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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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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Spock's Beard's second album ushered in the arrival of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto (who was absent on the first record. It also brought around the first cover song that the group recorded in George Harrison's Beware of Darkness (which would end up as the title of the album). Like with most groups, this album didn't match match the overall intesity that the first album had, so essentially it's another sophomore slump, but it is still a pretty good album for those who like this style of music and don't think it is derivative of the classic style of progressive rock. And while there are many enjoyable moments on the album, they also throw in a few cliches here and there that really make me wonder why they did it, and sometimes they just copy a style that was cemented into the foundations of history by another group (Thoughts is essentially their equivalent of Gentle Giant's Knots, see a coincidence in the title?).

The album opens with the musically brilliant, vocally hilarious Beware of Darkness. You see, Morse had never heard the Harrison version of the song until this one was finished so he based his vocal performance on the one he heard that inspired him to cover the song (and the vocals were apparently very slurred. So you'll hear a lyric like, "beware of farts that linger" in the very beginning. Thoughts is essentially the modern equivalent to Knots (and if you don't see a coincidence in the title immediately, they rhyme!). Essentially is off-putting and zany riffing followed by multi-layered and heavily coordinated vocals to match that fugue style that Gentle Giant revolutionized. Pretty good song in the end, but pretty derivative at the same time. The Doorway is the first epic of the album, and it's not a bad one at that. The opening piano motif is rather intricate and dynamic and when coupled with the great acoustic section in the middle (which yields a great acoustic guitar solo on top of the magnificent arpeggios), the bass/drum interplay is also quite song on this piece as well.

Chatauqua is essentially the Mood For a Day/Clap acoustic number of the album, with just an acoustic guitar belting out a main theme and variations on said theme. It's a nice piece atmospherically (and the guitar work is quite good), as it feels gentle and relaxing, but it feels too much like a cliche thing to do to really be something original and very exciting. Walking on the Wind is another tune that carries the flag of the 70s progressive style and the mellotrons and lush guitar (as well as the ripping solo) help convey that thought. The strong bass performance from Dave Meros meshes well with the consistant and precision drumming of Nick D'Virgilo. The epic ending (laden with mellotron choirs) also carries along those same sentiments as well. In the end, though, it's a pretty good track musically, but lyrically it's a bit ridiculous. Waste Away is easily the most commercial piece on the album. Beginning with an acoustic guitar theme that delves into arpeggios as well as chord based progressions, it has a tacky chorus and some more contrived lyrics from Morse (who seemed to be at his best around the V era of the group and then he found his feet again with his most recent solo albums). Time Has Come is the final epic of the album (landing at a bit over 16 minutes). It is probably the heaviest song that they wrote at that point, with disjointed and dissonant riffs in the intro that break into a melodic middle sections that have stabbing Chris Squire style bass lines and little flurries of organ and synthesizers add a bit to the atmosphere of the piece. The best part of the piece comes towards the middle, during the quiet atmospheric acoustic section that yields some ethereal lead from from Alan Morse and a nice chord progresion from Neal. It ends the album nicely, but it does feel a bit prolonged as there are sections that could have been abridged.

In the end, the sophomore slump album Beware of Darkness would prove to show what groups influenced Spock's Beard the most (Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis, etc.). It's not an awful album, it's just doesn't captivate me as much as The Light did and it doesn't really have the same do or die intensity that The Light had, which is one of the things I loved about that album. Still, fans of The Light will probably like this album and find something enjoyable about it. But if you're not a fan of this style of music (modern symphonic rock that is) then this album won't change your opinion. As for me, I'm in the middle. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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