Spock's Beard: Octane
Spock's Beard - Octane - [InsideOut Music]


It’s been for about two years of expectations, half a year filled with teasers the band set us up with, they even promised a release date in late august early September and then postponed it to January, this is how much pain I went through before I got to this very blessed moment where I am sitting down with the new Spock’s Beard album Octane, the new master piece from on of the leading bands of the neo prog rock genre.

Spock’s beard, for about a decade now has been one of the most noticeable bands in Neo- Prog, since their debut album “The light” which was written in its entirely by former keyboardist/guitarist/lead singer Neal Morse. Since that album, many years, album and gigs which were all rated somewhere between good and excellent has passed on.
About two years ago Neal announced that he is living the band for religious reasons, (you can learn all about that in his latest two albums, Testimony, One both available from inside out) the fans, as much as the band members were shocked by this announcement, but the soon afterwards the now four piece band declared that the show must go on, and soon began working on a new album, the first on without

All of this events, brought up the expectations for their new 2003 album Feel Euphoria, in which we got to see Spock’s beard with a new line up, a bit of astray to the former prog style and a bit more rockier, but mostly looking forward to the future, which we knew will never be the same.

Neal place was quickly taken over by the bands drummer Nick D’virgilio, (which has an impressive résumé for playing with bands like fates warning, genesis, peter Gabriel, tears for fears and the list goes on) what placed as the new driver in the roller coaster of Spock’s Beard.

And now, at the beginning of 2005 they release a new album called Octane, to answer all of our doubts, fears, and expectations.

The album opens with the epic “a flash before my eyes”, which tells the story of a guy who gets hit by a truck and a second before he gets hit by it his entire life flashes right before him, from childhood to adolescents and he realizes he had a good life, in addition to this epic there are five independent songs.

If you’re looking the old Spock’s Beard, well, you won’t find it here, it’s more possible to hear it In Neal's albums, here you’ll get a new, prog rock, high classed band, with a new definitive sounds, new song structures and melodies, Spock’s Beard rebirth if you’d like to call it this way, but anyways, there is a whole new band in town and it rocks!.

The album open with a vintage sound, kind of reminds you Watcher of the skies by Genesis, but can’t be called his twin brother, flows on to a very surprising instrumental part, Alan Morse, does a great work with the guitar sounds, very different then his old playing style, reminds David Gilmours guitar playing in a way, very good, very exciting.

What captured my eyes at the beginning of it all, just by looking at the playlist, is that the album is arranged in a very classical 70’s prog album structure, you have the fir long epic, and then a few independent songs (in the old days, that will mean, first side of the vinyl there will be a long epic, and on the other side, shorter, more easygoing songs.), (this structure was used in many prog rock albums, Gensis – foxtrot, Rush- 2112, Pink floyd – meddle and so on).

The epic, “ a flash before my eyes” is varied, has a little bit of sixties to it, a bit of floyd, a few second of psychedelic influences (especially the beginning which is a bit in the haze), great keyboards work, and a great chance to hear the chameleon voice of Nick D’virigilo which stand out and blends in perfectly.

The instrumental part NWC has some interesting bits, a very different drum sound then the one we are used to, a great guitar part dulling with the great keyboards, a very nice new approach to the instrumentals.

Dave Meroes has tons of great bass riffs, tight and filled with groove, finally he gets to do his own thing as much as he wants to, and that is great!, and the acoustic guitars get a new meaning in songs like The planet’s hum and the ballade, “there was a time”, and lets not forget the emotional “I wouldn’t let it go”.

This line up is much more up to slow touching songs, songs like “watching the tide”, and “there was a time” are very typical even from the Feel euphoria album.

The closing theme “as long as we ride” is a very rocky song, spacey keyboard sound at the back, and distortion filled guitar with great rhythm, for me this is a new experience in Spock’s beard.

There has been lots of debates about this bands direction after Neals departure, but I think it was all for the best, we have the old Spock’s Beard, which is very much hearable in Neals solo projects, and we have this great new Spock’s Beard, which is a whole other thing!, a new skin for this line up, great to hear and know what this band is capable, as I see it, this line up will be just like a fine wine, just keep getting better and better.

Roy Povarchik

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