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Spock's Beard - Beware Of Darkness CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard


Symphonic Prog

3.68 | 513 ratings

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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!

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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