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Spock's Beard - Octane CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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3 stars After the slightly disappointing FEEL EUPHORIA album, released soon after the departure of front man Neal Morse (in many people's opinion he was the hub of the band), Spock's Beard have bounced back with what could be thought of as something of a return to form. That said, they are never going to be what they once were, their main material writer having left, so a shift in direction and sound is inevitable.

OCTANE has many of the elements of 'traditional' Beard, although I feel there are elements I find I'm waiting for which never materialize, such as the desire to hear a more prominent part played by keyboard player Ryo Okumoto - they seem happy for him to fill the body of the music with fat string chords and the odd flurry of hammond, but nothing like what Beard fans were treated to 2 or 3 albums ago. The overall shape of the albums is hard rock number followed by soaring ballad followed by hard rock number, or so it seems. There's plenty of Al Morse guitar, but does the song writing do justice to four talented musicians, albeit who until the demise of lead singer Neal Morse were little more than his backing group? Well, in places yes and very much so. The writing in track 1 (The Ballet Of The Impact) leads you to believe that Spock's Beard are back with a vengeance, but the album begins to disappoint a little after that until the monumental track 7 (Of The Beauty Of It All), which I believe Neal Morse would have been proud to have put his name to. The album is worth the listen for this song alone.

Overall a good album, better than their proceeding effort and one where some high octane moments hit you like an echo of the good old days and make you almost feel the euphoria at last.

Report this review (#33526)
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Edited 10/5/2005!

I have to say I liked even "Feel Euphoria" more than this one, although it was already without Neal Morse. Actually it would really be not a bad album, if the band's name would not be Spock's Beard. One could already hear a drop in quality on the last album, but still not that a uncompromising leap into more mainstream hard rock type of music as on this one here and in fact if you wouldn't know that it's Spock's Beard it could be any other unknown mediocre band playing. It doesn't contain almost anything what would be worth comparing with any album before Neal Morse's demise. I have to say neither do I like the harder numbers very much nor the soft ballad type ones. Somehow the complexity of their older stuff is missing and what they delivering here does not deserve the name Prog Rock anymore, maybe Art Rock in the best case or even Art Pop.

Actually the album doesn't open that badly, first track has still quite a strong symphonically textured outline. It's certainly one of the best ones on the whole album. But unfortunately after this one a couple of very weak ones are following ranging from quite straight ahead hard rock type ones like track 3 and 5 or some nice, but meaningless more ballad-esque or atmospheric ones like track 2,4 and 6. Track 7 is the first one showing a bit more what they could do, although starting quite similar to mainstream rock it has some pleasant power in it and reveals as well some symphonic character in its course. After that one there is a track sounding quite like metal in fact, but nevertheless rather good and showing some very good guitar work and percussion. But with track 9 they're returning again to a very much mainstream sounding style as well in the rest of the songs. For me it's very obvious that without Neal Morse they're really missing a good composer and songwriter and for sure if they're going on to produce such records they are not an interesting band anymore for me and even high-class musicians like Ryo Okumoto can't change this. The band lost its mastermind and its soul and I will concentrate on Morse's solo efforts in future which are great as he proved with his new album. Not more than 2 stars for this one!

Report this review (#33527)
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars My reaction on first listening to this new Spock's Beard album was near-hysterical laughter, induced by the grandiose pomposity of the opening arrangements and the almost Seventies-like indulgence that the band seem to have careered off into! Further listening did nothing to dampen this view - it is complete and utter tosh and is well left alone!

Report this review (#33528)
Posted Friday, January 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Contrary to the opinions I'm reading on this site, I personally instantly fell in love with this album. I've heard all of the band's material to date, and I can frankly say that I consider this album to be among the three best Beard albums, together with The Light (and I'm leaving some vacant space for one more album ;-)). I have already reviewed this album on and gave it a 10 out of 10, which is a VERY rare thing for me. I only gave two 10s in 2004.

The band has obviously changed their sound, towards a somewhat more straightforward musicstyle, with lots of more pop-py moments, such as "She Is Everything", "I couldn't Let It Go" and "The Beauty Of It All" but the proggy moments still remain in many songs in "Octane". Also, in "Octane" you're to find some very special (although rare...) orchestral parts, like for example in "The Beauty Of It All". The keyboards remain as good as always and Nick D'Virgillio's voice fits this kind of music incredibly. Moreover, the performances on both the guitar and the drums are among the best I've ever heard from Spock's Beard.

In short, I think this is a very consistent and solid album and I just can't stop listening to it! Simply amazing!

Report this review (#33529)
Posted Friday, January 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is much better than the previous one. The music is surprising and each track has something special. No epics, but solid mediumlength tracks. As usual also a Gentle Giant-like song is included. Some nice symphonic ballads next to heavier stuff. For me, SB is back.
Report this review (#33530)
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars With this album, SPOCK'S BEARD continue to change their sound after Neal Morse left, like they did on 'Feel Euphoria'. But I feel they did a better job on 'Octane': it seems the band are still learning how to write good songs without their former main composer. The result is an album which is more even than its predecessor, mixing good heavier stuff, some folk songs and some prog songs with nice arrangements. Most of the album is pleasant to listen to, but I wouldn't say it's a prog album, rather being a good rock album.
Report this review (#33531)
Posted Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is pathetic. Even worse than the previous album (also with the absence of Neal Morse) Feel Euphoria which had at least a few good, progressive tracks. But this one is pure pop and rock stuff + a couple of tasteless trying-to-be-prog-ideas. Well, alright: NWC is a typical average prog-instrumental and Planet's Hum has a few good moments (almost reminding me of the Neal Morse era), but as a one piece Octane is one of the worst "prog" albums in a long time. I think SB fans should face the reality: the band was based on Mr. Morse and his creativity, so why do you think these side guys alone could maintain the status of the classic Spock's Beard? Each one of them is surely a talented musician, but their capability to create new, timeless prog rock is very limited. These guys would never have made success on their own.

My belief of Spock's Beard's coming back collapsed finally when I heard this album. So if you're not searching some poor radio-rock, do not buy this one.Right now I could almost recommend Feel Euphoria.

Report this review (#33532)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard has been for years one of the top acts in progressive rock, but the departure of Neal Morse would not be without any consequences for this American prog band, as for the late super group TRANSATLANTIC. Not that this group has disbanded, but the influence of 'uncle' Neal was so big, everyone feared that they would never fill up the gap. And indeed, I (and many others with me) was not very euphoric about their first album 'Feel euphoria' after the departure of their leader. But let it not be misunderstood, "SPOCK'S BEARD is back", and how. It starts very promising with a pure progressive introduction, a bit in the vein of THE FLOWER KINGS with a sparkle of KARMAKANIC, where after the song continues in a smoothly way, varied with many keyboards (piano, synthesizer, mellotron), beautiful vocals and an intriguing guitar solo? It even becomes a bit acoustic and 'retro' on op 'I wouldn't let it go', a melodramatic song ending with church organ, has Neal something to do with this? And then the very first surprise of the album arises, probably a cultural shock for die- hard Spock's fans, because from the very first notes of 'Surfing down the avalanche' I have to remind of the musical violence of DREAM THEATER. The tempo changes, the pumping bass and guitar riffs, the fragments played simultaneously by all musicians, dark interplay ŕ la Dead Soul Tribe, they succeed to make a very strong track in less than 4 minutes. But if you really don't like progressive metal, you don't have to despair, because this is the only really 'hard' song of the album, but I would not mind to hear more of that in the near future . What a contrast with 'She's everything', a typical progressive ballad. Sung both beautifully and emotionally, this track tends to be a musical highlight, mainly because of the extraordinary guitar solo, after the first listening this becomes a moment of goose-flesh. SPOCK'S BEARD proves on 'Octane' that progressive rock is not necessarily based on long (read sometimes boring) songs, composition gets the highest priority, so there is no place whatsoever for annoyance! 'Climbing up that hill' is more or less straightforward rock, while Ryo can do his Japanese thing on 'Letting go' by introducing ambient melancholic keyboard sounds. And then it is time again for a next highlight on 'Of the beauty of it all', beginning very quiet but culminating towards true symphonic rock, it seems as if that they have hired a complete symphonic orchestra. Also a special attention for the nice drumming of Nick D'Virgilio, is all seems so easy, but it is damn strong and original.

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

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

Review by Claude 'Clayreon' Bosschem

Report this review (#33533)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars It seems like Spock's Beard is still looking for a new sound after the departure of the alma- mater of the band, Mr. Neal Morse... This album isn't close to their previous efforts (even Feel Euphoria was better) and I didn't saw progressive sounds capturing me... It sounds like Muse, alternative rock without soul. It's a pity, I like the way Nick sings, but it's a waste of time trying to give a good rate to this album only over that matter... A huge disappontment.
Report this review (#33534)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars For me, it's over. This CD is paint-by-numbers music. They should definitely change their name, because this band bears no resemblance to the Spock's Beard of years past. True, four-fifths of the band is the same but it's that one-fifth (Neal Morse) that made all the difference. So many missed musical opportunities here, no development of ideas. This band used to have music that felt like one was opening a Christmas present, unexpected twists and turns, never knowing what was coming next. The only things worth listening to for me are the opening track, the intro to "The Planet's Hum" (just the intro) and "Game Face" off the bonus CD in the Special Edition. "Game Face" especially sounds like it was written off a drum pattern by Nick, albeit a nice one, which makes for a very fusion-sounding number. Do more of this, you'll have me back, but the trend for the last 2 cds is very sad indeed. Consider me gone.
Report this review (#33535)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars C'mon guys , let's face it, Neal is out, gone. Spock's has a new face and a new sound. Stop living in the past. Octane is a good album, with good songs and impecable production. It might not be 100% progressive any more, but whatever. There are 10,000 prog bands around these days that are cloning Genesis / Floyd / Marillion etc , just because they want to put out a "prog" album. Spock's are still able to put on good songs, and just produced a very cool album. I bought it, liked it and will recommend it to anyone with an open mind. If you didn't like it, just go ahead and buy the lastest prog clone in the market with a 53 minute song in it.
Report this review (#33537)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars So this is my first encounter with the "post-Neal Morse-Spock's Beard" for I skipped "Feel Euphoria" as a result of all the negative reviews and the general scepticism. The album seemed to be scatterbrained and somehow destitute, referring to the reviews I read. Now the time of probation is over, or at least; should be. So I was curious what their second album "Octane" would sound like.

Well, you can't say that the band is acting scatterbrained or even destitute any longer, but the album doesn't convince me all the same. The main reason for this appraisement is the low prog proportion and schmaltzy pop songs like "Watching the Tide". After Neal Morse left Spock's Beard I hoped that songs like "All on a Sunday" (For me the embodiment of a schlamtzy Neal Morse song) would wither. "Testimony" confirmed my suspicion that Neal Morse alone is the guilty party for cheesy pop songs on Spock's Beard albums...but unfortunately "Octane" eventually showed that this kind of perception is non-certifiable.

Also "Octane" predominantly contains a lot of pop material but admittedly also some good and interesting parts. The beginning for example is one of these parts and it raised my expectations, unfortunately just to let them down after the second song called "I Wouldn't Let It Go". Together with "Watching The Tide" this song can be regarded as a prime example of Spock's Beard songs I don't like; because they're nothing special, cheesy and therefore quite boring. Most of the other songs are really good pop songs, but from a prog relevant point of view there are definitely too little songs like "NWC" or the first one "The Ballet Of The Impact" among them.

To reach a conclusion: The album can be quite enjoyable in the beginning but due to the pop character it declines everytime you listen to it. It showed that Nick D'Virgilio isn't only a sophisticated drummer but also a very good singer. Spock's Beard found their style and they know what they're doing and what they want to do...regrettably it's nothing I am sold on.

Report this review (#33538)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second release from Spock's Beard without Neal Morse is called "Octane". It is due out Feb 1st in the US. I was a pretty big Spock's Beard fan up until the release of "Snow", where I kind of lost interest for a while. While I eventually got back into "Snow", the shocking news of Neal Morse's departure from Spock's Beard had me worried. I always considered Neal to be the real genius behind the Beard, so I was unsure what to expect when "Feel Euphoria" came out in 2003. When I finally got "Feel Euphoria" I felt it was absolute garbage. What happened to the Beard that I once knew so well?

Well, they are back, sort of. "Octane" restored my faith in this group of musicians. This is the 2nd album with Nick D'Virgilio leading the band, and in many ways he has lead them back to the groove that was present throughout the Morse era, but still falls short in places. Like "Feel Euphoria" and "Day For Night", "Octane" includes an "epic" divided into several smaller sub-sections. "A Flash Before My Eyes" is the name of the epic. It is about someone who sees his entire life flash before his eyes after being hit in a fatal automobile accident. Each movement is another chapter in the lead characters life.

"The Ballet Of The Impact" starts it off and sets the course for the rest of the piece. The main musical theme of this part is repeated several times throughout the epic. It starts with some classic melotron sounds providing atmosphere before quickly heading into the fast paced main theme. It then moves into the vocal section that sets up the story, with Nick sounding a lot like Neal. This is a very effective start to the piece, and to the CD.

The next part is called "I Wouldn't Let It Go. It has an almost western feel to it, and doesn't really work. This piece is pretty pedestrian in nature, and not really effective musically, but serves the purpose of propelling the story forward. "Surfing Down The Avalanche" is a rocker along the lines of Dream Theater that covers life through growing up through puberty and feeling different than everyone else. This piece is an embarrassing display of "rawk". Nick's screaming vocals are forced and contrived. This is clearly the low point of the album, and maybe of the Beard's musical career as well.

Things improve greatly for the next movement, "She Is Everything" a ballad about the lead characters falling in love and marrying. This is one of the stronger moments of "Octane". This perfectly contrasts the raw "Surfing Down The Avalanche" that precedes it. "Climbing Up The Hill" and "Letting Go" continue the story through the trials and tribulation of life. Once again, Nick's vocals seem strained during "Climbing Up The Hill" as he attempts to sound differently than he does normally.

"Letting Go" is a short, dreamy, atmospheric instrumental interlude that leads to the final movement, "Of The Beauty Of It All" which is one of the finest moments of the Beard's career. This "recap" looks at the missed opportunities of life, and the regrets, and finally brings closure to the life of the lead character. The piece starts slowly, and builds up to a climax, until the ultimate end in which the emotion is so strong that the listener is actually one with the music in the final moments of life. Not only is this a perfect ending to the epic, but it holds up extremely well as a single piece of music as well. This is as emotional as the Beard has ever been. This song is worth the price of the CD alone. Nick's vocals are restrained here, and perfect for the emotion of the song. Combined with flowing keyboards from Ryo that build up the emotion before developing into a fast paced instrumental showcase. The focus shifts and the main theme from the beginning is repeated, until the song ends with life fading away.

The rest of the CD contains more conventional songs. "NWC" is a rare instrumental, that reminds me a little of Porcupine Tree in it's construction. "There Was A Time" is a pretty straightforward pop song along the lines of "June" or "Waste Away". It's very infectious and catchy, and works very well for what it is. The highlight of the second half of the album is the very proggy "The Planet's Hum" which starts with an awesome bass line that is soon joined by acoustic guitar and flute. It changes gears drastically to hard metal, similar to "Surfing" but much more tastefully done, before it morphs into an almost classic Beard song from the Morse era. It is somewhat reminiscent of Gentle Giant in its arrangement. This is the second strongest piece on the CD. "Watching The Tide" is a weak piano based ballad that tries to build some emotion but doesn't succeed. The album closes with the fun "As Long As We Ride" which is a fast paced guitar driven song about driving around in the car with friends.

Overall, "Octane" restores my faith in Spock's Beard, as the four man band has shown that they can be creative and survive without Neal Morse, something that wasn't evident with the awful "Feel Euphoria". The musical playing is ambitious and effective throughout. The song writing is a drastic improvement from "Feel Euphoria" but still weak in places. While the embarrassing "Surfing Down The Avalanche" keeps this CD from being a classic, there is enough here for any Spock's Beard fan to enjoy. "Of The Beauty Of It All" is an instant classic and "The Planet's Hum" is prog at it's best.

Report this review (#33542)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars SPOCK'S BEARD continues to gather momentum and change with each album. "Octane" is their heaviest and most diverse since Mr. Morse left the fold. Nick D' Virgilio keeps getting stronger; he has developed into quite a presence in front of the microphone. It makes you wonder why he sat behind the drum kit all those years and never stepped forward. Of course, the rest of the band have followed his lead and adapted their style and strengths to suit his vocal style. On this album, I think they have reached that creative zenith that was just out of their reach on "Feel Euphoria". Yes, the boys have really battened down the hatches on this effort.

This use of the word heavy pertains to every aspect of the CD. Ryo Okumoto (keys), Dave Meros (guitar), Alan Morse (guitar) and D' Virgilio's drums are a force to be reckoned with. The lead off track which is a three part tour de force that takes the band through all the paces, displays every position in the band and their particular talents and how congeals to form their remarkable unit. When the beauty and clarity of "She is Everything" hits you straight between the eyes, you will finally realize that they have moved into some new territory other than progressive rock. This is sophisticated and perfected rock-pop with enough prog around the fringes to keep you interested. I must say that they wear it well and it turned into my favorite cut on the album after a few listens. It has an irresistible charm and rhythm to it, an element that was not evident on previous releases.

I love the cover of this album; it is so simplistic yet so meaningful. It points to where the band is at, not just an indication of their eighth album but the gas pump is symbolic of the unrelenting high-octane energy this band has now, and they invite you to fill up with some of their fuel. I tell you, my first impression of this recording was, Wow! This really rocks, then as you listen more you find that they continue to offer listeners more diversity than ever possible, or expected for that matter. I say this without any wavering. this is one of the best albums SPOCK'S BEARD has ever recorded.

Note: At press time, I did not have the bonus disc but included the tracks for the reader's benefit.

Rating: 9.5/10

Report this review (#33543)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars After Feel Euphoria, I thought ' that's it', the end of a progrock giant. That's why I had seconds thoughts of even listening to Octane. But beining a SB fan, I couldn't resist the journey to the CD-shop. And again I had mixed feelings about the new SB without Neil. After listening a couple of times, I think they did a far much better job than on Feel Euphoria. The intro is breathtaking, very good prog. There are other very good prog songs on it like ' the planet's hum', ' She is everyting', the instrumental ' NWC' en the highlight 'Of the beaty of it all'. There is always a BUT...... There are also songs that are just ordenairy rock songs. 'I wouldn't let it go' sounds like Bon Jovi or even The Eagles. Not my piece of cake. The special edition has a bonus disk with some tracks and a video. Those songs are realy good. If you change those rocksongs on the initial CD with those on the bonus CD, the initial CD would have a 4 star rating.
Report this review (#33545)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sorry, but this is the worse Spocks album ever. This is the first time I have listened to a Spocks album and got absolutely nothing from any of the songs. No hairs on the back of the neck, no huge hooks or melodies and nothing orginal. This is not prog this is AOR and not even good AOR. Why they have a heavy dirge in Surfing... is beyond me as the rest of the album is mainlyvery poor mellow/ballad territory. Yes, Neal has left the band and what a chasm has been left. The last album Feel... at least had progressive elements and Spock's signatures, but this one has been a shock to me.

There is no doubt the band are going in a new direction but is akin to Alan Parsons last album where the overall sound is nothing like the trademark style associated.

I have been with the Spocks since the very beginning and have everything they have done. This will be my last buy as the overall sound is of a band who have lost something major and I do not mean Neal Morse. They are all talented musicians but for some reason it just does not click. Personally, I think the songs are very weak and its unlikely to be played again in my house for a long time. Now for some Beware of Darkness.

Report this review (#33546)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, having read some of the reviews here I felt inclined to give my opinion-does anybody else feel there are some mixed opinions here? When Neal left the band, I initially thought how the hell are Spocks Beard going to continue without him? I left 'Feel Euhporia' alone, I didnt know whether I was going to dissapoint myself or not, so went back to listening such classic albums as 'The Light', and 'Beware of Darkness'. However, upon hearing about 'Octane' I thought of taking a break from The Flower Kings and decided to give Spocks Beard their place back in my heart. My initial reaction to listening to the first track was as I expected-they moved away from their old days. After sitting down thinking 'should I listen on? What am I going to expect?' I thought lets be honest, surely they had to? How could they carry on playing pre-Feel Euphoria without Neal? Lets give this album a shot... And im very happy I did. After 'I wouldnt let it Go' I started to get used to this New Spocks Beard. Nick was better than I expected stepping into the front mans shoes. Then 'Surfing Down the Avalanche' hits you bang in the face. The riffs are kinda angry (Spocks Beard, angry? Bearing in mind I havent heard Feel Euphoria yet), the tempo changes are just right, a thoroughly enjoyable track. But then 'She is Everything'. I fell in love with this song when I first heard it, its a lovely prog ballad. nick performs it ever so well, the tune just flows along wonderfully, and the band I feel put all their heart and soul into this one. If youre in love with someone, this is one of those songs which reminds you of why you fall in love in the first place. Back into the swing of things,'Climbing up that Hill' comes on. You fall out of your coma from 'She is Everything' and your back on the road with this fairly simple, but enjoyable song. I will not review the rest of the tracks because I think you have to make your own opinion on what hear from there. The only thing I will say is that after hearing the whole album, 'As Long As We Ride' reminds you how much you enjoy rock, and especially how much you enjoy Spocks Beard. Ar, the CD's finished...hang on, was that Spocks Beard? Wow, yeah it was! Im not dissapointed. I can listen to that again. And I will :D And d o you know what? I went out and bought Feel Euphoria and thoroughly enjoyed that too. Thumbs up from me for the New Spocks Beard. I can see where some people got dissapointed, but come on people-if you really do enjoy the power of the Beard, give this a chance. I thought I wasn't going to like it and indeed I was unsure at first but I'm so happy I gave it a chance. If this is your first Spocks album, you may want to get Feel Euphoria next, get used to this and that before moving to thier old stuff-its a lot different so brace yourself, but Im sure you'll enjoy it as much as we do. The Beard sitll have my support, and as much as miss the old sound, the new sound is just as enjoyable. Now remember to turn 'As Long As we Ride' up as loud as you can, rock on peoples! Matty :)

Report this review (#33547)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard has opted to offer 4-7 minutes songs instead of quenching my proggy thirst with 10+ minutes of refreshing mix juice of cerebral sounds. Very disappointing. However, of the short songs that they packed in Octane, three are immediately stood out: The Ballet of the Impact (track 1), NWC (track 8) and The Planet's Hum (track 10). The first song has a very inviting intro, and it is very typical Beard style, with different vocalist (who did a good job in this song, while in a number of times in some songs he sounds too poppy). A very good song, I should say. The second song from this good list is an instrumental outing, and a very powerful one. It is hard to describe this superb song, but I felt like listening to Dream Theater's Stream of Consciousness (of Train of Thought), where the similarity lies in fact that both are a musical tour de force made by a bunch of seasoned musicians. The third song begins with a country feel during the intro which then twisted into a rock parade. This could be acknowledged as a new Beard sound developed by a much band-oriented songcraftmen.

Another stand out is Of the Beauty of It All (track 7), mostly because Ryo plays astonishing keyboard parts. Just listen to his part during this song and you'll get the proggy drink you need to quench your thirst (if you close your eyes, you will detect the presence of Neal Morse, ha ha ha). The rest of the songs, 8 of them, are average progsongs. However for anyone who has a soft spot for slow song, you will find a beauty in She is Everything (track 4).

In all, it is a good album, better than Feel Euphoria although still below the par of V and Snow. If you knew the history of this band, you may probably consider this as change of sound direction, progressing to a new progsound which is a right thing to do. (Nirarta, Indonesia)

Report this review (#33549)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of the two Neal-less Spock's Beard albums, Octane is a much stronger album than Feel Euphoria. I think FE was the band trying to get an idea of what direction they wanted to go in, while Octane has them settling on a direction and running with it.

The editing of the album is notably stronger this time around. Whereas FE had some songs that might have run a little long, Octane tends to arrange all the various pieces of the proverbial puzzle together perfectly. Some tracks that by themselves might have been kind of "eh" were optimized by their placement. (The overly mellow Watching The Tide helps to balance out the overly straightforward As Long As We Ride, for example.)

The strong points of the album are A Flash Before My Eyes (particularly the bookends of this multi-part track) and The Planet's Hum (this one is brilliant progressively, running the full spectrum of emotions).

I think lyrically, Spock's Beard owes a huge debt to John Boegehold. His collaboration with the band (particularly bassist Dave Meros) helped to produce some very impressive lyrics.

Report this review (#33550)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let's start by getting a couple of things off my chest: I have been writing and playing prog all my adult life, not just listenling to it. I'll also admit to being one of the guys who, after hearing the Beard in support of FE, was standing up (with the rest of the crowd, mind you) yelling "Neal WHO?" (Love ya, Neal, and love the solo efforts too, but this is about the Beard and Octane)

Is this an end-all-be-all prog masterpiece? No, but the Beard IS back and if they are saying anything, it's probably that they are going to be around for quite a while to come.

Octane is both more energetic than was FE and, yes, definately more pop rock than prog in places... To the purists hereabouts: SO WHAT? Ever hear of Big Generator or ABACAB?

There is some damn fine songwriting here and NDV's vocal chops are really starting to shine. Many of the old familiar elements are here, insturmentally and vocally, but there is an edge to the writing and playing that is interesting, and warrants time to develop. The guitar work is especially edgy, bordering on angry at times... fun...

I could dissect each track into time signatures, chord progressions, lyrical meanings, yadda, yadda, yadda, hep yadda... I'll leave that to folks with a lot more time on their hands.

Bottom line for the faint of heart: go buy it... give it a fair listen... then go back and run through the catalog, from The Light on out thru Snow and Feel Euphoria, then listen to it again. Even if it doesn't bowl you over on first listen, it'll have you fairly well hooked the second time thru, lather rinse, repeat.....

Report this review (#33551)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well its a good score as a normal pop-rock issue, but obviously If I liked to regard this one as work in progress I should rather say it's a failed attempt to innovate the best (actually this is valid for a few albums) prog stuff from Neal Morse...I know that since the publication of works such as "The Kindness of Strangers" , moreover by considering a good part of the material inside "A day for night", their music was regarded more pop rock oriented-sometimes in the vein of blues rock- than any other bands of the new progressive era in the USA. Their previous rock album with a few hints of the old progressive breaks through (the first one without N. Morse) was better, above all the prosecution after Neal, the music being their usual strong impact on the common listener, as a matter of fact...but this time these new S.B. are a different thing...there's no trace of their typical style and this fact is able to affect my opinion (the score should be inferior if S.B. were still a prog band).

This is not prog music,but you could choose to hear a different modern stuff from a normal band of our times, which is not bad anyway!

Report this review (#33553)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have the special edition, and though it doesn't really hit you at first, there is some pretty good stuff in this album. it's nothing compared to SNOW, but I'm still impressed; they're holding up pretty well after the loss of Neal Morse. There's more neat stuff on the Bonus Disc, too (i.e. "Follow Me To Sleep").

Overall, it's worth a listen if you're a SB fan, but don't expect anything mind-blowing.

...although I must say, I still laugh whenever I hear the line "I was like a monkey with my hand stuck in a jar"

Report this review (#39321)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
King of Loss
3 stars This is Spock's Beard's 8th studio album and 2nd one without co-founder and main songwriter Neal Morse. The remaining members of Dave Meros, Alan Morse, Ryo Okumoto and Nick D'Virgilio do all the songwriting and here is the result we get, Octane. Octane starts off with a bang, trumpets, a semi-full orchestra and blaring guitars and drums. All slams you until Nick DV starts singing, a significant difference is shown from the last album, Feel Euphoria and the times of Neal Morse. Spock's Beard is now playing with a much heavier tone and hard-driven guitar is used on songs such as Surfing down the Avalanche, which I believe is the heaviest song they've ever made with fast-pace drumming, fast-pace bass, crunching guitars and howling vocals by Nick D'Virgilio rather surprisingly good voice. In Octane, Dave Meros's (Bass) writing talents were clearly shown. His bass lines and crafting of music is much better than it was ever before. Octane also showcases brilliant singing by Nick D'Virgilio, the drummer and the current singer of Spock's Beard. His voice is quite soothing and brilliant-sounding and has increasingly improved since his performance on Feel Euphoria. The symphonic arrangements done by John Boegehold implicates an interesting and moody atmosphere on Octane. Overall, I must say, Octane is a good release, but is not the best Spock's Beard release. It, however, surely was better than Feel Euphoria and surpassed my quite low expectations of this album. A rating of about 3 1/4 stars, rounded down to 3 stars is fitting for the change in tone. Surely, sometimes it was poppy and sometimes Progressive Metal-like, but it shows how a band can change their sound dramatically and not decline massively. Sure, Spock's Beard would be better off with Neal Morse, but Octane shows that the band would be not be just a push-over and will continue to be quite impressive.
Report this review (#40638)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is really diverse in styles as it has a blend of hard rock bands like Audioslave, Led Zeppelin; Southern rock bands like Bloodrock, Lynyrd Skynyrd; neo progressive like Marillion, IQ; and of course the sounds of Spock's Beard. The track that is really killing me is "Of The Beauty of It All". Oh man . what a melodic song this one is. I enjoy the neo prog style of this song especially during opening part and the floating keyboard sounds produced. It's so terrific! It reminds me to Marillion "Misplaced Childhood" album. The other track that also attract me is "The Ballet Of The Impact", "Surfing Down The Avalanche". Dave Meros plays wonderful bass lines in "Climbing Up That Hill". The vocal quality of Nick d'Virgilio is in my opinion much better than Neal Morse. This album proves that the band still can do excellent compositions despite the departure of Neal Morse to pursue a solo career. Recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Report this review (#40786)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Best of 2005!

I can honestly say that I can give an unbiased and free-from-Neal Morse-legacy review since this was the first album I boughtand listened to in its entirety from SB. Before that it has just been a few odd songs. In a time period of 4 weeks I bought all SB studio albums, and three NM solo albums and both Transatlantic!!! I have now listened to them several times, and I feel ready to state my points of view on Octane.

First of all, SB is my absolute favorite band for the moment, 90% of what I listen to now is SB, NM or Transatlantic.

Back to Octane. I was completely blown away from my first listening. Fantastic vocals and musicianship and a very compleeing muix of different styles. Song like The Ballet of the Impact and even more Of the Beauty of it All are incredible and deserve a place among the finest of SBs songs.

Seems like the songwriting pair of Dave Meros and Boegehold is a dynamic one.

Having in mind that I have listened to all SB albums over a relatively short period, and totally unbiased, I now thing that Octane is their best album, an opinion I probably won't share with too many people. I have the special edition and the only negative thing I can say is that the second disc is a little bit too much of a filler. Otherwise 9.5/10!

Report this review (#46505)
Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Octane" by Spocks Beard is much better than Feel Uphoria. It seems they are finding their footing after the departure of Neal Morse. I still think it lacks the "soul" of previous Spocks Beard records but I believe they have found a great direction and should continue down that road. Nick is getting better as a singer and his drumming speaks for itself. Dave, Alan and Ryo are always at their best and on "Octane" they continue to shine.
Report this review (#49670)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars Spock's Beard's main problem was always the heavy AOR leanings of its vocal sections. Where they would produce some blistering instrumental bits, they almost inevitably dragged them down with verses and choruses that could have sat comfortably on any Styx or Toto album. Seeing as former band supremo Neal Morse's solo album contained great dollops of that same thing, without much in the way of Proggery, I figured that maybe a Morseless Beard could produce something that wasn't as mainstreamy as all that.

Boy, was I wrong. This is in parts pathetic, in others laughable. Treacly ballads and mundane Hard Rock tunes abound, and though there are som Prog aspects to be found, they're pointless when stuck in with such American Radio-influenced fare. Too bad, because this is where they had the chance to really become a proper Progressive Rock band, rather than Rock With Fiddly Bits.

Report this review (#61874)
Posted Monday, December 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excelent Album, with this album, SPOCK'S BEARD demonstrates that they don't need Neal Morse to do good discs. Definitively the musical line of the band is different without Neal, probably less progressive, but definitively of equal quality.
Report this review (#64641)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Writing this review, I have very little knowledge of Spock's Beard prior to Octane. This may be a good circumstance, though, due to the common bias against the band after Neal Morse departed. Octane is an album of both incredible moments and horrible mediocrity. The inconsistency of the tracks lends itself well to some individual songs, but it definately detracts from what could have been one of the top albums of 2005.

Where Octane excels is in its opening epic, A Flash Before My Eyes. While the song is indexed into seven parts and multiple movements, it should definately be considered and enjoyed as one piece. The beautiful song tells the tale of a man who is on the verge of dying in a car accident, and a reflection of his life as it, well... flashes before his eyes. Spock's Beard really pulled this story off without the smallest bit of cheesiness. I don't want to spoil anything, but I truely sympathised with the main character of the story.

The entirety of the epic, along with most of the album, has a decidedly classic rock feel coupled with some classical elements. The variety and beauty of the instrumentation is astounding in typical Spock's Beard fashion. You'll hear everything from a french horn to a saw blade played with a violin bow.

And surprisingly, it all works.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the remaining tracks. NWC is a mediocre and repetitive instrumental at best, The Planet's Hum is interesting, but just doesn't have much direction or cohesiveness, and As Long As We Ride is probably the worst possible song to choose for the album closer aside from its lyrical relation to the album title.

On the other hand, the two remaining songs, There Was A Time and Watching The Tide, are both exceptional songs, and I'll admit to being obsessed with them for certain periods of time. There Was A Time is a typical classic rock song with a bit of progressive styling in the middle. That fact, along with some wonderful vocal melodies, definately makes this song a winner. Watching The Tide is simply put, a beautiful ballad that really ramps up near the end.

I applaud the band for a tremendous effort aside from the songs that I personally believe to be filler content. Anyone can tell that they are still searching for their own sound after their leader abruptly left for other creative opportunities. As an album, Octane's tank is only 3/5 full, but I have a strong feeling that Spock's Beard is just pulling into the gas station.

Report this review (#79419)
Posted Friday, May 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is their second album after the departure of Neal Morse and Nick D´Virgilio does one hell of a great job on vocals. I prefer his voice to Neal Morse because of his sheer range and passionate siging. They are also much tighter as a band on this album.

"A flash before my eyes" is already regarded as a classic Beard song, about ones life flashing before them as they are involved in a car accident. If this doesn´t move you, not much will!

"I wouldn´t let it go" is the only AOR trace I hear on this album, but it fits in so well with the track listing.

"Surfing down the avalanche" is where things really start to rock! Some great vocals from Nick and tight playing from the band.

"She is Everything" contains one of the best guitar solos ever! This is one solo I just wish would go and on. Alan Morse sounds a bit like Gilmour on this solo, brilliant!!

"Climbing up that hill" is about the struggles one encounters in their twenties and thirties. It really has a positive message.

"Letting Go" has some surreal sounding keyboards from Ryo Okumoto, great to listen to on headphones!

"Of the beauty of it all" is one of those songs that just touches your soul. Some people have even said this song brings a tear to their eyes!

"NWC" is a tight instrumental, and when I say tight, I mean Dream Theater tight! These guys can really play!

"There was a time" is a song about looking back on ones life and realizing what you have learned from this experience. Great lyrics!

"The Planets Hum" is another fine example of the song writing skills of this band, it´s rare to find great musicians (no weak link here!) and great songwriters in the same band.

"Watching the tide" is a soft slow song showing that Nick can not only sing the rocking numbers, but can deliver an emotional performance second to none.

"As long as we ride" is a strange song for the ending of this album and to be honest is a bit of a letdown after such strong compositions, so this average sounding basic rocker spoils the ending of this album.

If you like prog with a bit of oomph, this album is for you.

Report this review (#86522)
Posted Thursday, August 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.0 Stars.

The cover makes me think that Spock's Beard has ran out of gas.

After a very promising album that followed Neal Morse's departure, I thought that their next album was going to be better. Unfortunately, like Genesis after Peter Gabriel left, the quality decreased after each album. The music is still the same style: a mixture of pop, hard rock, alt rock, and prog. However, the prog factor decreased.

The first 7 songs are like an epic musically and lyrically the first songs are related and are about a guy having a flash of memories when about to die in a car crash.

The Ballet has to be a classic song for the band and is the strongest song of Octane. It has the punch, the emotion, and the virtuosity of Feel Euphoria. The piano and mellotron dominate the track. I Wouldn't Let it Go is a pretty pop song, nothing more. Surfing The Avalanche is a hard rocker with a groovy bass line yet awkward harsh vocals in the style of "Tool" that don't really work here. She is Everything is an overlong ballad without any redeeming qualities besides the great mellow guitar solo. Climbing That Hill is a forgettable uptempo rocker. Letting Go is a showcase of the mellotron and is done quite well. Of The Beauty of it All is the other highlight of the album. A beautiful prog ballad with outstanding keyboard playing and some sudden heavy sections that just rock your socks off! NWC is a heavy instrumental, as heavy as metal. As a result, it is an interesting song coming from the Beard. There was a Time is a forgettable acoustic AOR ballad. The Planet's Hum has an interesting song structure with lots of changes though most of the sections are uninteresting musically speaking. Watching the Tide is another AOR sounding song that doesn't make me feel anything besides being horrified that it sounds like Coldplay. As Long As We Ride is a decent closer with some good riffs, the "something funny" vocal hook, and good background keyboards.

So, I conclude saying that this album is pretty ok, but disappointing for a prog band. This is really not a prog album, it is more like a mixture of classic rock with AOR, some Spock's Beard and some alt.rock. I do not recommend this album to anyone.

Highlights: The Ballet of the Impact, Of The Beauty of it All, NWC

Let Downs: Climbing That Hill, There Was a Time, Watching the Tide.

My Grade : D

Report this review (#87633)
Posted Friday, August 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Because this is the band's second release after Neal Morse left, I consider this the sophomore effort of a developing band. And what an effort it is. Normally we don't think of a band's eighth release, regardless of whether the group is one less or not, as the start of something new. Nevertheless, I would argue that Neal Morse's influence was so strong on their previous records that his leaving is tantamount to the band's starting over. And when we listen to this album, we can definitely hear a band experimenting with a new sound. Neal Morse's signature synthesizer runs are gone, and instead we find a mixture of atmospheres both powerfully rocking and symphonically complex. Spock's Beard has always made use of outside musicians in their albums, but the horns and strings we here on Octane lean more toward the orchestral than ever before.

If I had to sum up this album in one sentence, I would say that it is the most varied and arguably the most complex of all SB releases. Sure there are some simpler straight-up rockers here, but they complement the bigger, more orchestral pieces perfectly. Then there is "She is Everything," arguably the best simple Spock's Beard song ever made with an equally moving guitar solo by Alan Morse. Unfortunatly, this album hasn't received the praise that it deserves from reviewers on this site. I may be wrong, but I would assume that the 70's prog bias on this forum may be to blame for the mediocre rating. Unlike Neal Morse's work, there is nothing retro about this album. In fact, I hear experimental sounds here that I feel should help to drive the progressive rock of this decade. Let's stop looking back and embrace the music of the new millenium. I find it here with Spock's Beard's Octane.

Report this review (#96261)
Posted Monday, October 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is actually the first Spock's Beard album that i got, so i can't compared this album with their other works. This album opens with an epic called 'A Flash Before My Eyes'.The epic itself speaks about a man that facing his death because a car accident and somehow got a reflections of his past, that described in 7 tracks. The album itself has a lot of variety in style between each tracks. For example, the track 'I Wouldn't Let it Go' sounds like a ballad/pop songs, while 'Surfing Down the Avalanche' is a heavy rock track. I think the band do a great job here in compossing the songs, and the lyrics itself also well written IMO. Some of the songs sound like a ballad, or even a pop song here, but i think it work well with the other tracks. Overall, a very nice album, doesn't really have a weak tracks IMO. Good musicianships as well as composing and lyrics writing. It's really worth a try.
Report this review (#105099)
Posted Monday, January 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Octane was Spock's Beard's appropriately titled eighth studio album and their second with D'Virgilio at the helm. This is definitely an improvement over their awful Feel Eurphoria album as the band now shows more cohesiveness and maturity. Still, it's hard not to notice that it doesn't live up to the quality of the albums from the Morse era, but I have to give them credit for improving things. It still seems like they're wandering about in a state of confusion. Like on Feel Euphoria, there is a heavy dose of AOR and a more heavier sound.

The main highlight of Octane is the seven-part suite called "A Flash Before My Eyes." This epic has a feel and structure similar in scope to The Healing Colors of Sound (from Day for Night). The song seems like it consists of separate entities, but they're tied together by musical and lyrical concepts. The rest of the album contains mostly radio-friendly AOR material, except for NWC. The two disc special edition contains even more radio-friendly AOR material that didn't make the cut for the single-disc version.

Die-hard Spock's Beard fans will enjoy the special edition, the rest of you might consider only the single-disc version. For the uninitiated, I would recommend starting with one of their first five studio albums. Good, but hardly essential.

Report this review (#151728)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars As good, and perhaps slightly better than Feel Euphoria, Octane shows the Beard furthering their creative discovery post-Neil, and depending on where the listener is coming from, is a fine show creative and emotive playing.

Negative criticism often complains of the overtly pop veneer to the band's new sound-- which I admit, is catchy-- but there is plenty of ambitious, dynamic stuff happening in between D'Virgilio's moments of (excellent) crooning. For those of us who feel progressive music isn't confined to the mold the band fit into during their early era, Octane possess plenty of music to satisfy, from dark walls of guitar sound, like on Surfing Down the Avalanche or NWC to soaring sing alongs like Planet's Hum and There Was a Time. Honestly, the variety in this album is one of the big draws for me, as is fine songwriting the band demonstrates in either field.

Nick's voice is perfectly suited to either, and Octane possess an infectious and genuinely uplifting quality which will please those with an open enough mind to approach it without the pretentious baggage that often comes with being a fan progressive music.

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

Report this review (#161710)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Almost a crashing halt

The second album by post-Morse Spock's Beard [SB] (and it is important to tell the two apart) is a very different offering from the band indeed. This one is a concept album - almost rock album that tells the story of a man in a car crash reliving his life. Now let me just say this: I wanted to love this album. I really wanted to get into it because the concept was something I found to be excellent, and some of the songs are very good indeed. Take for example the first lyrics that hit the audience, ''the windshield explodes/like a bomb packed with diamonds''. Absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the album has a lot of problems and while the album is not inherently horrible, nor bad by any means, this is an album that - if you're not a fan of the band you might not ''get it''.

What's also strange about the album is this that while SB is a band that usually likes to make things as long and drawn out as possible (in their symphonic fashion) this one sticks to the short tracks and nothing even hits the 7-minute mark. This is likely because the album was meant to be taken as a whole, but it just means that you shouldn't expect any sprawling compositions coming into the album. Really, everything is shorter and at points rockier. There's a sharp contrast in the songs, as they range from some of the heaviest stuff the band has ever done such as Surfing Down The Avalanche to stuff that is much more lo-key like I Wouldn't Let It Go.

Indeed, if you never liked SB because of their slight AOR twinges before then you'll not be a fan of this one. It's the slowest (on the whole) from the band to date and it has more of those AOR feelings than any other record they've put out. This isn't always bad though, some of the slower (more radio friendly) tracks are quite good. Take for example She Is Everything which is am emotional track that fits in quite well with the album.

Of course there's also a couple very good heavier tracks as well. The album is home to one of the better SB songs ever to be written (albeit more of a rock song) in the form of Climbing Up That Hill with its incredibly catchy chorus that creeps under your skin and just induces pure enjoyment. A couple of the later songs are quite good as well such as the heavy instrumental NWC the very cool The Planet's Hum and the fun closer As Long As We Ride which all should make any SB fan smile.

But that's really the problem with the album is that it's geared very much towards fans and while the fans may get a huge kick out of it the world will likely just shrug this one off and go in search of material elsewhere. Ironically, this is likely the least progressive album from the band, more of a soft/hard rock opera for the masses and non-fan listeners might be turned off by that. However, if you are a fan then you'll likely get a kick out of this one - but it may never be your favorite by the group. 3 gas pumps out of 5, a lot of things to like about it, but if you're not already a fan then I suggest you start somewhere else in the band's discography. Fans will still like it, though.

Report this review (#173020)
Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is the worst Spock's Beard album by a long shot, in my book. One song--ONE SONG--on the entire album struck my interest at all. The rest are simply standard compositions (and I'm not even saying mere pop, just absolutely uninteresting songwriting). The Planet's Hum is a rather neat song, but I was fooled by the epic suite of the first seven songs into thinking that the music will be going places on here. It doesn't. It merely panders around while the band searches for a sound that is completely separate from the Morse-ness that still pervaded Feel Euphoria. Trust me, any album before this and the self titled after it are far more entertaining, lasting, and listenable.

It gets a single star, and while I feel kind of heartless rating it that way, I have to point out that as far as 2008, this is the band's lowest point in terms of every sort of musicality ever.

Report this review (#173761)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars First Review!

Ah, Octane. Another album where I realized that listening to other people's opinions and the popular consensus is an absolutely stupid idea. I've experienced this with a lot of modern progressive albums in particular, The Perfect Element, The Human Equation, Octane, City, and millions of others until a friend of some sort nudged me in the albums direction and I gave it an honest lesson. I suppose I learned my lesson regarding the popular consensus regarding music, especially when you view the mainstream as a mirror.

I didn't. On to the review. Octane is a bit of a special album for me. Its an album I instantly grew in love with. It didn't have to work hard to gain listens and its essentially simple, but fantastic. Nick D'virgillo does his part very well, and I can't say I expected to hear a song like Surfing down the Avalanche by these guys at all. The first 7 tracks have a great flow to them, with the theme of a man reminiscing about his life after a car crash. Realizing whats important to him, what he lost, and most important of all, he wouldn't change a thing.

Track by Track Play The Ballet of the Impact - It starts by blowing your mind with a great eerie sound, accompanied by a rush of energy through the guitars and the drums until the piano melts the song into the meat, with great vocals by Nick, and excellent lyrics to boot. I've got nothing to complain about here. I wouldn't let go - A simple song, extremely poppy but extremely effective. An acoustic guitar tells the story of a stupid kid, as we all were. The song builds itself up, growing more passionate as it goes on. It reeks of nostalgia and even has me floating through my memories. The near end of the song is probably one of my favorite parts of a Spock's Beard song period. Definitely on top for me. Guess I'm a pop boy after all. Surfing Down the Avalanche - A great, harsh rock and roll song that tends to make my hair a mess and give a bolt of energy. Nick's vocals are probably at their best here, as I doubt Morse could ever deliver something like this. A good song, but not entirely great. She is Everything - Synths and sound bytes start the song, flowing itself into an emotive song about his wife, the most important thing, the thing he fears losing the most. A great guitar solo comes in towards the end that puts the icing on the cake. Climbing up that hill - An upbeat song about getting bored with life and finding new passions, as I interpret it. The chorus is extremely catchy, and you can groove with it. A pretty effective song, but not entirely great. It kind of breaks the mood flowing from she is everything, but it works out. Letting Go is a short song, meshing everything together and letting us float to the epics conclusion. It has slightly dreamlike and nostalgic, almost tragic sound. The Beauty of it All lets everything go and concludes the theme carried throughout the tracks. Life is beautiful because it is spontaneous, and fleeting. An endlessly repeated yet highly relevant theme, with some reoccuring sounds from the first track coming back to haunt us here. A reprise with a more intense force and a conclusion that was well worth the journey and the wait. NWC is an instantly forgettable instrumental. I can't say much more about it, its got some great things about it and would probably knock me off my feet live, but as far as instrumentals go. It seems very out of place on the album, and on my first listens, I would eventually wind up hopping to another album about here. Of course, I let it grow on me, but first time listeners might not be willing to give the latter half of this album a second chance. There was a time is another song that strikes a chord with me, much like I wouldn't let go. Its simple, but extremely effective. Its an upbeat song looking back on one mans life, on what he loved and lost. Theres nothing remarkable to say about it, but I still love it to pieces. The Planets Hum is another forgettable song. Perhaps because it takes so long for it to get started, but when it does, we get a pretty solid song. Good vocal harmonies and melodies. Watching the Tide - The piano starts the track, with the vocals coming in softly and slowly. Its haunting and somewhat depressing, and explodes towards the end. A very emotional delivery, and a fantastic way to the end the album on a good note.

As long as we ride makes me wish they actually did. I often forget this track exists and end the album with the forementioned song, so I can't say much about this one.

In closing, I'd say this album isn't exactly perfect. Its not a Spock's Beard album, nor is it all that much of a progressive album. But it is effective, emotional, and played very well. Its not the great album of all time or even the greatest spock's beard album, but it is a CD I will probably listen to until the end of my life. I don't imagine this album would've been anything near what it was without Nick's voice doing the singing. It lifts my spirits and reacts with my emotions and my memories. I can't ask for much more from the music I listen to.

Report this review (#181604)
Posted Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I do think this is better than "Feel Euphoria" but there are still songs I can't get into. The first seven tracks are part of a mini concept, these songs relay a man's thoughts as his life flashes before his eyes (while he's dying) after getting into a car accident. I found this very interesting, and for the most part well done. I just think they did an excellent job with the lyrics and notes with this suite. The music for me is hit and miss though.

"The Ballet Of Impact" opens perfectly with mellotron strings, before some theremin and then a full sound comes in. Mellotron is back a minute later with piano to follow. Drums and mellotron 3 minutes in before vocals arrive. Gilmour-like guitar and mellotron before it ends. Just an amazing track ! "I Wouldn't Let It Go" features strummed guitar and vocals. It gets fuller but this is all about the lyrics. Female spoken words and organ end it. "Surfing Down The Avalanche" is where they "rock it" pretty good. Deep bass and an almost sludgy sound 1 1/2 minutes in. Love that section. "She Is Everything" opens with some atmosphere as mellotron comes and goes. Vocals 2 minutes in followed by more mellotron. Some meaningful lyrics on this one. Beautiful guitar 5 minutes in. "Climbing Up that Hill" is a good song with some excellent drumming and bass throughout. The vocals sound different on this one. I like it !

"Letting Go" for me is the absolute highlight on this album. Sure it's less than 2 minutes but it's so emotional as the mellotron flows beautifully. "Of The Beauty Of It All" features reserved vocals and is laid back. Mellotron and heavy drums come in around 1 1/2 minutes. It's uplifting after 3 minutes when the trumpets come in. He died. "NWC" opens with lots of atmosphere. Mellotron a minute in as minor riffs come and go. Tempo picks up with some crazy synths. "There Was A Time" features strummed guitar and vocals. Mellotron comes in. Full sound 1 1/2 minutes in. Not a fan. "The Planet's Hum" sounds great after a minute when the heaviness arrives. Organ, bass and drums stand out. It does lighten. "Watching The Tide" is a song I can't get into at all. Maybe if Neal was singing ? Not sure about that. Piano and high pitched vocals. "As Long As We Ride" is better.

3.5 stars. I like this record quite a bit actually. It's just hard not to compare it with what went before when rating it.

Report this review (#184993)
Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Had this album been created and released prior to Neal Morse leaving Spock's Beard, I think many progressive rock fans would have been way more receptive to it. With the exception of "There Was a Time," the songs after the main event (the first seven tracks), are fairly uninteresting, at least to me, but the main segment blows me away. Each individual piece may not be "progressive rock" according to most purists, but once the big picture is taken into consideration, this proves to be a great little album, and one that has made me think about my life a few times. The opening track alone is a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

"The Ballet of the Impact" That first breath of dark Mellotron ushers in some menacing guitar and synthesizer over a heavy drum beat, and then comes in the main, screeching guitar theme. The intensity builds until things quiet, and only the Mellotron remains. Thoughtful piano enters, leading to another main theme of the album. The bass work and swelling Mellotron are excellent thereafter, as it prepares the listener for the very reflective vocals. The music appropriately degenerates into a hazy nothingness, carrying the narrator- a man in his prime- back to the beginning of his life.

"I Would Not Let it Go" This one describes the childhood memories of the protagonist, and is wonderful acoustic rock song. The simplicity works well in that vein, and is a pleasant contrast to the tapestry of the previous track.

"Surfing Down the Avalanche" Appropriately, this angst-ridden, I-hate-my-parents" song describes the teenage memories. It's at once grating and horrific, a frenzied, but moderate-tempo rocker.

"She is Everything" The angry teenager becomes softer and gentler, and the music reflects this. Tranquil but anticipatory atmospheres assume control, leading to one of the best romantic songs this band ever did, and it features a soulful guitar solo.

"Climbing Up That Hill" Now the young man is a father laden with the stress of a family, bills, and the troubles of life- it's a stark contrast to the beauty of the previous song, both lyrically and musically, and one can't help but realize how close to real life this is. The bass drives the music on throughout, and the acoustic guitar is a good touch.

"Letting Go" In less than two minutes, the end of the life of the narrator is guided by the heavenly sounds of a Mellotron.

"Of the Beauty of it All" The melody of the initial piece returns over a dirge-like keyboard. The synthesizer solo is the highlight of the music. All the major motifs of the first track come back to haunt us though, and beautifully so- this is a death after all. And yet, the music is given new life with amazing bass work and different inflections and instrumentation from each musician. This concludes the suite of the album, and I find it to be a heartfelt and graceful piece of progressive rock in its own way, but there's more?

"There Was a Time" An excellent acoustic-based hard rock song with a great hook, this has some lush Mellotron in the backdrop and unimpeachable harmonies.

"The Planet's Hum" Providing a change of pace for a bit, we get a great bass solo accompanied by other instruments (like the Mellotron in "flute mode"). Then it's back to the hard rock again. This is actually my least favorite track on the album; other than the interesting introduction, it's rather insipid, although still good to listen to in the course of hearing the album. It does end rather abruptly, however.

"As Long as We Ride" One final straightforward rock song concludes this record. There's an interesting vocal (almost scat) bit in the middle, but it's brief. Overall, this song is forgettable, but doesn't take from the greatness that came prior.

Report this review (#218796)
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Octane is so far the only post Neal Morse Spock's Beard album that I own. I cannot say that I am in much of a hurry to run out and get any more at this point. I might later, it isn't a total turn off, but it has been moved down the priority list.

The first part of the album is made up by the multi-track epic "A Flash Before My Eyes." Right away one of the first things which I notice on this album when I put it up against the likes of say V or Snow is how much weaker it is lyrically. In a word I would say it's cheesy; with lines like "Dancing through the land mines" or "Like a bomb packed with Diamonds." I am bringing this up here in my introduction because is a criticism I can extend to all the songs on the album. You can consider it to apply unless I say otherwise.

Octane begins on a high note. The Ballet of Impact is short three part suite. I can't say exactly which of the three parts are which, but I can say for sure that the extended instrumental intro is excellent. Unfortunately, the portion with vocals is not able to hold up. D'Virgilio does not sound like he is into it on this song. He lacks energy and emotion. I acknowledge that he is not as strong a singer as Neal, but that has not stopped him from singing much better on later tracks. It drags down what might otherwise be an excellent track.

I Wouldn't Let It Go is a fairly decent track. It is not very progressive, but enjoyable in "Heartland" rock sort of way; in the vein of guys like Tom Cochrane or Tom Petty. It is augmented by the keyboards and wailing which are not generally found in that genre. Already D'Virgilio's singing is better than the first track.

Surfing Down the Avalanche has a rocking base line all the way through. That's about the only thing nice I can say for it. I find the lead guitars and vocals grating. This is a song which I do not listen to unless I am reviewing it.

After the tragedy of Surfing is She is Everything. It is another multi-part song like the Ballet. Also like the Ballet the instrumental introduction is excellent. Is a slowly rising build up to the singing portion. It has a shorter intro than the Ballet, but at least once the vocals do come in you don't immediately wish they hadn't. This is what I meant when I said D'Virgilio is better later on in the album. I like the backing guitar here too; it has just a hint of Marillion. The solo is well played, but generic. Still, this is probably the strongest complete track so far.

Climbing Up the Hill is a fair, upbeat little rocker. The singing is unfortunately in the same style as Surfing. Not quite as bad and it feels a little more appropriate on this style of song. It isn't stretching to be "Hard Core" anywhere near as bad as Surfing either. The keyboards while not very prominent do keep it from getting too boring. The guitar solo is a throw away, luckily it doesn't get much time.

The end of Climbing bleeds right into the shifting mellotron interlude of Letting Go. It isn't very smoothly played at times, but it does feel like something that might have come out of Tangerine Dream rather than Spock's Beard. I like the tail end of this one; the way it lifts away.

Of the Beauty of it all, starts off much the same way the Ballet ends. It has a similar lyrical style. It is still a turn off. By a minute and a half in that is all but a memory. The long instrumental coda to "A Flash Before My Eyes" is the counterpart to the Ballet intro. The brass is well put to use. Overall I'd have to say Flash is fairly weak as an epic but it does end on a high note.

This first track after exiting Flash is NWC. It is a keyboard driven instrumental. They kept him penned up for most of the epic so it's only fair that they let Okumoto loose at some point. Good thing they did too, because this piece is great! By far the best track.

There Was a Time is heavily pop influenced but still proggy. After NWC this is the next best track. It is well sung, and lyrically, better than anything in Flash. The sample track of this on PA is the whole reason I decided to get this album. If we could assign genres to songs rather than bands this would definitely be in the crossover-prog section. It's pop styling and sunny demeanour make it stick out, for good reasons, on what is otherwise a darker album.

The Planet's Hum, follows a bit of a trend on this album; it starts off very well. I love the acoustic guitar, bass and flute intro. If they had continued run with that idea, with would be a superb track. Just after the first minute when the change up occurs things go downhill, and in a hurry. It's like I'm right back to Surfing. The singing is really early on and the guitar is fuzzy and unimaginative. Things do make a change for the better though when the vocal harmonies come in and the fuzzy guitar is given the boot. It manages to close very well just as it opened, but it's short. The Planet's Hum is inconsistent especially when you figure in the fact it only clocks in at 4:42.

Watching the Tide is a melancholy vocal driven and piano supported piece to being with. It's all around very tame. D'Virgilio just isn't hitting his notes well enough. At a few points, the rest of the band kicks in briefly to give you a little hope, but it never lasts too long. The strings are kind of a nice touch though.

As Long as We Ride is another inconsistent track. It's main body is very generic and dull, but at many points interesting stuff sneaks in. I begrudge it. It has no right to sound as good as it a does at some points. I shouldn't have to wade through the schlock to get to the good stuff!

Octane is inconsistent. It vacillates from truly entertaining to ho hum to grating. Quite often all three of these states are achieved within the same track. The stand outs are Letting Go, NWC and There Was a Time. If the whole album were up to those standards of creativity and song writing this would be easily at a four or a five. Instead a few generic tracks (I wouldn't let go, She is Everything, Climbing the Hill), a few awful tracks (Surfing Down the Avalanche, Watching the Tide) and a bunch tracks that are all over the map (The Ballet of Impact, Of the Beauty of it All, The Planet's Hum and As Long as we Ride) drag Octane down into two and three territory.

Spock's Beard even without Neal Morse is still a talented band. I think they needed to apply some serious shears to this album. Shorter can be better if a greater proportion of it is good. I give Octane two out of five. I think musically the good does outweigh the bad here despite the low numerical rating. The problem is that is comes in so many little chunks broken up by some boring and at times outright bad filler.

Report this review (#269310)
Posted Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars This album is not good. Hardly worth 100 words. There is not much prog here, in fact it's AOR most of the time. There is only one song I like, the other songs are pointless and mediocre. It was clear they couldn't go on in that vain, so saying _as long as we ride_ was more of a threat than anything. If you like Spock's Beard, skip this album, 50 minutes of wasted time and one good song that's not prog. Decide for yourself if you need this- there is so much good music out there. Somehow they managed to get even below Feel Euphoria and lost orientation completely. Luckily they found it and returned with two much better albums. But this one is only 1 star.

Favourite Song: She is everything.

Report this review (#295788)
Posted Sunday, August 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Writing a song, and then naming the different sections does not make it progressive.

On their second album after losing Neal Morse to the void, Spock's Beard has completely lost their way. The superb musicianship of these guys is not enough to make up for bland songwriting and syrupy lyrics.

The album begins promisingly, with a keyboard intro, and the band joining in on a piece that builds into... bland arena rock. It gets worse. I Wouldn't Let Go follows, sounding like a bad country rock ballad, with lyrics so bad that one of the band members must have "Travis" as part of his name.

Surfing Down The Avalanche ticks things up a bit. It's a heavy rock song, not very progressive, but at least well played. But again, the lyrics are laughable. She Is Everything makes me thinl of Kansas' bad years. Climbing Up That Hill. More arena rock. Very forgettable.

Letting Go is a bunch of keyboard washes. Somewhere Eno is snoring. Of The Beauty Of It All starts out like a weak ballad, but at least the second part of the song (It has it's own name!) actually turns into prog for a bit. NWC is the first fully prog song on the album. But it's too little, too late.

In case you were thinking that the album was going to continue in a good vein, There Was A Time comes in to break the spell. This song might appeal to a fan of The Eagles, but otherwise, no.

The Planet's Hum starts out with some Gentle Giant like instrumental interplay. I betcha thought they couldn't do it. It loses something after the vocals start, but it's not terrible.

The rest of the album is terrible.

Report this review (#449473)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This, for me, IS Spock's Beard. I know that a lot has changed since the Neal Morse era, and the over the top proginess, and instrumentation have been tuned down for this one (for the most part), but actually, I enjoy this more than some of the older albums. Octane have more elements of pop, rock, symphonic and also strong progressive moments. But first of all it's very good music. This album is great for an easy introduction for newbie prog listeners, and should be an easy transition into other albums (and bands for that matter). I love Neal Morse and his music with Transatlantic and his other solo projects, but whilst listening to Transatlantic's 'Whirlwind' it struck me, that though Neal Morse is the master of progressive arrangements, he doesn't evolve that much. It's basically the same stuff as on his solo albums, and the other Transatlantic albums as well. 'Octane' is an album evolving from beginning to end, and is a fresh, and original addition to the progressive rock album collection. I gotta say, I love this one...
Report this review (#1068109)
Posted Monday, October 28, 2013 | Review Permalink

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