long suite, but with the same problem as the song The Water of the previous album: good sometimes, but not very good sometimes, with lack of inspiration...In my opinion Spock´s Beard they really don´t learned to make good long suites (more than 15 minutes...) till the album "V". But Time Has Come it´s still a good song based in Stephen King´s "Dance of Death", thing that make it interesting for me, because I´m a King´s fan!

Conclusion: excellent album with really brilliant moments, but with some weak parts that don´t allow it being a masterpiece. Nevertheless, heartly recommended for all prog fans!

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#59200)
Posted Monday, December 05, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a better-sounding album than its predecessor, with better recording and egineering. It also features Ryo Okumoto on the keyboards for the first time, adding some great Hammond organ playing, even better than Morse's, which wasn't bad at all. That said, I find this album a litlle more irregular than The Light. The highlight for me is The Doorway, possibly their best track ever, with its outstanding piano intro (courtesy of Mr. Neal Morse, who, I insist, is a good keyboard player himself), great melody, Yes feeling, beautiful acoustic interlude... incredible piece of music. Other great moments are the cover of George Harrison's Beware Of Darkness, which seems to be done by Yes, specially when you hear that Rickenbacker bass lines at the end of the intro; and Thoughts, a track with evident influences of King Crimson and Gentle Giant, but so well-done and inventive that ends to be even better than the originals. There's also an acoustic guitar instrumental, Chatauqua, similar to Steve Howe's typical compositions, written and performed, again, by Neal Morse. This man is a genius! The second half of the album, though, is not as good as the first. Walking On The Wind and Time Has Come are good prog-rock tracks, but not as good as the songs I mentioned first, and perhaps too long. Waste Away is more an AOR anthem than a progressive track but it's not bad. Counting it all, this is a very good album, but not a masterpiece. At certain moments it is an improvement over The Light, but not every track keeps that outstanding quality level. Highly recommended anyway.

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Send comments to eddietrooper (BETA) | Report this review (#76972)
Posted Tuesday, May 02, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This happens to be my first album i ever bought from Spock's Beard which started my huge fan that i have for the Morse era of the Beard. Its weird i bought this alum and then i bought A KINDNESS OF STRANGERS and then i bought THE LIGHT i kinda wish i bought THE LIGHT first as there is so much change between each album. This album does feature a little bit of the silly lyrics that were featured on THE LIGHT but not too much in fact Neal Morse kinda developed a little bit of some maturity on this album. Plus the music kinda changed a bit as the beard were developing into their poppiness like they had in their later albums and its not quite as nutty as the music on THE LIGHT i mean i'm not saying THE LIGHT had bad music its just somewhat of a big change here on BEWARE OF DARKNESS. Anyway another change is that RYO OKUMUTO makes his grand debut on Mellotron and Hammond and what a fantastic debut he makes really spicing up the sound of Spock's Beard by having two keyboardist on board. Well the songs on this album are quite great as it starts off with the title track. To be quite honest i didn't even know this was a cover song not to mention a George Harrison cover song but hey that's cool as this is one of my favorite songs on this album with a great drum fill section by Nick and some nice solos by Alan and Ryo. Then comes the very proggy and very Gentle Giant inspried THOUGHTS i will admit i didn't enjoy this song at first but eventually it grew on me and its quite good and very complex the cool multiple vocal thingy really adds a nice touch in this song. THE DOORWAY ah what a great 11 minute epic it has so much beauty and progginess to keep the listener wanting more. The solo by Alan at the end is very rad as well then comes the short CHATAQUA which is nothing more but a nice acoustic instrumental. WALKING ON THE WIND is also very good as well Dave Meros just blows me away everytime i hear this in fact this whole album made me a big fan of his in my opinion he is the CHRIS SQUIRE of 90s prog rock. Then come WASTE AWAY which is okay kinda commercial but Neal has a cool chanting thing going on at the end of the song. Then comes the great epic TIME HAS COME now i will admit this song made me nervous in some parts but in due time it really has grown on me as well. i will admit though it really isn't my favorite long spock's beard epic like AT THE END OF THE DAY, FLOW, THE GREAT NOTHING. however NICK D'VIRGILO gah what can't this guy not do his drum solo ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF. So anyway a very fine album by the guys of the beard full of great melodic hooks and excellent proggy-ness to some songs a fine album if you are a fan of the beard.

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Send comments to Progdrummer05 (BETA) | Report this review (#78815)
Posted Saturday, May 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Spock's Beard's second album ushered in the arrival of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto (who was absent on the first record. It also brought around the first cover song that the group recorded in George Harrison's Beware of Darkness (which would end up as the title of the album). Like with most groups, this album didn't match match the overall intesity that the first album had, so essentially it's another sophomore slump, but it is still a pretty good album for those who like this style of music and don't think it is derivative of the classic style of progressive rock. And while there are many enjoyable moments on the album, they also throw in a few cliches here and there that really make me wonder why they did it, and sometimes they just copy a style that was cemented into the foundations of history by another group (Thoughts is essentially their equivalent of Gentle Giant's Knots, see a coincidence in the title?).

The album opens with the musically brilliant, vocally hilarious Beware of Darkness. You see, Morse had never heard the Harrison version of the song until this one was finished so he based his vocal performance on the one he heard that inspired him to cover the song (and the vocals were apparently very slurred. So you'll hear a lyric like, "beware of farts that linger" in the very beginning. Thoughts is essentially the modern equivalent to Knots (and if you don't see a coincidence in the title immediately, they rhyme!). Essentially is off-putting and zany riffing followed by multi-layered and heavily coordinated vocals to match that fugue style that Gentle Giant revolutionized. Pretty good song in the end, but pretty derivative at the same time. The Doorway is the first epic of the album, and it's not a bad one at that. The opening piano motif is rather intricate and dynamic and when coupled with the great acoustic section in the middle (which yields a great acoustic guitar solo on top of the magnificent arpeggios), the bass/drum interplay is also quite song on this piece as well.

Chatauqua is essentially the Mood For a Day/Clap acoustic number of the album, with just an acoustic guitar belting out a main theme and variations on said theme. It's a nice piece atmospherically (and the guitar work is quite good), as it feels gentle and relaxing, but it feels too much like a cliche thing to do to really be something original and very exciting. Walking on the Wind is another tune that carries the flag of the 70s progressive style and the mellotrons and lush guitar (as well as the ripping solo) help convey that thought. The strong bass performance from Dave Meros meshes well with the consistant and precision drumming of Nick D'Virgilo. The epic ending (laden with mellotron choirs) also carries along those same sentiments as well. In the end, though, it's a pretty good track musically, but lyrically it's a bit ridiculous. Waste Away is easily the most commercial piece on the album. Beginning with an acoustic guitar theme that delves into arpeggios as well as chord based progressions, it has a tacky chorus and some more contrived lyrics from Morse (who seemed to be at his best around the V era of the group and then he found his feet again with his most recent solo albums). Time Has Come is the final epic of the album (landing at a bit over 16 minutes). It is probably the heaviest song that they wrote at that point, with disjointed and dissonant riffs in the intro that break into a melodic middle sections that have stabbing Chris Squire style bass lines and little flurries of organ and synthesizers add a bit to the atmosphere of the piece. The best part of the piece comes towards the middle, during the quiet atmospheric acoustic section that yields some ethereal lead from from Alan Morse and a nice chord progresion from Neal. It ends the album nicely, but it does feel a bit prolonged as there are sections that could have been abridged.

In the end, the sophomore slump album Beware of Darkness would prove to show what groups influenced Spock's Beard the most (Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis, etc.). It's not an awful album, it's just doesn't captivate me as much as The Light did and it doesn't really have the same do or die intensity that The Light had, which is one of the things I loved about that album. Still, fans of The Light will probably like this album and find something enjoyable about it. But if you're not a fan of this style of music (modern symphonic rock that is) then this album won't change your opinion. As for me, I'm in the middle. 3.5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#86218)
Posted Tuesday, August 08, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just like most of SPOCK'S BEARD's collection, the entire album is solid. It may take a few listens to get into some of the songs, (which is expected of most good progressive albums) for me it was thoughts and time has come, but don't get me wrong they are both excellant tracks. The Doorway is the highlight of this album. The piano in this song is gorgeous, it opens with an uplifting classical style introduction, and this elegant, soothing sound is not lost for a second on this song. the only 10/10 track on the album. This album is one of SB's best becuase it is listenable from start to finish, yet not poppy what so ever. I give this album a 4.2

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Send comments to meddlehead40 (BETA) | Report this review (#96383)
Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars The first Spock's Beard album I heard, and I will gladly admit that the circumstances may have soured me on them. I give my review one extra star for that alone.

Being very poor at the time, and having read many, many rave reviews of SB online, I spent money I couldn't really afford on this album and popped it in my CD Walkman on my lunch break with great anticipation. And from the moment Neal Morse's voice came in, rasping out "Watch out now!", I was just shocked. What on EARTH was this forced and gravelly Richard Marx soundalike doing on a Prog album? Okay, the playing was good, the arrangements and the song alright (I had no idea that the opener was a cover).

Either way, this was far below what I had been lead to expect from the many favorable reviews. It was at its core incredibly mainstream, despite all the - admittedly very nice - instrumental details.

Track two opened well enough and then went to some Gentle Giantism, something I'm never going to complain about, even when it's only so-so. But once the layered vocals were over, it was right back to Melodic Rock Land with simple and repetitive melodies delivered like some bar band Rock vocalist. And then those two worlds kept alternating with no seeming logical link, like an experiement in tape slicing, using master tapes of a Prog band and a very average Rock band.

And so it went throughout most of the album and indeed so it goes in most of the Beard oeuvre. Now, for someone who values Journey and Toto as highly as Genesis and Yes, it's probably heaven, but there's no denying it's a bastardization of what Prog once meant to include such a heavy middle of the road aspect.

It's a bit like a cubist adding a naturalist portrait to his paintings; I guess it's an innovation of sorts to take a partial step backwards, but it is no longer actual cubism. My animosity towards Spocks Beard would probably be considerably less if more people spoke of them as a marriage of mainstream AOR with Prog forms, yet this rarely occurs.

So, a warning to any reader who has yet to hear SB; please be aware that despite the hype and hyperbole, this is only partially Prog. If that does not bother you and you also have a high tolerance for Magnum, Styx or Winger, you should be fine with this.

If you're looking for Prog that isn't shot through with great swathes of American Radio Rock, then you should probably look elsewhere for your fix.

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Send comments to Teaflax (BETA) | Report this review (#119092)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
4 stars The career of Spock's Beard started with a good omen.''The light'' was followed by the addition of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto in the line-up, thus leaving Neal Morse focusing on his vocal and piano work.The band started immediately rehearsals for a new album and signed with various labels for a worldwide release of it.Officially ''Beware of Darkness'' came out in December 1996.

Compared to ''The light'' this new effort by Spock's Beard contains seven songs of varied time length, but all being deeply progressive and strongly rooted in vintage influences and nostalgic melodies.The biggest surprise comes from the opening track, which is a whole different version of George Harrison's ''Beware of Darkness''.Spock's Beard transformed it into an excellent Prog piece with a rich sound and intense vocals by Neal Morse.The original material of the album is simply outstanding and a great example of why Spock's Beard along with The Flower Kings are considered the fathers of the 90's Prog revival.Impressive compositions with a symphonic flavor, where melody meets complexity, containingg amazing time changes, breaks and plenty of crafty melodies all the way.The music of Spock's Beard creates so many different emotions that are hard to describe.The mass of sensitive passages with acoustic vibes and warm vocals is overblown by the grandiose, captivating and tricky instrumental themes of the group.Filled with heavy organ runs, Mellotron touches, clever synths and delicate piano interludes, the album seems to explore the whole era of the 70's, especially speaking of UK, with obvious nods to the music of GENESIS, YES and GENTLE GIANT.And all these unique keyboard-driven textures are beautifully combined with the clever and sparkling melodies coming out of Alan Morse's guitar, while Okumoto sounds as good as the missing piece in an uncompleted puzzle.

Another Spock's Beard winner.Emotional, adventurous and intelligent quasi-vintage Progressive Rock, supported by great vocals and polyphonic harmonies.Highly recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#146930)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Beware of Darkness was Spock's Beard's second studio album, released a year after their masterpiece debut The Light. On this album, Japanese keyboardist Ryo Okumoto makes his debut with the band. This time the Beard include a few shorter tunes interspersed among some longer tracks. Thoughts is a clear nod of respect to Gentle Giant, a band that apparently had a lot of influence on Neal Morse. Waste Away is probably Spock's Beard's attempt to make it to radio. Since I rarely listened to the radio after the 1980s, I haven't a clue if the band ever had any success with this song, though it makes an exceptional AOR single, much better than the garbage what was finding its way onto MTV.

The key songs on this album, as they are with most Spock's Beard albums, are the longer tracks. These include the beautifully piano-laden The Doorway, the powerful Walking on the Wind, and the amazing Time Has Come which is on level with the best tracks from their debut album.

Again, Spock's Beard combine odd lyrics, extremely skillful playing, beautiful melodies and hooks, delightfully complex time signatures, and that raw energy that is the staple of their music. Again, apparent influences include Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis, and Kansas and like their debut the keys are focused primarily on organ and Mellotron.

Beware of Darkness is not as good as The Light, but it's still a masterpiece to my ears. Easily another five star entry for this incredible American symphonic prog act. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to progaardvark (BETA) | Report this review (#150478)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A good and often enjoyable follow-up to their debut, Beware of Darkness suffers only in comparison with The Light, which has stronger and more memorable songs.

Here, Spock's Beard cranks out more classic prog with their signature sound, showing a little bit of creativity here and there as well. Strong instrumental performances abound, with Alan Morse wailing away on his unique guitar while the rest of the band thunders out monstrous licks of their own. Okumoto makes his welcome appearance here, adding a new layer of sound to appreciate. My only complaints here lie with Neal-- whose vocals don't sound as polished here as in the Light, almost to the point of being sloppy at times.

While the band's chops are always good, the songs here have a tendency to run on or sound throw together. There isn't as much nuance here as in later albums, and only a few of the tunes will make a big impression on the listener (The Doorway, for example). Still, there is a lot of energy and potential here to discover; recommended for eager fans still exploring.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#158517)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Second release by Spock's Beard, a lot more variegated than the debut that was mostly about the two epics. This one has it all: a short instrumental, a few middle length tracks and a couple of (semi) epics. It's conspicuous that this album has been rated diversely, from one to five stars even and I can understand that because on one hand it's more a case of something for everybody's liking this time but on the other hand if you liked the debut this could put you off in a way.

In my believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle so I always intended to give this 3 stars and so I will and I will give ratings for each song with some description to show how I come to that:

1. Beware of darkness. Relatively short title track, not very impressive. 3,25 stars.

2. Thoughts. This has strong influences form Gentle Giant I feel. 2,75 stars.

3. The Doorway. My personal highlight. Strong versatile track. 4,25 stars.

4. Chataqua. Nice short acoustic instrumental. 3,25 stars.

5. Walking on the wind. Very good track but less than The Doorway. 3,75 stars.

6. Waste away. Energetic song with meaningful lyrics about passive people. 3,5 stars.

7. Time has come. Longest track but not really the best. Just good. 3,25 stars.

So that results in an average of 3,43 and leads to 3 stars rounded down. Not bad I'd say

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#158872)
Posted Friday, January 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars This is the follow-up to what is in my opinion a masterpiece of moden prog, Spock's Beard's debut album The Light. After that tour-de-force of music I sure had high expectations about the rest of the bands output. Next in line in the discography is Beware of Darkness with its seven songs, compared to the four found on The Light. Two of these range over ten minutes in length. Assuming that short song length and acessibility is only two sides of the same coin is generally a bad idea, but in the case of Beware of Darkness, this is for once a valid statement.

The title song starts the album in a typical Spock's Beard kind of way: lots of prominent bass work. A moody passage with crisp guitar chords in the background leads to the mellow part where the vocals begin. Neil isn't an amazing singer, but he sings with great emotion and warmth, something that I like, but I also realise that others might consider this particular style as AOR-ish. And AOR-influences are quite abundant here, vocally as well as musically. Polished, accesible parts with pretty standard song structure. A prime example on this album is Waste Away. Radio-friendly is a word I hate using, but that one song is just that. Just as a word of warning to those of you who fear it like a vampire fears the sun.

But of course there's more to find here! Walking on the Wind has some serious Kansas-influences and The Doorway rivals most of the songs found on their debut. About a minute of charged piano interludes a gritty distorted guitar riff and the beautiful 'refrain'. Triumphant sounds from the keys. More piano. Aha, acoustic guitar. Nice. Great instrumental part. Wait, variation on main theme with flute-ish keys. Acoustic again. Solo this time. And then it goes on and on. This is how I want it. Spock's Beard at their best and thus also music at its best. More highlights includes many of the 16 minutes of Time Has Come and parts of Thoughts. Some of the vocal arrangement on that one will surprise you.

Atogether an accomplished piece of music, not as exciting and brim-filled with energy as the last one. Unfortunately. Still almost 4 stars for me. 3,5 stars. Mostly excellent, but non-essential is a way of putting it. If you're having trouble with aforementioned accessibility, make it 3 stars. Still good!

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#164539)
Posted Friday, March 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On par with The Light, this is the second and another fantastic album from a fantastic band. In this album, Ryo is in on the scene, and boy don't he make a difference! Because of him they now have a denser sound with much more organ work behind them, and I love it. Alongside Ryo's arrival, it is probably one of the only albums that is purely progressive, the other being their debut. I can't actually think of a weakness, they pay tributes to 70s stars like Genesis, Gentle Giant and Yes, and it is clearly noticeable. The highlights are Thoughts, Time Has Come and Walking On The Wind, which are stunning. Here is a track by track:

1. Beware of Darkness - An excellent cover, they modernised the original version, and similarly to Squonk at Nearfest, they did a bloody good job of it - 8/10

---

2. Thoughts - Now we're talking! This is a superb song with a clear tribute to Gentle Giant, however they have weaved their own style nicely into it. They haven't really pulled out a shorter song much like this one, and is a worthy prog rocker. The changes flow very nicely into each other and I think it is perfect. They have captured the strangeness of VDGG in it also, which is nice. Quite a dark song, and one of their best - 9.5/10

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3. The Doorway - A superb take on Firth of Fifth. Ryo is on fire with this, with a piano intro to die for. His composition is very classically orientated, and the left hand is to be noted: it is the only thing dividing this particular intro to that of Firth. Whereas Firth is more of a Brahms-esque style, this has counter-melodies similar to that of Bach's Two Part Inventions, anyone familiar to classical keyboard music should recognise the similarity. The arrangement is also very nice, again along the lines of Firth, and it also should be noted that it has one of the best rock outros ever, on par with Starship Trooper by Yes. A very enjoyable and melodic listen - 9/10

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4. Chatauqua - Some have said this is Mood For A Day number 2, and I agree. Not much can be said for this, apart from that it is splendid, however perhaps a little TOO much like Mood For A Day. 7/10

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5. Walking On the Wind - Sublime! I love this track, and Ryo really shines in this one. The vocals are lush from Morse and the three-part harmonies are excellent. I particularly like the quieter section, as it builds up perfectly into the second part of the song. They even add a cheeky little 7/8 section that is so breif it is barely noticeable. Best song on the album - 10/10

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6. Waste Away - Weakest track on the album, it is still their strongest acoustic number. This is the first time that Morse's poppy influence has shone through, and I normally skip this track. Nevertheless, it is still prog, I cannot take that away from it. May not appeal to all Spock fans out there. 6/10

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7. Time Has Come - My God this is a masterpiece. Spock have been known to dish out some fine epics, but this is in the top 5 at least. It starts out with gentle keyboards and then breaks into an avante-garde guitar/keyboard melody. It then returns to the symphonic genre and it all gets better from there. This is THE highlight of the album, and goes through many interesting changes, following suite of the rest of the album. Ryo, once again, proves to be a worthy keys player in this song. Brilliant. 10/10

---

Overall, a superb album. As mentioned above, this is pure prog, although the acoustic number doesn't do the title any favours. I'm giving it a 4star rating, as it isn't quite as good as The Light, but excellent nonetheless. An excellent addition to any prog music collection.

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Send comments to The Pessimist (BETA) | Report this review (#165899)
Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars After reading Teaflax's review of this album, I figured I'd ditto some of what he/she said. After all, my sentiments are echoed to a fault on that review.

I will quote one line in particular that is VERY POWERFUL and perfectly depicts the Beard's music:

"So, a warning to any reader who has yet to hear SB; please be aware that despite the hype and hyperbole, this is only partially Prog"

Truer words have not been spoken!

Spock's Beard certainly offers prog and loads of it; BUT, it's all wrapped in a Beatlelesque package that makes the proggy part completely forgetable; however good that part may be.

Morse's attempts at sounding like John Lennon on the White Album is what I most dislike about SB. His growling and screaming are pointless, absurd and blatantly plagiarizes Lennon to the nth degree. In fact, if it weren't for Morse's growls and screams I'd probably tolerate the poppier side of the Beard's music.

I REALLY want to like Spock's Beard, but find it very difficult to do so because of Morse's pop leanings and fictitious vocals. He comes across as MUCH less than sincere. He overpowers and controls the music in too many ways and constantly gets in the way of the intrumental passages; which are typically VERY good.

I hesitate to recommend this, or any other SB album to a TRUE prog fan because they will most likely end up as disappointed as I am.

I'm tempted to give this CD two stars but I won't because the musicianship is EXCELLENT throughout the recording.

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Send comments to wbiphoto (BETA) | Report this review (#165919)
Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Unlike most other albums by the band, this one does not really feature any weak tracks. They all play somewhere between standing out and being at least passable tunes. Neal's voice on this album seems much stronger and more powerful than on their debut.

The title track is weird, different, opening the album with a strong foreboding that this band is not really going to try to be normal any more (though anyone who listened to The Light first probably didn't much get that impression at all). Following on its tail is the even more unique Thoughts, which features some interesting multiple layers of vocals, interplaying and overlapping. If I knew the correct term for this, I'd use it, but I'm mostly stuck. The Gentle Giant vibe is starting to creep into the band's sound here, but it doesn't sound derivative. At least not on this track. Quite catchy, and well-produced.

The Doorway and Walking on the Wind are two longer tracks, not quite epics, but certainly packing a lot of staying power. The vocal lines and lyrics are simply powerful and beautiful. The instrumental ballad in between the two, Chatauqua (don't ask me how to say it or what it means) highlights the absolutely splendid acoustic guitar work on all three of these tracks. Usually the middle of the album is where the steam is lost, but not in this case. Rather, I think these three are the most solid and intense on the entire CD. The whole album I find to be ordered very well, in fact, and the tracks flow and work together.

Next comes Waste Away, a terrifyingly catchy song with more than a taste of Cat Stevens in the vocal lines. This one is hardly prog at all, again a sort of foreshadowing of the less traditional prog directions that the band will explore over the rest of their catalog. That said, Waste Away segues into the final track, this album's epic, Time Has Come. It does not rank up there with other comparably timed Spock's Beard songs, but it holds its own as a quality track. It's almost tempting to quit after Waste Away, but the album is never complete without its final bit. Splendid instrumentation and beautiful vocal melodies highlight this piece.

This is a great album, though it is a bit weaker than the one that follows it, Kindness of Strangers. If you want to see what the band sounded like earlier, this is the best place to start. They are weird, fun, crazy, and yet still tying hooks and lures into all their songs at this point.

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Send comments to LiquidEternity (BETA) | Report this review (#169214)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I first need to say that this album is dedicated to Kevin Gilbert who passed away tragically(29 years old) the same year as this record was released. He actually mixed three of the tracks on this record. He was a friend and fan of SPOCK'S BEARD and mastered their debut "The Light". In the liner notes they thank among others "... especially Kevin, whose brilliance and extreme talent will never be forgotten." As for this album it rates a 4.5 stars from me. I like it a bit better than "The Light".

Things start off with the title track "Beware Of Darkness" a George Harrison cover that they really make their own. A spacey intro is quickly replaced by an awesome drum / bass led melody. Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes as the mellotron floods the soundscape. Amazing. Love the contrasts in this song. Killer organ 3 minutes in and later before 4 minutes. The bass is huge throughout this song recalling Chris Squire. "Thoughts" is a tribute to GENTLE GIANT. Outbursts of sound come and go quickly. We get a melody a minute in. It's the vocal arrangements that are so impressive though.These guys can sure play ! Again the bass is prominant. "The Doorway" is my favourite. Piano intro as other instruments join in after a minute. Vocals follow. How good is this. Incredible, uplifting sound. Reserved vocals and strummed guitar 4 1/2 minutes in. Go Ryo ! As he puts on a display. Fat bass a minute later, then some beautiful acoustic guitar melodies. The mellotron after 7 minutes is so majestic. Emotional section 8 1/2 minutes in as Neal starts singing again. An explosion after 9 1/2 minutes and the melody that follows is heavenly. It builds, and check out the guitar and organ ! This song blows my mind.

"Chatauqua" gives us a chance to calm down as it features acoustic guitar melodies throughout. "Walking On The Wind" opens with a very cool bass/organ melody as guitar plays over top. The tempo shifts a lot. Vocals and deep bass 2 minutes in. The bass,organ guitar melody is back 4 minutes in. Love the bass in this one. "Waste Away" opens with acoustic guitar as reserved vocals join in.Heavenly sound. It kicks into a higher gear 1 1/2 minutes in. I really like the line "Some people been holdin' back their love so long I think they're 'bout to burst." "Time Has Come" is the 16 1/2 minute closer. It's really an instrumental workout for 2 minutes then it changes to acoustic guitar and almost spoken vocals. Organ comes in. Great sound 3 1/2 minutes in. Some great organ,bass and mellotron in this one. The synths 9 1/2 minutes in briefly remind me of RUSH. It changes to a brighter sound 11 1/2 minutes in. This song is such a ride. Great sound 14 minutes in.

I can really appreciate how thrilled fans of progressive rock must have been with SPOCK'S BEARD's first two albums in the mid nineties. I can feel the buzz all these years later.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#174018)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the second studio album from californian prog rockers spock's beard, and a masterpiece of an album at that. I can honestly say unlike all the other albums spock have released that this album has no weak points at all.

Beware of Darkness starts off with the the signature keyboard buildup into the 7/4 heavy bass line. This track mellows out when neal enters and repeats itself again into one hell of an organ solo. perfect to air keyboard to. 9/10

Thoughts is another great track with the Gentle Giant theme playing a big role in the track. The rhythm section in this track are just amazing. Neal also sings well with different effects on the vocals in the verse. 9/10

The doorway has a firth of fifth intro on the piano until the rest of the band join in. The verse in this song could have been sung better from Neal but the rest of the band make up for it into its catchy/ cheesy but cool chorus. The guitar work in this track is brilliant especially on the acoustic guitars during the middle section. I have been listening to this track mostly for a year now and im still not sick of it. 9/10

Chataqua is quite boring realy, im not a very big fan of these solo acoustic tracks but its a pleasent track to mellow out on. 4/10

Walking on the wind is an epic IMO. The backing vocals along with the heavy but simple bass line in the verses and chorus are just amazing. The intro is possibly the greatest intro spock's beard have ever wrote. Neal's vocals just shine out in this track especially in the break down section. 10/10

Waste Away has a cheesy intro but altogether is a great track with its catchy chorus and heavy guitars. The lyircs in the verses fit the sound of the song perfectly. 8/10

Time has come........wow its just genius 10/10

9/10 altogether.

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Send comments to addrummer (BETA) | Report this review (#175752)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Beware of Darkness is the second album from american symphonic prog rock band Spock´s Beard. On Beware of Darkness Spock´s Beard takes a leap forward from their good but not excellent debut album The Light. Beware of Darkness is probably my favorite from the band. One of the changes since the debut which has had a major impact on the sound of Spock´s Beard is the inclusion of Ryo Okumoto. Ryo Okumoto who mainly plays organ and other vintage keyboards is such a great musician and his playing really makes this album something special. Now with two keyboard players in the band Spock´s Beard had a more rich sound.

The album starts with the George Harrison ( The Beatles) cover Beware Of Darkness which is a pretty dark song with great synth and emotional singing from Neal Morse. I don´t know the original but this one is great. Next up is Thoughts which is a Gentle Giant influenced song with polyrythmic and multilayered vocals. Great complex song. Some might feel this is a ripp-off but personally I don´t care. The Doorway is the first epic on the album. With it´s 11:27 minutes it´s a beautiful epic song with a piano start which reminds me of Firth of Fifth by Genesis. We really get a taste of Neal Morse melodic skills on this one. Chatauqua is a short acoustic guitar song played by Alan Morse. Others have complained that this is not that exciting but I like it. Walking on the Wind is the next grand epic of the album and it´s one of the best Spock´s Beard songs ever written IMO. There is s Gentle Giant influence in some riffs, but all in all this is a great symphonic track. Listen to the beautiful ending of the song. Really grand and symphonic. The only weak song on the album is Waste Away which quite frankly is a waste of time. It´s a cheesy semi ballad with pathetic emotional vocals from Neal Morse. I´m sorry but this is too much for me. We´re back on the right track with the ending epic Time has come. Lots of great parts both symphonic and challenging.

The musicianship is excellent. The members of Spock´s Beard each contribute with their own style to the music even though it´s obvious that it´s Neal Morse who writes most of the music.

The production is really well done and everything is good in the mix. I like that Dave Meros bass is pretty high in the mix which gives you that retro feel ( I can´t help thinking about Yes and Chris Squire). The sound is rich and warm.

The cover art isn´t very exciting really but it´s nothing that annoys the eye.

With this album Spock´s Beard cement that they are the leaders of the american retro symphonic prog rock genre. I know I was hooked when I heard this album. Beware of Darkness is also the Spock´s Beard album with least cheese on top which is something I´m incredibly happy about. It´s really a shame that Neal Morse felt the need to write such cheesy pop songs and even worse that he chose to include them on Spock´s Beard albums. The presence of such horrible songs makes it hard to say that this or any other Spock´s Beard album is a complete masterpiece. But then again there are so many other enjoyable and excellent songs on the albums that they never fail to impress and move me. Beware of Darkness is as I said probably my favorite from the band and I´ll rate it 4 stars.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#176513)
Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A good prog album, but still it does not generate much excitement. I guess I´m not very fond of Neil Morse´s singing style, or maybe the band hasn´t really found their own sound. The musicians are great of course and the instrumental parts are quite impressive: there are lots of Hammond and mellotrons, good guitar parts and bass runs. Everybody here is skillful and wear their influences on their sleeves. Maybe this is the problem: they don´t translate their roots in anything really new yet or even very interesting.

The production is good and the playing is faultless. The reworking of the George Harrison song that gives the album title is a little strange at first, but aside from the vocals, it works. A lot of passages reminds me of Genesis, Yes and Gentle Giant, all great bands I love. Yet something is missing. Good playing is not always a garantee for good music. Spock´s Beard would develop into something stronger and unique. But here they sound only tentative, even if they are terrific players and have excellent musical references. 2,5 stars, rounded up to 3.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#177105)
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not so dark, but still excellent

Spock's Beard's second album had a lot to live up to considering the praise that their debut, The Light often gets. With three massive tracks and one mid lengthed rocker on their first album they likely had a lot to work with coming into this second one, but it would be the execution of the album that would either see them sink or swim in the prog world after shaking it so much beforehand. Here Spock's Beard decided to work a little bit more with the short songs while still honing their abilities to write longer pieces. The result is fantastic! While the title of the album may be Beware Of Darkness there really is nothing dark about the album, it's quite uplifting actually. Spock's seems to have honed their sound rather quickly after the debut which saw them somewhat (and I use this term very loosely) raw on their first album with Neal being ''in a bad place in his life''. Ironically, this may be the most 'feel-good' album of their career (spare maybe Day For Night. For those who are unfamiliar with the Beard what we have here is modern symph prog that often borders on a Neo sound with a prominent bass, subtle but powerful guitars and a pressing synth provided by the frontman. Ryo Okumoto would also see his first release with the band on this album, making for a dual keyboard attack. Some complain about Neal Morse's voice but it's well presented and very uplifting in its approach, much like the rest of the music. If you're looking for something dark to feed your angst against the world this certainly is not it, but if you're looking to get into music that can make you 'walk upon the wind' then you're in the right place.

The songs on this one are generally more cohesive on the whole than was their first album, likely due to the dabbling with shorter songs on this album. We also get to see their influences shine through a hell of a lot with songs like the opening cut being a cover of a tune off an album called Leon Russell and the Shelter People which is a cover of a George Harrison song. Apparently Neal had never heard the original Harrison version until after their version had been recorded - which means this one is not going to sound anything like it. It actually comes off as a very, very Spock's Beard flavored song as much as some of their originals, and you have to give credit to a band with the balls to open their sophomore effort with a cover song. Spock's would also pay their first (of many) tributes to Gentle Giant in the form of Thoughts with its bizarrities and vocal harmonies. If you've heard Thoughts (Part II) off their V album then you already know the approach for this one, but it's a lot different than part two would turn out to be. This one is very dissonant the first listen and may even leave a bad taste in your mouth. But believe me, a few more listens and you'll be craving it.

And then we get into the very uplifting parts of the album. The Doorway is the first major song to appear on this album, even though it's shorter than just about everything on The Light, coming in at eleven and a half minutes. On this song you can really hear the approach of their next album Kindness Of Strangers with it's loud and quiet sections, very much different than The Light. Of course this is not better or worse, just different, and it makes for a great listen. Chatauqua follows up as a pleasant and short instrumental bringing us to the next song, which is likely one of the best in the band's history. Walking On The Wind is everything about Spock's Beard that people like (and dislike, depending on who you are). Pleasant vocals backed with a pulsing and powerful bassline with a freeflying chorus make for quite a dreamboat of a song! (well... so to speak). Vocal harmonies come in again at the chorus and we can ominously hear the band's future frontman singing away (Nik Di'Virgilio), but without the knowledge that Neal would later leave the band this song is just plain excellent. A wonderful version also appears on the band's newest live album titled Live (with Nik at the helm no less). Waste Away is the shortest 'song' song on the album, and it's a very pleasant one with a good synth riff that's not really mind blowing, but a fun, once again uplifting tune that brings us into the album's coda well.

Of course, then we come to the beast on the album. Time Has Come is the longest song on the album and the most closely related to what they band has done on The Light. This one is darker in sections, especially coming into the end with the manic ''we love you, we hate you'' section and the chilling synths throughout. Yes sir, if there was one reason to call this album dark it would be this song. You can tell the band knew what they were doing here after the sessions for their first album because the way this one is structured just screams prog (well, also because it's 16 minutes long).

The Beard will always be an acquired taste, but this is definitely one of their best albums. If you fancy yourself a fan then this one should no doubt be in your album, and if you fancy yourself wanting to get into the band then this one along with the other two in their opening trio should be some of the first in your hands (and V of course). 4 doorways out of 5! An excellent addition to any progger's collection!

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#178065)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's a common tale in the "biz." Aspiring musicians slave away for years honing their craft playing tired pop tunes for drunks in smoky bars and grungy dives for mere nickels and dimes, dreaming of glory days to come. They eventually find a compatible combination of other like-minded bohemians and form a band. They hustle and grovel to get their raw demos in front of conceited, self-absorbed A&R grunts at the labels in a never-ending quest for that elusive record deal. At long last the day dawns when they sign on the dotted line in blood, put out their debut album, go out on the long hard road to promote it and, if they're lucky, receive encouragement from the public's feedback and move a few discs. Suddenly it's time for the follow-up and cold, stark reality smacks the group right across their collective mugs. The cream of what they had written, rehearsed and perfected for years went into that first CD and ever since its release they've been too busy to compose new stuff and they're looking around at each other asking "what now?" This usually results in what's referred to as the "sophomore jinx." But there's no voodoo involved, it's simply cause and effect at work in the world of music and all successful artists have to deal with it. While not bad in any sense of the word, "Beware of Darkness" is a slight step down from Spock's Beard's impressive initial foray into Progland, "The Light."

One indication of this predicament can be detected when a band records a cover of a well-known star's material, even if it's a relatively obscure deep album cut like George Harrison's "Beware of Darkness." Having said that, it's certainly a liberal, bold interpretation. After a big, dynamic intro it glides into being a heavy, Yes-styled rocker that sizzles right along until the verse abruptly arrives and that's when it staggers and loses momentum. It's almost like two songs stuck uncomfortably together and, despite containing some of Harrison's most haunting lyrics ("Watch out now/take care, beware/of greedy leaders/who take you where you should not go/while weeping at the cedars/in the dead of night/..beware of sadness"), the tune falls a little flat. One bright point is the fiery solo supplied by the group's newest member, Ryo Okumoto, as he sets his Hammond organ ablaze. The large chorale at the end is a nice touch but overall I don't think the song lends itself well to the prog treatment they give it.

Next up is the crazy, scattered "Thoughts." Now look, I like weird, offbeat numbers as much as the next progger but this one just doesn't make it for me. The track laid down by drummer Nick D'Virgilio and bassist Dave Meros is as tight as it can possibly be but, as great as they always are together, even they can't make a cohesive casserole of all the wild, disjointed musical ingredients flying around willy- nilly over their heads. It's a failed experimental dish involving intricate harmonizing vocal lines and rude synthesizer noises (among other strange things) that, while courageous, is ultimately a mess that doesn't taste good. In the liner notes Neal Morse admits that he considered it to be too "out there" but lead guitarist and sibling Alan talked him into recording it. Neal should have stuck with his gut feeling on this one.

Just when I'm wondering if I've made a mistake in buying this CD, "The Doorway" opens with a magnificent piano performance and I gladly set my apprehension aside. Like Tony Banks' amazing piano introduction to Genesis' timeless "Firth of Fifth," Neal mesmerizes and completely captivates your attention here. The group makes a graceful, smooth entrance, then the verses and choruses hit with power. Neal Morse possesses an uncanny aptitude for prog rock arrangements and that gift is very evident on this song as they segue into a calmer bridge section, followed by strong acoustic guitars intertwining under the emotional vocals. After a return to the tune's main theme (Is it just me or does it remind you of John Williams' brilliant score for "Jurassic Park?" I'm just sayin'.) they build up to a gigantic BOOM! that rattles the china closet in the next room. But it's a false ending as the band gradually fades back in and goes on to get rowdy and frantic for no good reason other than to provide themselves with a noisy concert ending. No matter, it's still a humdinger.

Neal's lone acoustic guitar recital of his "Chatauqua" is next and, while it's okay, I've heard better. It has "filler" painted all over it and I gotta say that Mr. Morse will never be mistaken for Steve Howe. Moving on, "Walking on the Wind" is a highlight and the most cohesive track on the album. Its forceful beginning emphasizing Ryo's command of the Hammond organ, the exciting stabbing accents, Dave's impeccable bass tone and Nick's torrid drumming make this one a stunner. The tune's melodic verses and choruses are engaging but it's Meros' fluid fretless work during the subdued middle segment that elevates this number into greatness. It's downright awe-inspiring. All of this leads up to a grandiose, full-scale finale that makes the prog monster in me one happy ogre. This is symphonic prog done right, my friends.

"Waste Away" may not be particularly progressive but it's a hell of a driving rock & roll ditty, to be sure. Following a deceivingly serene acoustic guitar intro the band comes roaring in with an all-out frontal attack and they don't let up till it's over five minutes later. Alan Morse's massive electric guitar tone rules the day here and, while the lyrics are somewhat inane, the catchy hook line will stick in your skull whether you want it there or not.

Which brings us to the album's grand epic, "Time Has Come." Inspired by the psychopathic thought processes of the Trashcan Man from Stephen King's "The Stand," this is what Spock's Beard excels at. There are really three tunes in one here but it is so well-structured that it never flags or gets clumsy for a moment as the arrangement flows like a river. After another boisterous start it settles down into a menacing verse and chorus where Dave's fat bass slays once again. (Chris Squire's got nothin' on this dude!) Alan spits out a scary but necessary guitar ride before they transition into the "cardboard people" number where Okumoto's organ and Mellotron performances nearly steal the show. D'Virgilio has been steady as a stone throughout but he finally gets to cut loose at this point and his energetic drum fills will make your hair stand on end. Making a potentially long narrative short, I skip ahead a bit to where they finally arrive at the bouncy "we love you but we'll hate you if you leave" melody line that leads to a surprisingly gentle ending. Well done. (The two bonus tracks are home demos of "The Doorway" and "Beware of Darkness." Need I say more?)

If not for the first two tracks this recording would stand in defiance of the famous jinx I spoke of earlier but, sandwiched between their eye-opening debut and the wonderful "The Kindness of Strangers" album, it's just not as consistent. I still keep them on a pedestal for being one of the few USA groups brave enough to create symphonic prog music in an age where blatant commercialism and shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator dominates popular culture. "Beware of Darkness" is no masterpiece, but there are plenty of WOW! moments to make it worth having in your collection. 3.4 stars.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#179821)
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This second album by Spock's Beard still bring me the same perception as SB has actually composed music with little uniqueness on their own sound. It seemed to me that their first three albums sound-alike with major influences from Gentle Giant (even though with less complex composition), Yes and Genesis. If I forget about this factor, actually Spock's Beard music is good only that they had taken many influences from great bands who were successful at that time. Nothing wrong with it as long as they can make it better not just merging many sounds from other bands. What is peculiar about this band is the voice quality of Neal Morse that is excellent, full with accentuation.

The Doorway is probably the best track in Spock's Beard history. It has catchy melodies, rough lyrics, a nifty little acoustic duet (which they extend in concert these days). Al's guitar playing quite aggressive and it flows with the music which har intermittent tempo changes. Ryo rocks on the Hammond, and his Mellotron parts add just a balanced melodrama. Dave's bass is excellent throughout the track and it sounds clear that Chris Squire (Yes) style has influenced him a lot. The Gentle Giant influence is quite obvious in this album especially "Thoughts". "Waste Away is a very straight-forward rock song.

Overall, the music is not really something that engaging the mind as the originality is becoming an issue. It's not exactly the same with legendary bands' music, however it's quite annoying, sometimes. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#181139)
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If you are interested in some harder Yes music, this album is worth watching out. Actually, there are no major changes or improvements for their second album. Whose title is taken from an old Harrison song (from "All Things Must Pass" in 1970).

The song is nicely revisited, you know in the style of "America" from whom you might have heard.There is even a Gentle Giant sort of song with "Thoughts". To bring some diversity, I guess.

"The Doorway" holds all the clichés of a YesSong performed by some alien band. These acoustic guitar sounds are so borrowed, almost plagiarism. It is not a weak song because it holds some fine musical breaks but this type of music has been heard before. Competition peaked in those days between TFK and the Beard.

If you would need a confirmation, the short and acoustic "Chatauqua" is just confirming that Steve Howe is not forgotten in the "Beware Of Darkness". But almost each track refers to the original and genuine giant. When you will listen to "Walking on the Wind", it is impossible not to connect the bass work with Chris's one. The loop has been looped, once again.

This album is still a decent experience for YesFans who would like to listen to some YesMusic not played by "Yes". Do you follow me?

After the heavy and very much dispensible "Waste Away", the album closes on an sixteen minutes epic: "Time Has Come". Great intro for about two minutes, until the groovy vocals enter the scene. The heavy/bluesy mood is rather dull and is quite a contrast. Actually, there is little to retain from this song. Some vocal parts is referring to GG again and brings some variety in this ocean of YesStuff. Add some Beatles flabour to be complete.

A good album if you aren't too concerned about listening to derivative music. Three stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#181991)
Posted Sunday, September 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars The second album by Spock's Beard was the first to incorporate Osaka-born organist Ryo Okumoto. Fortunately we have future albums to demonstrate that it was not Okumoto's inclusion that brought Spock's Beard down to mediocrity. Shoddy songwriting, muddy sound quality, and asinine lyrics are but a few of the major burdens that weigh this album down. The main saving grace is the nine minute song "Walking on the Wind."

"Beware of Darkness" This rendition of George Harrison's work comes across as overindulgent, even for progressive rock, and probably wasn't the best avenue the band could have taken. The organ and guitar are both noisy, but well-played (particularly Okumoto's solo). Worst of all, Neal Morse's voice sounds incredibly forced, and it doesn't blend well with the music. That criticism aside, the Spock's Beard sound is there, and this cover can become well-liked if one becomes accustomed to hearing it in the course of listening to this album.

"Thoughts" If the first track was overindulgent, this is the height of pomposity. What's more, it's imitative of Gentle Giant's work, combining dark and quirky textures and complex vocal work clearly in tribute to "Knots" (is it only a coincidence that the two titles rhyme?). There is a clear Spock's Beard spin on the composition, but there is no question that the band was being derivative. I think the length exacerbates these criticisms. Nevertheless, I find the last statement of my assessment of the previous track holds true here also.

"The Doorway" Morse's brisk piano work dominates the beginning of this song. Finally, Spock's Beard sounds like Spock's Beard, alternating satisfying symphonic rock sections with pleasant acoustic-based ones. Fantastic synthesizer, working with the main theme, takes the hearer back to the initial lyrical section.

"Chatauqua" This is a concise acoustic guitar piece, similar to "Horizons" from Genesis's fourth album.

"Walking on the Wind" Explosive organ, bass, and drum introduce the third longest song with some mediaeval arrangements painted in between. This is a particularly strong composition, with several memorable passages and a good vocal melody. I especially like the role of Dave Meros's bass in this song; not only does he provide the backbone to the music, he treats the listeners to delightful solo on a fretless instrument.

"Waste Away" Such lovely acoustic guitar music is ruined by one of the most horrendous lines in progressive rock music ("Some people are like gravy spilled on God's Sunday shirt"). What follows is very bland (even if agreeable)- straightforward rock that's utterly forgettable.

"Time Has Come" The longest track should have thrown a lifejacket to a sinking album. Instead, it gets thrown an anchor. Lazy acoustic guitar, low, terrible vocals from Morse, foolish lyrics, a muddier sound than ever before, and further unwelcome quirky sounds just drag this piece down to the depths of awfulness. The lead guitar is piercing and directionless. The counterpoint vocal section is a rare moment of enchantment. Otherwise, this is one of the longest stinkers in recent times.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#203357)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The difficult second album, not really, it's amazing as usual.

I know I said that The Light is my favourite Spock's Beard album, but as a whole, this album is alot easier to listen to and way better produced, so don't take my word for it.

This album is a wee bit darker (but Spock's Beard can't be dark really, so it's more morose). The songs are alot easier to listen to and are shorter but still have the same effect.

The songs were also crafted alot better than The Light.

Basically, anything Neal Morse makes, is a masterpiece.

1. Beware Of Darkness - A George Harrison song? Yes this is a more progged up version of a George Harrison song. And yes, it is miles better than the original, really taking those beautiful Beatle-esque chords and melodies, and really turning them into something special. 9/10.

2. Thoughts - A couterpoint mind flow. Amazing piece of music with some weird King Crimson vibes in it. I also love the dischords at the start. Amazing vocals from the whole band. 10/10

3. The Doorway - Ok, this is a very Genesis like song. (The piano intro is very Firth Of Fifth), but this is one of those moments were the masters of prog are beaten by a younger, and slightly more talented band (No offence to Genesis). One beautiful piece of music. The vocal harmonies in the chorus are also very beautiful. 10/10

4. Chataqua - A beautiful acoustic piece, showing how much of an amazing guitarist Neal is. It has a very beautiful Newton Faulkner like vibe to it. 8/10

5. Walking On The Wind - My favorite song on the album. One amazing and beautiful piece of music with some phenomanal instrumental work. The vocal harmonies are also amazing. This song is also really well mixed.

6. Waste Away - Very cheesy, but very effective. Amazing chorus. 9/10.

7. Time Has Come - What a mammoth of a song. Quite dark and sinister at times, but the instrumental sections really show off how much of an amazing band these guys are. I also love the vocals in this song, especially Nicks. 10/10

CONCLUSION: Another masterpiece from the modern prog masters.

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Send comments to arcane-beautiful (BETA) | Report this review (#285565)
Posted Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great album by probably one of the most important prog band of the last 15 years. With that second album they confirmed all the promises of the first album "The Light". The albums have three spectacular tracks. The opener "Beware of Darkness" and the tracks "The Doorway" and "Walking on the Wind" are all mixing perfectly accessible vocals and complex instrumentations. Those 3 songs have all the elements to remain prog classics. The suite "Time Has Come" closing the album is alas too irregular; it has some good part but would have gain by being shorter. The band produced much better suite in the future. The pop song of the album "Waste Away" does not level with the other tracks on the album but remain enjoyable to listen. On the track "Toughts" the band gives a clear idea of their vocals or instrumentals talents, it is a great homage to Gentle Giant and a good song itself. Album well recommended.

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Send comments to Theriver (BETA) | Report this review (#326417)
Posted Friday, November 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars I hoped that after a year of their debut, SPOCK'S BEARD would had found their style, being that clearly the musicians are very talented, so sometime ago decided to give their sophomore album "Beware of Darkness" a try, sadly I was mistaken, even when it's slightly better than "The Light" (At least they seem alive), the final result is completely unsatisfying.

"Beware of Darkness" begins with the self title song, a cover version of a George Harrison track, and started incredibly promising with an excellent opening, but then I remembered that I was listening a Harrison track played supposedly in SPOCK'S BEARD style, but the arrangements were so derivative that the song sounds like a hybrid between "Your's is No Disgrace" and "Starship Troopers", but with vocals that are more annoying than Jon Anderson's (That's a record). At the end we are not before an original track, or a cover version of the former BEATLE, but before a terrible mixture of styles and influences.

When listening "Thoughts", the only phrase that cane to my mind was "Forgive them father, they don't know what they are doing". I don't like GENTLE GOIANT, but at least they were original, experimental and had the courage to make something extremely complex that was accepted by the vast majority of the Prog community, but SPOCK'S BEARD are making a caricature of GG's extremely complex arrangements. Somebody should tell them to try to find an own sound. I'm sorry for Ryo Okumoto, who was involved in his project deserving something better.

But not everything is negative, "The Doorway" is the best SPOCK'S BEARD I ever heard, after a quite pleasant´piano intro by Neal Morse, the band makes a display of quality and good taste, the song is explosive and original with imaginative arrangements, this is what I was asking (Well except for the annoying GENTLE GIANT like vocal moments).

The next song should had been called "Mood for Chatauqua", because the Steve Howe reminiscences are more than casual, well played but the word originality seems missing in Morse's dictionary at this point.

Some bands have the capacity of creating dissonant, contradictory passages without making a mess, SPOCK'S BEARD is not one of them, and "Walking in the Wind" is the evidence, they simply take ideas from everywhere and throw them all together obtaining a mediocre final product, something that really worries me, because Okumoto, D'Virgilio and Meros, are excellent musicians while the Morse brothers are not bad either, except in the vocals.

"Waste Away" is a powerful track in which the band dares to do something different and create a sort of Heavy Prog and Metal song. Not bad neither good, but at least they are original and not boringl.On the other hand "Time has Come" must be one of the most boring songs I ever heard, adding some guitar riffs and a couple of changes, doesn't make it better, and the Blues section with dogs barking invites to sleep.

My Special Remastered version has a couple more tracks (Home Demos of the title song and "The Doorway"), but no need to mention them, just more of the same.

My impression is that "Beware of Darkness" is somehow better than "The Light", but I have rated much better albums with 3 stars, so I will have to go with 2 stars, that should be 2.5 for a slightly bellow the average album.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#418874)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars This was a very good second album for Spock's Beard. First of all, the addition of Ryo Okumoto gives the keyboard work a depth that was not present on the first album.

The longer tracks are good, but they don't have the spark that encompassed The Light on the previous album. And while each of these has their grand musical moments, the tendency for songwriter Neal Morse to fall back into predictable melodies and choruses sometimes comes close to spoiling these moments.

The highpoint of the album is Thoughts. If you are a Gentle Giant fan, then you would love this beautifully complex tribute to that once great band. The vocal and instrumental interplay captures the spirit and tone of Knots better than any other Giant imitator I've heard. This alone makes the album worthwhile to me. It raises the rating from three to four stars.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#443518)
Posted Friday, May 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 stars, really.

This was the first Spock's Beard album I ever heard, and initially at least, it didn't appeal to me much. At the time, I was just discovering that Prog had not died at the end of the 70's, and that there was a thriving and soon to explode modern Prog scene in the mid to late 90's. Initially, I felt the album was derivative and that the weirdness was a little too contrived. However, as I became more familiar with bands catalog, I started to gain more appreciation for this album.

The first track, Beware Of Darkness, is a cover of George Harrison song. Having never heard the original, this seemed like the best song on the album to me at first. Over time however, I still feel it's a good song, but not the best on the album by any stretch. I always thought it was strange that a band would have a cover song as the title track of their album, but there it is. The instrumental sections are fun, and are done in a very Yes style, similar to how they altered America. However, this band does not sound like Yes, and the only real similarities are in the keyboard sounds used.

The second track is quite enjoyable to me, being a long time Gentle Giant fan. Yes, when I first heard it I was appalled at how they pretty much emulated that great band to the point of near plagiarism. But what the heck, it's still a fun song and if you can get past the similarities it is quite well performed and written.

The Doorway presents us with one of the best and most original songs Spock's Beard has ever written. Driven by Morse's piano and vocals, this song (finally) establishes the sound of the band, and it is neither derivative nor imitative. Sure, they use piano and Hammond organ (though these are probably emulated by a synth and are not the actual instruments, but I could be wrong). Beautiful melodies are complimented by excellent playing by all performers. This song is without question the highlight of the album and is a joy to listen to. This song alone makes the album worth checking out.

Chatauqua is a brief, but enjoyable acoustic guitar instrumental performed by Neal. Of course, the Steve Howe comparisons are obvious and Neal does not fair well in the comparison. For what it is though, it's a nice interlude. Walking On the Wind is one that starts promising but for me is hurt by the overly cheesy chorus. I know some people like the more pop aspects of Spock's Beard, but for me it makes the song less enjoyable. Still, there is some outstanding drumming from DiVirgilio and the musicianship in general is quite high. Not a bad track, minus the chorus.

Waste Away does pretty much nothing for me, and has throw away lyrics (though that could be said for most of the songs on this album). It seems to be one they liked to play live, though I'm not really sure why. A sing along type thing maybe? Not one I enjoy, sorry.

The final song, Time Has Come, does not seem to have too many fans, but I for one have grown to enjoy the song. Sure, there are sections that drag a bit, but the Beatlesque middle section is charming and the multi part vocals after are quite good. Perhaps it could have been a bit shorter, but I think much like The Doorway it displays the Spock's Beard sound and doesn't bring to mind other bands for the most part (minus the part that reminds me of the Beatles). I think the heavy, almost dissonant main theme turns some people off but I like it personally.

All in all, not their best album, but certainly not their worst in my view. For me, aside from one track, I felt this was an improvement on the first album. Maybe not a big improvement, but still an improvement. I really don't want to give it 4 stars, but I feel it is a bit better than 3, so 3.5 rounded up to 4 will have to do for this one.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#443551)
Posted Friday, May 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to FromAbove (BETA) | Report this review (#769383)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beware of Darkness is in some ways as good as its predecessor The Light. The same influences are present especially Gentle Giant and Genesis. And really the style for the most part is unchanged.

The album starts with a cover of George Harrison's 'Beware of Darkness' for which the album is named. I usually do not rate covers of songs, but I do like what they did with it and do prefer this to the original.

'Thoughts' (9/10) is the first part of a series of songs that would be found on later Spock's records and on Neal Morse's solo album Momentum. The song has an obvious Gentle Giant influence, what with the multipart vocal harmonies and wandering instrumentation. 'Thoughts' has great bass, keyboards, and vocals and remains a staple of the Beard's early sound.

'The Doorway' (10/10) is my personal favorite of the album. It opens with a firth of fifth type piano melody which is later accompanied by synths. From here the song goes through the classic Spock's music of driving bass and catchy melodies before returning to the main melody and ending in dramatic fashion.

'Chatuaqua' (5/10) is a short and fun instrumental entirely on acoustic guitar. There's nothing memorable about it, but it is a pleasant listen.

'Walking On the Wind' (10/10) is a more rhythmically driven song. Dave's bass and Nick's drums are amazing here, as are the vocal melodies. Everything I like about Spock's Beard could be represented in this song.

'Waste Away' (8/10) is another example of Spock's Beard not taking themselves seriously. How could you, with lyrics could like "Some people are like gravy, spilled on God's Sunday shirt." Of course, the music is upbeat and fun too. This is one of their less prog songs, but it's still good nonetheless.

I equate 'Time Has Come' (8/10) to 'The Water' from the first album. Both are good songs and have good ideas, but they also lack cohesion and these ideas just wander.

Overall, Beware Darkness is a great predecessor to the amazing debut and has a lot of good ideas and melodies. But much of what is done on this album was already explored on The Light. Solid nonetheless.

(8/10)

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#771406)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Neal Morse and company honored the principles of symmetry by following their 1995 debut album "The Light" with the complimentary "Beware of Darkness", borrowing the title track from George Harrison (by way of Leon Russell). In this interpretation the song dovetails neatly with Morse's later conversion to a born-again, black-and-white theology, in which 'light' equals goodness and 'darkness' is evil ("...it will kill you", he ad-libs in the overwrought final chorus).

Likewise, the album itself showed hardly any forward evolution, despite the addition of auxiliary keyboard wizard Ryo Okumoto, completing what most fans would consider the classic Beard line-up. If anything the music was even further entrenched in the past. A song like "Thoughts" (yes, it rhymes with "Knots") is self-consciously clever in a Mom, look at me! sort of way, but the instrumental and verbal gymnastics would have been more impressive if GENTLE GIANT hadn't already covered the exact same territory a quarter-century earlier.

It's a pity, because the album works just fine when it isn't aping classic Prog conventions (which, keep in mind, were hardly conventional back in the 1970s). "The Doorway" stands out as a thrilling vehicle for the band's collective skills, flowing from knockout ensemble complexity to equally challenging acoustic interludes and back again, over eleven-plus exhilarating minutes. But even here the extended piano intro was lifted wholesale from GENESIS, circa "Firth of Fifth".

This is a band that sometimes doesn't know when to quit. The big "Supper's Ready" finale to the song "Walking on the Wind", complete with bass pedals and choral mellotrons, sounds artificially inflated instead of ecstatic. The sixteen-minute album centerpiece "Time Has Come" repeats rather than develops any of its (many) themes. And what could have been an effective slammed-door conclusion to "The Doorway" is followed by a rising instrumental coda adding nothing but length to an already fine track: an ongoing refrain in Neal Morse's career.

Add to that the adenoidal melodrama of Morse's singing, as always an acquired taste, and lyrics best described as painfully trite. "Some people are like gravy / spilled on God's Sunday shirt" (from the rousing anthem "Waste Away") is a more or less typical couplet, and wouldn't have sounded so inane if intended as satire, which probably wasn't the case.

But that's Spock's Beard for you. Expect a degree of Prog Rock overkill in every department and you won't be disappointed. Otherwise you might hear only the exhausted efforts of a talented band running too hard in the wrong direction on a fast-moving musical escalator.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#884920)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars For the longest time, I enjoyed later Beard, but not so much the early stuff. Basically, due to the production and audacity of The Light, I was turned off to parts of that album, and I just assumed that those limitations would have carried over into their second album.

Boy, was I wrong, because Beware of Darkness features what I think is the best about the Beard: bombastic melodies, aggressive songwriting, plenty of features for each of the players, and, perhaps most importantly, none of the cringeworthy moments of the debut (and I think we all can agree that a certain part on the Water most definitely qualifies!). I love the production, and each instrument is quite clearly heard.

I am very darn close to giving Darkness a full five stars, but I just can't place this album in that select category. This is one of the rare albums that I honestly enjoy each part of the album, and there are never any "skippy" urges when the albums comes on.

Somewhat ironically, the song I like least (but still enjoy nonetheless) is the opener. However, Thoughts is an all-time prog classic. Clearly we have Gentle Giant influences, but there's no doubt that this has a definite Spock's feel (read: much louder and aggressive). Whoever says the Beard is simply copying Gentle Giant is doing this track a major disservice.

The Doorway and Walking on the Wind are both bursting with creativity regarding instrumentation and melody. With the former, I sometimes wish they would stick with the opening section's groove longer, but the refrain makes it worth the wait. Walking, in my opinion, features the first time that I really have appreciated NDV on drums...he just moves the tempo without ever going full-on Portnoy. Obviously, the more I listen to Big Big Train, I get plenty more instances of this, but this song featured my first realization of NDV's talent.

Time Has Come is a bit of a slow burn, and really the only example of the Beard attempting a song of this style. There's nothing that really grabbed me by the balls the first few listens, but upon further listens, I really love how different sections highlight each player: we have NDV doing some hardcore strutting rhythms, Meros absolutely belting some sections, Neal standing out at times on vocals, and of course Alan doing some gritty, distorted bends that characterize some of his best Beard moments.

All in all, this is one downright solid album, although i would not call it a masterpiece. I would, however, rate it as absolutely essential to fans of the Beard. Don't make my mistake and assume that the flaws of their debut (if you happened to see them as flaws, that is) carried over to their next release!

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#901465)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars As a big fan of history in general, watching and listening to a band growing, developing and evolving record by record is fascinating. Spock's Beard is an excellent example of adaptation and evolution.

Right away, "Beware of Darkness" sounds much crisper, much sharper. The quality is much better. The lyrics are a bit iffy songwriting wise, but the instrumentation is spot on. "Thoughts" is right there in the same wheelhouse. The carnival house 'chorus' is kinda cool, though. It gives the song it's own USP. Even the scattered chord blotches scattered throughout the piece add to the uniqueness of it, making it one of my favorites of this album.

Strangely, though, where the songwriting on "Beware of Darkness" is fairly average, "The Doorway" is the perfect song to weave lyrical majesty over, and Neal Morse does just that. The melodies are perfect, it's not too soft, it's not too harsh, it's a well balanced track. Funny however, though, up to this point that Spock is at it's lyrical, songwriting best when composing longer songs, as opposed to shorter songs. Just something to think about for future reference.

"Chatauqua" is a nice, quick little guitar ballad that sounds very Trans-Siberian-esque in its playing. "Walking On The Wind" is not like that. At all. In fact, the keys sound very ELP from the get-go, perhaps because this is the debut of famed keyboardist Ryu Okumoto. The composition is much more balanced, and the songwriting is improved once again as well. In fact, I can tell that the lengthy tracks on this album are much more balanced, but also better lyrically. It's as almost if Alan and Neal Morse realized that, on shorter tracks (9-11 minutes as opposed to the 23-minute "The Water") that songwriting and lyricism takes center stage over quick changes and sudden displays of musician ship that peppered much of "The Light".

Now, is that a bad thing? Depends. Everyone is going to have their own opinion over this, and has for the past 20 or so years. Some people prefer Neal's songwriting, others prefer the magic made by the instruments these men wield. I, for one, prefer the latter over the former (which is why I'm one of few who prefer the post-Neal Morse Spock albums), but I have no problem with Neal's voice or songwriting. It's just that even with these great, early songs, you can sense a conflict between the songwriting and the composition. Perhaps even in 1997, the wisest prog fan could sense Neal Morse's departure from the Beard, even then?

Yet, we come to "Waste Away", a perfect 90's radio song that's catchy, acoustic-al, Neal's pipes get a center stage showing, and it's a song that's just cool. No, it's not very proggy, but it's a radical departure from "Beware of Darkness" which is only 20 seconds shorter. Here I am, bashing Spock for not being able to be good songwriters for short songs, and yet "Waste Away" completely destroys those notions. So, what do we make of this album?

Perhaps we need to listen to the closer and headliner, "Time Has Come", to get a clearer picture. The intro, much like any Spock epic, is perfect. The atmosphere it sets is perfect, the emotion is there.

And yet, 2 minutes in, the music stops, a guitar comes in and Neal Morse puts on his best Nirvana impression.

It's not bad, but it's just not clean, the transition just isn't smooth. Instead of fading out and in to the guitar, it abruptly cuts out. It just sounds pasted together, much like "Go The Way You Go". Once it's developed, though, the grungy first verse sounds cool. The lyrics definitely fit the mood and attitude. It's just the way it starts that just leaves me feeling confused. The transition out of the grunge phrase is nice and the song continues nicely to the halfway point about 7 minutes in.

Once the fade out and and the synths re-emerge, though, it sounds like a completely different song. The hardcore grunge of the first half is gone, and the hectic, stop-and-turn- on-a-dime routine of "The Light" is back, and there's no reference of the first half at all. Now, obviously, this isn't classical music. There's no recapitulation of the main theme like in a sonata, but it still feels like they recorded the first 7 minutes one day, and then recorded the next 8 minutes some two weeks later and decided to squish them together to create one long song because they haven't recorded an epic on this album similar to "The Light" or "The Water". Neal's grungy voice tries to make a reappearance at the end, but it just doesn't have the same effect as the first time. It just doesn't work.

VERDICT: Spock fan's will surely love this record, but it's not without its faults. "The Doorway" and "Walking On The Wind" are the two big standouts. "Time Has Come" isn't bad, but it's just one of many examples throughout the album where the band is trying to progress musically rather than just technically. Yet there are still songwriting pitfalls, quality issues, and just flat-out question marks in general.

So, really, Spock's sophomore album isn't as good as the first, but its got sparks of future Spock hidden in its genes. It's a transitional album. For the better or for the worse? That's up for you to decide.

Top Tracks: The Doorway, Walking On The Wind, Waste Away

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Send comments to Wicket (BETA) | Report this review (#979962)
Posted Monday, June 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have listened to Spock's Beard's second album Beware of Darkness from 1996 and it contains a lot of pleasant pop symph prog with ingredients to please many listeners. The line ups is Dave Meros (bass, vocals), Nick D'Virgilio(drums, vocals), Neal Morse(piano, guitar, lead vocals), Ryo Okumoto(keyboards, vocals) and Alan Morse(guitars and vocals) and the cover pictures shows an wood look a like frame with a dark hole in the middle with a light.

To let a cover name a whole studio album is not usual but the George Harrison song "Beware of Darkness" which is the first track here has also named the album. I like the cover, it is made in Spock's Beard's typical pop prog way and they have absolutely made something special with the old song. Then comes "Thoughts" a song filled with vocal experiements that SB use to do sometimes with a hint of Gentle Giant in it. It is also a well done and enjoyable track. "The Doorway" whick comes next is one of the album's two best tracks, a wonderful symphonic piece with whirling melodies and a great vocal performance. Good keyboard work here. The other of the two best tracks is "Walking on the wind" of course also a symphonic great track. The longest song "Time has come" also contains very good passages but isn't as coherent as I would wish. "Waste away" is perhaps the most poppy track here, and I find it tastefull as of course the acoustic "Chatauqua" is.

Perhaps I am a little to kind if I give this record four stars but I think that is the best way to express what I feel this record gives the listener. "The Light" or "V" are more extreme and perhaps more interesting but musically this one has the same level.

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Send comments to DrömmarenAdrian (BETA) | Report this review (#1080829)
Posted Sunday, November 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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