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Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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Spock's Beard Noise Floor album cover
3.65 | 160 ratings | 13 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2018

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1 - Noise Floor
1. To Breathe Another Day (5:38)
2. What Becomes Of Me (6:11)
3. Somebody's Home (6:32)
4. Have We All Gone Crazy Yet (8:06)
5. So This Is Life (5:35)
6. One So Wise (6:57)
7. Box Of Spiders (5:28)
8. Beginnings (7:25)

Total time 51:52

Disc 2 - "Cutting Room Floor" EP
9. Days We'll Remember (4:14)
10. Bulletproof (4:41)
11. Vault (4:39)
12. Armageddon Nervous (3:32)

Total time 17:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Ted Leonard / lead & backing vocals, electric & acoustic guitars
- Alan Morse / 6- & 12-string acoustic and electric guitars, string arrangements (3,5)
- Ryo Okumoto / piano, Hammond, Mellotron, MiniMoog, Jupiter 8, Yamaha Motif, Nord Wave keyboards, Fx, Arturia software
- Dave Meros / bass, backing vocals

- David Robertson / English horn (3)
- John Boegehold / string arrangements (2,10)
- Eric Gorfain / violin
- Leah Katz / viola
- Richard Dodd / cello
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums, backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

2xCD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMSECD 506 (2018, Europe) SE with a bonus EP "Cutting Room Floor"

2LP+2CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMLP 506 (2018, Europe) Full album (incl. bonuses) on both media

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy SPOCK'S BEARD Noise Floor Music

SPOCK'S BEARD Noise Floor ratings distribution

(160 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

SPOCK'S BEARD Noise Floor reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's going to be quite easy for some long-time and more casual fans of popular American prog band Spock's Beard to quickly (and unfairly) dismiss their thirteenth studio album, 2018's `Noise Floor'. On the surface, the band have offered up one of their most streamlined works to date (with quite an AOR-driven sound to the fore), so the more commercial elements of the band are front and centre, with the tune being the biggest priority over instrumental showboating. That song-driven edge has always been at the heart of the band so should really not be surprising, but careful (and repeated!) listens are essential to reveal plenty of interesting and exciting details woven in to pretty much every track on the album, even ones that initially seem fairly straight-forward. Thankfully, `Noise Floor' still retains that muscular heavy rock sound present on all the Spock's discs since founder Neal Morse took off that has really become one of the defining and instantly identifiable qualities of the core four-member modern version of the group, and in many ways it makes for one of their most deceptively lavish efforts so far.

Gutsy opener `To Breathe Another Day' sets much of a template for the disc - ballsy hard-rock with unpredictable time- changes and grander symphonic flavours all grafted to tightly compact tunes with lofty lead vocals. Enchant singer Ted Leonard (now on his third full studio album with the band) is given even greater prominence than on his previous Spock's discs, and his confident and powerful delivery is sounding more natural and better than ever. Much attention has been made of former drummer/frontman Nick D'Virgilio stepping back in to provide drums for the departing Jimmy Keegan, and as great as he was in the band, Nick's complexity, power and daring are once again centre stage and a very welcome return for the group (even if it proves to be a one-off again come their next album). And, of course, keyboardist Ryo Okumoto plies his synths over everything with finesse and great colour.

Exhilarating orchestration permeates all of `What Becomes Of Me' (did Nick bring the fancier Big Big Train touches back with him?!), an eclectic and sprightly piece that jumps in a dozen directions, nice driving riffs one moment, dreamy pop-rock harmonies the next. Parts of `Somebody's Home' fit into the `obligatory pensive Spock's power ballad to make your wife smile in between all the bouts of proggy tantrums' slot, and as always the guys have this sort of thing down to a fine art, with plenty of warm acoustic guitars, smooth vocals and reflective words delivering one of the best melodic moments of the LP, and there's fleeting little reminders of the fancy Gentle Giant influence that infiltrates most of the Spock's discs.

`Have We All Gone Crazy Yet', the longest track here at eight minutes, crackles with the lively fun the band is known for, and with its constant blistering instrumental bursts - a nice jazzy undercurrent from sparkling electric piano here, some tasty King Crimson-like guitar strangulations there - it's a safe bet this one could become a live favourite with fans. `So This Is Life' is a lightly psychedelic ballad with fleeting Beatles touches even down to the orchestration, jammed full of lovely sighing sun- kissed harmonies, and Alan Morse really nails a hazy early Seventies Pink Floyd/David Gilmour-esque grandness to some lightly soaring guitar reaches. The energetic `One So Wise' then darts through a range of tempos back and forth with Dave Meros' bouncing and buoyant thick bass constantly given the spotlight between sleek Mellotron shivers and a rousing chorus.

Worry not, prog fans - `Box Of Spiders' is your sole instrumental track courtesy of Ryo, and as always from the Spocks, it's a delirious good'un, unexpectedly laced with Goblin-like spectral synths, jagged Hammond stabs and psychedelic keyboard violations whilst simultaneously being blasted by twisting-turning heavy jazz-fusion guitars/bass/drum spasms and a bit of runaway piano pomp - phew, got all that?! Album closer `Beginnings' is not the most memorable vocal track on the disc, but it finds a decent balance of being lyrically weighty and ultimately hopeful. It's greatly enlivened by cool multi-part harmonies from the different fellas around uplifting Mellotron rises, and the cool scratchy Hammond-driven instrumental spurt in the middle with some fiery guitar wailing gives the track some much needed energy.

(All versions of the album come with a welcome `bonus disc' referred to as the `Cutting Room Floor' EP, and most of the contents see the band delivering almost radio-friendly pop/rock pieces. `Days We'll Remember' is a lovely Kansas-like ballad with Genesis/Steve Hackett-esque strains and a big chorus, and Ryo's keyboards hum beautifully on this one. Classy pop- rocker `Bulletproof' is inspiriting, and `Vault' has plenty of alternating acoustic/electric guitar passages and slick vocals, but `Armageddon Nervous' (groan!) will most please the proggies, being a loopy, relentless and playful little instrumental snippet.)

`Noise Floor' is not reinventing the wheel, but it sees this modern incarnation of Spock's Beard playing to their strengths, surging with confidence and also having a lot of fun. Excluding the bonus tracks at the end, it's also a welcome change to find the Beard essentially releasing a single vinyl length album that runs around just over fifty minutes, so it mostly avoids the padded out `filler' bloat that many of their previous albums were sometimes plagued by. What you're left with is a punchy, assured, hard-rocking song-based album that still delivers plenty of prog thrills where needed, helping make `Noise Floor' another fine addition to the Spock's Beard catalogue.

Four stars.

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy, RPI, Symph, JR/F Canterbury Teams
3 stars The band wanted for this new album make music with a more direct impact, and it's definitely obvious in the first part of the album. "To Breathe Another Day" has a straightforward structure in the first part before a progressive break with the keyboards of Ryo. It's amazing how the voice of Ted Leonard has some similarity with Steve Walsh. Then the next 4 tracks don't improve things with some quieter type of songs that lack memorable melody or impressive prog structures. However "One So Wise" led by Ryo's Keys shining with some tasty melodic parts. "Box of Spiders" is the highlight of the album, a dark song very atmospheric, some ELP style passages with Ryo again in the spotlight which will continue with the next track. The additional album of 17 minutes starts like the first disk with some direct rock structures, a little pop vibe, and Kansas style of music with the song "Days We'll Remember". The album ends nicely with the darker song "Armageddon Nervous". In conclusion, there are some good songs on this, but also some songs that you will skip after two or three spins. However, the production, the musicianship and the addition of some strings arrangements will make this album enjoyable despite the inconstant songwriting quality. 3.6 stars
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I'm quite liking the Spock's Beard albums with Ted Leonard. The Nick D'Virgilio fronted albums started off unimpressive, but as th the band was finding it's groove, NDV ran away to join the circus. But these past three SB albums have been quite strong.

This album brings the group back toward their original sound, with some of the hooks and passages that almost sound like Neal Mo Morse has returned (again).

The first three track make me think of Kansas (in a good way). The lyrics, song structures, and even Ted Leonard's voice are very reminiscent of the 70's version of Kansas. Like Kansas, the tracks are precision-performed arena-like songs with some specta spectacular breaks to take them over the top.

I won't go into every song, but I will point out some standouts:

"Have We All Gone Crazy Yet" sound exactly like a classic SB piece. Written by Alan Morse and Leonard, it has many of the bells an and whistles that still adorn Neal's albums.

I have heard "Box Of Spiders" described as a Keith Emerson styled piece, but to me, it sounds more like The Flower Kings at their peak. Ryo Okumoto is outstanding on this one. I've never heard him play with this much fire.

The bonus EP in the set sounds like it's name "Cutting Room Floor". Three of these songs are forgettable, and the fourth, while mu musically excellent, has an unfinished quality to it.

It's not a perfect album, but it has kept me listening repeatedly for the past few months.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Wow! this one caught me completely by surprise! Spockīs Beard was never one of my favourite bands and I did not fancy neither when Neil Morse was with them nor their immediately post Morse phase. In both cases they sounded to me like a bunch of great musicians with the right influences but without much of a personality. But everything changed with this CD: the sound here is much more powerful, inspired and soulful. Even with a great diversity of styles included (from symphonic prog to jazz to AOR, and so on) , it still feels focused and unified in the end. Like Aussie-Byrd-Brother said in his very accurate and detailed review, this is an album that most prog people will mistake for a "commercial" effort or something like that, specially if they stick to the albumīs opener the spectacular To Breath Another Day. Itīs the kind of track that Kansas would kill for at their peak. Soaring AOR vocals, ballsy guitar lines, earthquake Hammond solos, all propelled by a blistering rhythm section. Still it does not sound like anything else, thanks to the odd time signatures and the creative arrangement.

And the album goes on with such surprises itīs hard to pinpoint what they look like nowadays. On one hand the music is indeed more direct and hard hitting (most of the time), on the other they retained their prog roots: there are several mood and tempo changes, even some weirdness and avant guard bits here and there. Noise Floor is the kind of CD that seems to reveal new textures every time you listen to it. What is clear is that they are delivering some of their best material ever. It seems that they have come of age at the songwriting department (always their weak point in the past). Finally they are using their terrific musicianship to work for great tunes. Ok, fair enough, it is not perfect, but it comes close. Have We All Gone Crazy Yet is the one track that I still do not totally get it. But it is the only one and, besides, it is only my personal taste. On all others I really canīt get enough of them. Sometimes, maybe because of Ted Leonards voice or Ryo Okumotos Hammond timbres, I feel like Iīm listening to a lost Kansas record of the 70īs. And thatīs a compliment! You can hear echoes of Yes, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Journey, Beatles and many more in the mix. Well, I guess they always did, but they surely did not have such creative, mature and melodic songs. Production is top notch. The arrangements are equally near perfect and very tasteful.

Iīm still listening to Noise Floor and still awestruck by it. It seems that I like it a little bit more with every spin. This is the first Spockīs Beard I can say I really love and I truly hope they keep releasing such powerful stuff in near future. I heard this CD by pure chance and I thank God for it. For it is on my top 5 list of best albums of 2018.

Rating: 4,5 stars until now. But I may uprated it to five soon. Highly recommended to open minded music lovers.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars The first major surprise for me, even before putting this on the player, was to see the return of Nick D'Virgilio, replacing Jimmy Keegan. He has come back in his original role in the band as a drummer who also provides additional vocals, and the band are downplaying his future with the band. "Well, we are very happy to have Nick back with us for the album," says Leonard. "But right now, it does not go any further." "We would love Nick to be able to play live with us again," adds Okumoto. "The trouble is that he has so many other commitments with his time that I doubt he can fit us into his schedule when it comes to touring. But even if we end up finding another live drummer, then we hope Nick will still be able to go into the studio with us in the future."

The other surprise comes when it is put on the player, as this is in many ways the most AOR-oriented and melodically friendly album they have released to date. In the last three albums the band have changed for each release, but never so dramatically that they would lose fans, but instead have taken them on a journey. I am a huge fan of Neal's work, in whatever band he has been involved with, but he does have a very recognisable style of writing and performing. Here SB have evolved, with Ted's wonderful vocals allowing the band to switch into songs which wouldn't sound out of place on a commercial rock radio station. Whether it is the acoustic guitar interplay on "Somebody's Home" or the more bombastic opener "To Breathe Another Day" this is an easy enjoy progtastic romp which had me smiling the very first time I played it and has kept me happy ever since. Yes, there are bits that come across as Kansas with wonderful harmonies, but I like Kansas!

Each Spock's Beard album keeps the listener wondering what the next one will be like, and it is a real shame I can't ever see them playing down here as I would love to catch these guys touring this. 5

Review by patrickq
2 stars The first Spock's Beard album I've heard and the only one I own, Noise Floor has its moments, but not enough of them, in my opinion. I'm sure that some Spock's Beard fans will point out that Noise Floor isn't the place to start listening to the band's music, and this may be true. I'm somewhat familiar with Nick D'Virgilio and Neal Morse, and while D'Virgilio contributed to the album as a performer, neither of these well-known musicians had been member of Spock's Beard for years prior to Noise Floor

While there are prog-rock embellishments throughout, Noise Floor is essentially an AOR album played by a neo-prog band. The lyrics are a plaintive/introspective mix not unlike Pearl Jam or Matchbox Twenty, and the music tends to be radio-friendly. Much of Noise Floor seems to be a slightly less metallic version of Dream Theater - - or a slightly less dramatic version of IQ. There are Rush influences and even a nod to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

If Noise Floor is in fact an AOR album played by a neo-prog band, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The issue to me isn't the style but the substance. Beyond the opener, "To Breathe Another Day," and some passages on a few other tracks, the songs aren't especially inspired. Some feel formulaic. Along the same lines, the playing is good - - very good, actually - - but in places it comes across as clinical. There are no bad songs (I'm including the canonical eight songs as well as the four "Cutting Room Floor" tracks), but that's probably because the band didn't take many chances with this album. Unfortunately, while repeated listens did reveal interesting performance details, it didn't deepen my understanding of the album.

So Noise Floor is nothing terribly special. If you're looking for recent neo-symphonic albums, I suggest Wobbler's Rites at Dawn (2011) and Blomljud by Moon Safari (2008).

Review by Warthur
4 stars Noise Floor is the 13th Spock's Beard album, and their third with Ted Leonard of Enchant serving as lead vocalist. I thought the previous two albums had been excellent; Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep had a very adventurous sound as the band threw a bit of everything at the wall (including some guest contributions by Neal Morse, paying a visit back to his old haunts to help the new frontman kick things off with a bang).

Conversely, The Oblivion Particle found them shifting their sound in a somewhat different direction from previously, perhaps in a conscious attempt to give the Ted Leonard era a distinctive sound of its own - something that felt like a fairly accessible mashup of Trick of the Tail-era Genesis and Kansas, along similar lines to Crucible and their overlooked 1990s prog classic Tall Tales, with perhaps a few more pinches of AORish-ness here and there.

Noise Floor is, in essence, The Oblivion Particle 2 in this respect, in that it largely finds the band following that same general course. How you feel about this will depend on how invested you are in prior sounds adopted by Spock's Beard. If you were very big on the epic-length compositions, Gentle Giant nods, and the occasional unexpected ingredients from genres not typically associated with prog of the Neal Morse era, or the somewhat recalibrated eclecticism of the Nick D'Virgilio era, then you may find this is a little straightforward for your case.

If, on the other hand, the idea of Spock's Beard turning their hands to fairly gentle neo-prog appeals, then you'll have fun with this one. It's interesting to see what happens when bands which could produce something much more technically complex (and the Beard have proved they have those chops several times over) instead turn their talents to something like this - working in a neo-prog/AOR format not because they have to, but because they have made a conscious decision to. In this case, I find it rather charming, and another grand success from the Ted Leonard-led incarnation of the band.

One point of interest here is that Jimmy Keegan is no longer on drums - he'd had to drop out due to other commitments prior to this. Nick D'Virgilio comes back to help, but as with Neal Morse on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep this is strictly in a guest musician capacity, not as a full member of the band. In addition, as with The Oblivion Particle the band don't write as much of this material as you might expect - good chunks are written by Stan Ausmus and John Boegehold.

Stan and John have been assisting the band with songwriting ever since Feel Euphoria, but it feels like with The Oblivion Particle and this album the rest of the group have scaled back their songwriting contribution and let Stan, John, and Ted Leonard take the lead. It's notable that subsequent to this album, Dave Meros, Ted Leonard, and John Boegehold would reunite with Jimmy Keegan to form Pattern-Seeking Animals, a spin-off project who've been more active in terms of getting releases out than Spock's Beard.

With Pattern-Seeking Animals forming an outlet for the more melodic approach of Boegehold, will we see subsequent Spock's Beard albums shift away from this approach? Maybe, maybe not - but I for one am glad that the Beard have taken this journey into a more immediately accessible style, which they execute without embarrassing themselves or outright abandoning some of their more intricate roots - they're just a bit more artful about how they deploy those intricacies.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Spock's Beard ? the very words will elicit shivers of excitement in any self-respecting Prog fan. Noise Floor is the Beard's thirteenth studio album, the third with Ted Leonard on lead vocals, and the eleventh with the mighty Nick D'Virgilio (guesting on this album) on drums. The historical core ... (read more)

Report this review (#2171170) | Posted by thesimilitudeofprog | Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I donīt know why, but this Spockīs Beard album leaves me cold. And I have tried very hard to like it. Bought it, actually pre ordered it on itunes and got it on the day it came out and since then played it regularly in the hope I might finally get it. Now looking at the track list I must admit, I ... (read more)

Report this review (#2078567) | Posted by King Manuel | Monday, November 26, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think I understand the perspective on the negative reviews, but I don't agree. Nor am I raving about this album to anyone and everyone. It's a solid 4-star effort. If you consider what it's trying to be, I think it does it very well. It's not a prog masterpiece because it's not trying to be on ... (read more)

Report this review (#1937218) | Posted by nickel | Tuesday, June 5, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think most people aren't giving this album enough of a chance. Musically, I think this is one of their most interesting records, with songs such as Somebody's Home, Have We All Gone Crazy Yet, and Box of Spiders showing some really great incorporation of classically-flavoured composition. Ryo Okum ... (read more)

Report this review (#1936783) | Posted by tempest_77 | Saturday, June 2, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm not sure where the negativity is coming from on this project. I saw the review by proghaven and the overall rating at this point (3.48) and I'm shocked. Perhaps the community saw the first released video and saw they recorded it separately, and assumed the music was put together the same way ... (read more)

Report this review (#1936712) | Posted by ProgthankfulRich | Saturday, June 2, 2018 | Review Permanlink

2 stars My Disappointment Number One for 2018. No, even for 2017 plus 2018! A splendid example of 'music for nothing'. Though back in mid 1990s 'it started in heaven', really. When Greg Walker discovered them and first released their debut studio album The Light on his well-known label Syn-Phonic, they ... (read more)

Report this review (#1934973) | Posted by proghaven | Tuesday, May 29, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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