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Spock's Beard - X CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 571 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Spock's Beards' tenth album, the uncreatively named X, continues the band's trend of well-played, ambitiously composed, and energetic releases that - despite seeming to have all the right pieces for a prog-rock highlight - manages only to add another "good but not essential" record to the pile. Like a gymnast whose ring routine is spot on, but somehow fails to stick the landing, the Beard continues to rock on with their signature sound of appealing heavy, upbeat, and occasionally bombastic prog; however, the there's a noticeable banality in the song writing and vocals that keeps this album from being X-ceptional (sorry, couldn't help it).

First, let's talk about how freaking good the musicianship is in this group. Even at their weakest, it's impossible to deny the instrumental talents these guys bring to the table. Every member is spot on in creating a dense sounding record. Morse's guitar sounds as creative as ever, while Okumoto continues to prove he's one of the top keyboardists in the genre. Meros' bass is more restrained here, though losing none of its personality. Generally, when the band is playing, this album rocks; it's heavy, thick, and fun.

There are two standout tracks here, both of the extended pieces. "From the Darkness" may be the group's best epic since Snow. It's dynamic and exciting, with strong and varied musical themes to each section carrying a sense of dramatic tension. Ditto "Jaws of Heaven," which is surprisingly intense at times. When you get down to it, these two tracks are the reason for coming to this show, because most of the other songs range in quality from the: "good, what's next" variety, to the "OK, this has gone on long enough." I enjoyed the energy of the opener, and in the instrumental "Kamikaze," but lost interest pretty quickly in everything else. "Man Behind the Curtain" and "Quite House" remind me of the never-ending, down-tempo pomp of the previous album, which I did not enjoy.

This leads to my thoughts on what holds X back a bit: the songs. Song writing duties are spread across the band, with each member being credited individually, while contributing writer John Boegehold covered all of the lyrics. Boegehold has been on board with the Beard since Feel Euphoria (as far as I can tell), and it's easy to see the shift in stylistic themes that he's brought to the band since Morse's departure. The lyrics are mostly dressed up metaphors that come across as contrivances, treading familiar ground topically. Unfortunately, D'Virgilio's vocals don't muster the gusto to make them stick and when standing on their own merits, I'm pretty turned off by this aspect of the album.

So all in all a good, but not great release by the Beard. I'm pleased overall by the sound and playing, but don't see this becoming more than the occasional listen for me.

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

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |


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