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Spock's Beard - Octane (CD)

Spock's Beard
by Thodoris Pantazopoulos at 10 January 2005, 8:16 AM

No more 10 minute tracks? What the hell…
The above phrase might sound ridiculous to some (or even soothing), but for the hardcore, traditional proggies it is the quintessence of this music. Daedal compositions, instrumental twinkling, masterly performed solos with great sense of essence with one and only limit: imagination.
Tell me how someone that has grown up with these sounds and has literally melted his ears with that kind of songs, couldn't be negatively prejudiced by such a move from a band that once excelled in this specific genre and habituated its fans to successful combination of technique and essence. Neal Morse's departure made me skeptical. And of course, the ambiguous Feel Euphoria was anything but accidental. Sadly enough, I'm in the very unlucky and uncomfortable position to discover that one of my favorite bands is declining…
The starter, Ballet Of The Impact, is a very good song, typical to the Beard style and that's more than enough for me. Nick proves to be an extremely capable singer and everything 'till now seems to be in order.
Letdown No1 : I Wouldn't Let It Go. A heartrending ballad, which in best case could amuse those who enjoy soap opera soundtracks. Unsophisticated, unconvincing and naively lachrymose.
The next one, Surfing Down The Avalanche, is a proper song, pretty heavy for the band's standards but it rises the mood (and elevates the listener's hopes) after the unnamed 2nd track. Nothing special though, but it certainly is an impressive song with signs of inspiration.
Letdown No2 : She Is Everything. What the fuck is this and who's responsible for it? If I Wouldn't Let It Go was frustrating, this one's more bothersome than hemorrhoids. Why on earth do they drag their name in the mud with such an abomination? Another wimpy ballad, clammy and ridiculous.
I'm starting to freak out…two bad song out of four isn't the best proportion that could happen to you. The following Climbing That Hill has a catchy refrain, nice vocal lines and generally neither disappoints, nor impresses.
Letting Go is a small, atmospheric fully-keyboard intro for Of The Beauty Of It All, which is…surprisingly wonderful! Neal might have left the band but his spirit still haunts them. A very nice song, one of those that make us think nostalgically of the band's great past. The writer can breathe easily now and hope for a better consecution…which is accomplished with the instrumental Nwc. There Was A Time is  a very melodic song, close to the form of All On Sunday. That equals to a very catchy rhythm and refrain, guaranteed air-play time and commercial success. It is indeed a very nice song, one the album's best moments.
The  Planet's Hum is an interesting song, maybe the album's most progressive one. Mid-tempo pace, varied vocal performance by Nick which pleasurably surprises, with the whole result reminding us the mentality of the bands that were consecrated in throughout the 70's.
Letdown No 3: Watching The Tide. Another ballad…I can't understand their persistence in such kind of songs. It's just too wimpy for the great spirit that the band once exhaled from its songs. I don't even want to think about a possible turn to a more commercial style, but I'm afraid that the band is aiming in direction.
The last song ends the album with a fairly optimistic tone as its very dynamic, rhythmic with a nice sense of melody. To be frank this is one of those albums from which I expected a much, much worse finale.
If Feel Euphoria troubled you, this one will bring you to unease. On one hand great songs are present, on the other there are some that are leniently sufferable. The Beards were always a band skillfully balanced between the traditional Progressive Rock sound and more Alternative/Pop-Rock sound. I believe that this time they are much closer to the 2nd category and that's finally what gave me a very bad impression; more than the songs' almost mediocre level. For example, She Is Everything could gain the appreciation of those who rank Hoobastank in Rock, but for others its nothing more than a mushy, crybaby song for the mass. I could go on writting thousands more lines about this band but things are quite obvious here and three words wrap it up: Neal, come back.

2 Star Rating

The Ballet Of The Impact:
(i) Prelude To The Past
(ii) The Ultimate Quiet
(iii) A Blizzard Of My Memories
I Wouldn't Let It Go
Surfing Down The Avalanche
She Is Everything:
(i) Strange What You Remember
(ii) Words Of Forever
Climbing Up That Hill
Letting Go
Of The Beauty Of It All:
(i) If I Could Paint A Picture
(ii) Into The Great Unknowable
There Was A Time
The Planet's Hum
Watching The Tide
As Long As We Ride
Alan Morse - Guitars
Ryo Okumoto - Keyboards
Nick D' Virgillio - Drums & Vocals
Dave Meros - Bass
Record Label: Inside Out Music


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