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


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.25 | 386 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Not quite there, not yet here

After (Neal) Morse's departure from the band people likely wondered if they'd be able to stand on their won two feet. Indeed, losing a respected musician as well as their lead singer and composer is not something that many bands are capable of dealing with. Well, with Feel Euphoria the Beard managed to prove that they would live on after Morse, but they'd just need a bit of time to recover from the blow first. As many others have commented, the band tried to stay pretty close to their Morse era sound with their first couple of releases without him, and while it can be argued how well that worked there's no denying the music is similar yet very much different from when Morse was still around.

The album is still very Morse, but different parts of the music are brought out and highlighted. What's strange about the album is that while many complained that Morse had a very AOR sound in the band, they actually seem to have gone more towards that end of the spectrum without him! While there are moments that are strait heavy rock blended with prog a lot of the songs on the album see a softer vocal style, and this is not only because they have a new vocalist. In fact, Nick D'Virgilio is quite a capable replacement for Morse as he steps out from behind the drum kit a la Genesis to fill the vocal hole. His voice is actually more gruff and has a harder edge to it than their previous vocalist and this proves to be quite a nice change. Not to say that Morse was a bad singer, but he was also not a singer that could not be easily replaced. His voice was pretty mid-ground and a lot of people could have replaced him - not so would be the case if someone like Geddy Lee left Rush. But if it doesn't matter who's at the vocal helm then what does the music sound like?

Well, it's very much the same and different. Likely due to the lack of Morse the band seems to have lost a bit of direction when it comes to writing. A lot of the songs on the album vary wildly in style within minutes of the song. Take for example East Of Eden, West Of Memphis which starts off softly as the band starts a full out soft rock track but soon explodes into full blown pomp prog going into the instrumental section in the middle, lush with keyboards and guitar to make for a satisfying ride. Or The Bottom Line which starts as a full blown prog epic would but soon slows to a stop to allow AM radio vocals to come through until the middle where there's a pseudo-Dream Theater instrumental section. The crazy shifts in song are not a bad thing, it seems like the band is really experimenting here to find out what works best for them. It's a bit of a strange album to listen to with that in mind, seeing as the first couple times you'll likely be thinking, ''oh, I don't like this song - it's too soft rockish... oh! Now I like this song... wait, it's the same song!''. I suppose schizophrenic could be the word. However, after a number of listens this does eventually catch on, but if you never have a heart for a couple minutes of softer music then this album may not appeal to you.

There are points where the album really rocks out though. Take for example the opener, Onomatopoeia which blasts open a hole in the wall with Alan Morse's guitar before introducing their new vocalist to the world. This is definitely one of the standouts on the album for those of us who like our music heavy. It seems that with big brother out of the way, Alan Morse actually has room to breathe. This is evident in a lot of the songs and though the keyboards do still take the lead often it's clear that the guitars have been brought up front.

As for the largest song on the album, the long divided suite A Guy Named Sid we can see that the band still knows what they're doing. It may not be another The Great Nothing but it shows the band in top form with the excellent segments Judge and Same Old Story. The intro and outro are also both quite good while bordering at parts on electronica - but in general this song is where all the manic moods of the album work - probably because the song is long enough to house enough different styles and speed changes to let it work the way they wanted it to.

Only a couple of songs really don't work at all but they're far and few. Coming off of a very odd and creepy title track (which is quite good by the way) we get a sappy ballad by the name of Shining Star where those AOR feelings come right up the the front and block out the band for a bit. Likely a song not overly appreciable by many prog heads. As well the last track Carry On feels like one they could have cut out. Really, if the album had ended after the Sid Suite I think most of us would have been satisfied, but they wanted to tack another one on I guess. It's not a bad song, but the chorus is so wildly out of place that it just doesn't work. It's clear with this track that D'Virigilo should stick to the harder edged track (that theory will be proven wrong in the future though).

This is a good album. People who don't fancy themselves fans of the band ca probably steer clear of the album, 'cause it won't make a believer of you. However, people who do really like the Beard should definitely look into this one - because for it's few flaws it still makes for a very interesting listen. Really, this is just a new beginning for the band, one that really would not be realized for a couple of albums yet. 3 crazy-rainbow-paint-cans out of 5, recommended to fans and people who like heavy music but don't mind a couple of AOR twinges at times.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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