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BEWARE OF DARKNESS

Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog


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Spock's Beard Beware of Darkness  album cover
3.63 | 370 ratings | 47 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Beware of Darkness (5:41)
2. Thoughts (7:10)
3. The Doorway (11:27)
4. Chatauqua (2:49)
5. Walking on the Wind (9:06)
6. Waste Away (5:26)
7. Time Has Come (16:33)

Total Time: 58:12


Bonus tracks on remaster:
8. The Doorway (Home Demo) (10:26)
9. Beware of Darkness (Home Demo) (5:12)

Total Time 73:50

Lyrics

Search SPOCK'S BEARD Beware of Darkness lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Meros / bass, vocals
- Nick D'Vigilio / drums, vocals
- Neal Morse / piano, guitar, lead vocals
- Ryo Okumoto / keyboards, vocals
- Alan Morse / guitars, vocals

Releases information

Digitally remastered in 2004 by InsideOutMusic - SPV 085-28320 CD - IOMCD161 with 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to LiquidEternity for the last updates
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SPOCK'S BEARD Beware of Darkness ratings distribution


3.63
(370 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
20%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
50%
Good, but non-essential (24%)
24%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

SPOCK'S BEARD Beware of Darkness reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, February 01, 2004

Review by 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 déjā-entendu.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#6921) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, March 01, 2004

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 03, 2004

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2004

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, February 21, 2005

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 04, 2005

Review by The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Spockīs 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 itīs a very fine George Harrisonīs cover, with a marvellous Hammond solo by the great Ryo Okumoto. This album was the first with Ryo on keyboards...And itīs 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 Spockīs Beard song. Very catchy, with a good mixture of electric and acoustic sections, a strong bass, great keyboard solo...And a good Neal Morseīs singing, although in this time he had not reached yet his best level with singing...

Chatauqua itīs 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 Spockīs songs like On The Edge or All on a Sunday. Nothing special, but pretty enjoyable.

Time Has Come itīs 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 Spockīs Beard they really donīt learned to make good long suites (more than 15 minutes...) till the album "V". But Time Has Come itīs still a good song based in Stephen Kingīs "Dance of Death", thing that make it interesting for me, because Iīm a Kingīs fan!

Conclusion: excellent album with really brilliant moments, but with some weak parts that donīt 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 05, 2005

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 18, 2008

Review by 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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Posted Friday, March 21, 2008

Review by 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

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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

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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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Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008

Review by 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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Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review by 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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Posted Sunday, June 15, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Beware of Darkness is the second album from american symphonic prog rock band Spockīs Beard. On Beware of Darkness Spockīs 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 Spockīs 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 Spockīs 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 donīt 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 donīt care. The Doorway is the first epic on the album. With itīs 11:27 minutes itīs 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 itīs one of the best Spockīs 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. Itīs a cheesy semi ballad with pathetic emotional vocals from Neal Morse. Iīm sorry but this is too much for me. Weīre 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 Spockīs Beard each contribute with their own style to the music even though itīs obvious that itīs 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 canīt help thinking about Yes and Chris Squire). The sound is rich and warm.

The cover art isnīt very exciting really but itīs nothing that annoys the eye.

With this album Spockīs 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 Spockīs Beard album with least cheese on top which is something Iīm incredibly happy about. Itīs 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 Spockīs Beard albums. The presence of such horrible songs makes it hard to say that this or any other Spockīs 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 Iīll rate it 4 stars.

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Posted Friday, July 11, 2008

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A good prog album, but still it does not generate much excitement. I guess Iīm not very fond of Neil Morseīs singing style, or maybe the band hasnīt 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 donīt 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. Spockīs 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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Posted Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review by 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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Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review by 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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Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 07, 2008

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review by 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 pleasantīpiano 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 06, 2011

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 31, 2012

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013

Review by 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) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, June 17, 2013

Latest members reviews

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 Okumot ... (read more)

Report this review (#1080829) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Sunday, November 24, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#771406) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#769383) | Posted by FromAbove | Monday, June 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#443551) | Posted by infandous | Friday, May 06, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 Wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#326417) | Posted by Theriver | Friday, November 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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' ... (read more)

Report this review (#285565) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 build ... (read more)

Report this review (#175752) | Posted by addrummer | Sunday, June 29, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#165919) | Posted by wbiphoto | Sunday, April 06, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#119092) | Posted by Teaflax | Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 i ... (read more)

Report this review (#96383) | Posted by meddlehead40 | Tuesday, October 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#78815) | Posted by Progdrummer05 | Saturday, May 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 i ... (read more)

Report this review (#76972) | Posted by eddietrooper | Tuesday, May 02, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#6931) | Posted by rangerm13 | Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#6930) | Posted by | Friday, December 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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? ... (read more)

Report this review (#6914) | Posted by | Tuesday, November 16, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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 "Mo ... (read more)

Report this review (#6926) | Posted by eriksalkeld | Friday, September 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#6920) | Posted by James Hill | Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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