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Spock's Beard - Spock's Beard CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.34 | 365 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh yes, have they ever been rearranged!

Spock's Beard's third offering without (Neal) Morse at the helm is one that has always been received with controversy (and it's not even that old yet!). With the band finally taking control over where they want to go and taking the music in a decidedly NON-Morse direction the band is almost using this self-titled release as a way to reinvent themselves. Where their first output in this incarnation, Feel Euphoria, leaning heavily towards the AOR feel of things and their concept album Octane saw them leaning towards the melancholic and slow Spock's Beard sees the band taking things in a full rock direction, so say goodbye to the AOR feel in most any beard release. Still defined by lush keyboards and an almost Satriani feel with Alan Morse's guitar the band has made things heavier with drummer turned singer (a la Genesis) Nick D'Virgillio proving that he can belt out the heavy parts even better than Morse was able to do (probably thanks to the more aggressive vocal parts on Octane). All around this album shows the band re-ignited with a passion and looking to rock some homes.

While mentioned before that the band has finally made their way out of Morse territory there are still moments where the old band shines through. Notably, the opener On A Perfect Day opens the album with a very V feel to it. Nothing wrong with this of course, and if you liked that album then you're sure to be pleased with this track. Heavier, surely, with the loud and (seemingly) intentionally messily organized guitar chiming in for some nice riffing. Those pleasant synths come in to bring the song down to earth and D'Virgillio delivers his first lines. A truly excellent opening for the album. This song is followed up strongly with the excellent instrumental Skeletons At The Feast which can only be described as pressing with the drums driving the song like there's no tomorrow under a crunching riff and some stabbing keys. The closing track Rearranged is also well worth mention here as it seems to be where the band is heading (hopefully) with their future releases - an excellent mix of prog and hard rock.

A couple of moments on the album show a much more typically "rock" side of the band. At this very point in life they seem to be deciding on which direction to take, or perhaps simply learning how to integrate a heavier side into their music. While the tracks are still split between heavy and typical Beard it's good to see them taking a new direction. Is This Love is the first evidence of this hard rock side - this quick and heavy song comes in and out leaving you thinking ''what was that just now?''. Prog heads who like rock to their prog should get a kick out of these kinds of songs - but not all will, surely. Other more rock oriented songs include the mid paced and Satriani-twinged Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go with Morse's riff driving the song in a decidedly guitar showcase with a heavy blues feel. Wherever You Stand is the other song with this kind of feel, and this one is a little bit more upbeat and longer, but less of a standout than the others.

Of course, this wouldn't be Spock's Beard without the slow melancholic songs that we've been used to hearing from them all this time. On this effort there's a small but mixed bunch of them. The melodic and peaceful All That's Left has a wonderful chorus which makes good use of vocal harmonizing making for a very nice song. It's the others that have a bit of a problem. The Slow Crash Landing Man is a good track with another good chorus, but something about it just seems out of place. Perhaps it's just that the song is not as over-the-top as some of the other songs. Same goes for Hereafter.

But enough nitpicking, it's time to get to the main course. On this effort the Beard has put forth some of the best long-song suits that we've seen since their V days. Starting with the excellent With Your Kiss, which starts out worryingly (almost in AOR territory), but soon explodes into a pomp-prog suite of massive proportions with excellent soloing from every member well tied together by the melody of the track. But if that wasn't enough there's one more coming. As Far As The Mind Can See is an (unfortunately) split epic comprised of 4 parts. Each part is very individual from the other but still manages to keep theme as the story works it's way. For some reason this one gets a kind of Duke (Genesis) feel to it at points, but that really works for the track when taken as a whole. Very well done.

There's a few unnecessary tracks, but in general this is a great album from a band in transition. Even the cover art (below the cardboard slipcase) shows a band very different from what we've seen before. A very welcome and excellent release whose future could have seemed uncertain if not for the band finally finding some feet under them to run with. 4 stars! This is an excellent addition to any prog library, just don't expect it to sound anything like the Beard you're used to.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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