Review Summary: While Spock's Beard sometimes show off their influences too strongly, they manage to produce some quality, original songs that make V one of their best albums.
Spock’s Beard is a band that often gets lumped under the modern definition of progressive rock, which seems to be flailing keyboard solos with virtuoso guitar leads and a high-pitched singer, all thanks to a certain band named Dream Theater. While there are clearly exceptions to every stereotype and rule, Porcupine Tree tends to be the only modern progressive rock band that people often look to when attempting to find something different. But other bands are around, and not all of them make a strong effort to stay far away from what is deemed “mainstream” music. Spock’s Beard could best be defined as a “pop-tinged progressive rock” band, drawing more heavily from commercial sounds than virtuoso efforts or spacey effects. The band’s fifth album, aptly titled V
, would end up being the peak in the band’s career before frontman Neal Morse’s departure in 2002. Although it is the band’s piece de resistance, V
only goes but so far in establishing itself as a modern progressive masterpiece.
The opening epic, At The End Of The Day
gives a decent representation of what Spock’s Beard sound is all about, balance. Not once does the band seem to go to an extreme with their music, they always find a match to each part, and in general the songs always flow well with themselves. However, they tend to make their influences very conspicuous, and sometimes the tracks will end up only sounding like a modern collision of Yes and Genesis. While often times when band’s redo their sound from the past or even just recently, it can end up as a great product, as that band knows what they did to make those songs, and what feelings went into them. When another band takes those influences too strongly, it comes off feeling dry at times. The single from the album All On A Sunday
suffers the most from this, sounding like a watered down, modern version of something from the Yes masterpiece Close To The Edge
But not every track is stricken with an attempt to re-hash the glory days of progressive music. Revelation
is a masterpiece that features a series of very calm, keyboard-driven lines that explode into a powerful chorus, with the lyrics completely echoing the feel of the music “It’s the rain of revelation/Just keeps comin’ down
”. All capped off with a short but sweet guitar solo where guitarist Alan Morse doesn’t make an effort to be flashy like some of his other prog colleagues may do, as he instead puts in a few lines that accent the tone of the song perfectly.
The so called zenith of the album, however, comes with the grandiose closer, The Great Nothing
. Featuring everything that one could ask for in a progressive epic, the song builds up the intro into a brooding main theme, which then calms down into a softer first verse. It is in these epic tracks that Spock’s Beard blends in with their prog rock peers, with some flairs of that prog “quirkyness” that is often found throughout each song. The keyboards, bass, and guitar all go all it for a short while without going completely overboard, and eventually cool down before it dabbles into another completely Yes-inspired passage. Bearing a great resemblance to the opening epic At The End Of The Day
with its bland, generic progressive sound, the song has much trouble keeping one entertained throughout the entire middle avenue. It continues with this drudgery until we thankfully return to the main theme towards the end, in which the real Spock’s Beard comes out to play, and churns out a beautiful ending to what could have been a very disappointing epic.
shows, the best of Spock’s Beard comes out when they are not trying to sound like the perfect 1970’s progressive band. Goodbye To Yesterday
and Thoughts, Pt. 2
are two original sounding tunes, the first being a ballad-type track with a very uneasy sounding verse that culminates into a relaxing chorus that perfectly eases the tension created through the verse. Thoughts, Pt. 2
is a clever song beginning as a love message in an acoustic ballad form that takes its turn with the lines “I thought it might be really great/To show you how I feel inside/Then I think...MAYBE NOT!
” into a rocker with a solid keyboard backing to the pounding guitar that is sometimes broken up by a short multi-vocal harmony, a sound that the band clearly borrowed from Gentle Giant. The whole track is a fine example the rock tracks that Spock’s Beard puts out, even if they do continue to have some unoriginal moments in them.
does not quite live up to “prog classic” standards, it is still a good album that contains several high points. While the Yes passages in the two epics dull out the tracks as a whole, both epics manage to have a strong beginning and ending, which counts more than anything, thankfully salvaging what could have been very weak tracks. The band manages to reveal what they are truly about with Revelation
, Goodbye To Yesterday
, and Thoughts, Pt.2
, which show that when they are not trying to imitate their predecessors, they can produce some quality music.