Review Summary: Feel Euphoria is a combination of mainstream rock and progressive rock which works... sometimes.
Spock’s Beard appear to be on similar tracks as progressive icons Genesis and Rush: the drummer has replaced the singer and the songs are shortening up. Feel Euphoria is a combination of mainstream rock and progressive rock which sometimes works, while other times it just leaves the listener with a big question mark.
Feel Euphoria is the first album Spock’s Beard recorded after Neal Morse, previously the primary singer/songwriter, left the group. Thusly for this record, Nick D'Virgilio, the drummer/percussionist took over all of Neal’s duties – drastically affecting the band’s sound due to new ways of writing music for the group. From the moment that the record kicks off with “Onomatopoeia” the listener is instantly aware that Spock’s Beard has become much more rock than prog. Low synths and guitars grind along in such a way that marks drastic change for the band. Another change is the quality of the vocals from the change in lead singers: Nick has a considerably airier voice than Neal did, and therefore some passages that would have been much fuller with Neal are dry and leave the listener trying to hear the actual pitch within the raspy air.
In some songs the band desperately tries to retain their progressive touch but fall far from it. A prime example is the way “Shining Star” begins with traditional percussion but inevitably falls into the genre of ‘bad, overplayed radio songs.’ Luckily some parts of the song are still good, but trying to reclaim a radio ballad with decent keyboard effects or vocal harmonies just doesn’t cut it. For some parts of the album that do retain the band’s former progressive rock sound, music just feels uninspired and unsettling. Occasionally parts which appear to be attempts at making a technically amazing solo just end up being forced wankery with which many progressive acts have given a bad name to the genre. One more problem is that Spock’s Beard are usually good at tastefully citing influences, but when influences are Yes in the 80’s, the sound is just set up to fail. Certain things on the album are easily recognizable as bad instrumentation, even to those who wouldn’t normally notice instrumentation flaws. For example, overdriven organ sounds mixed with classic rock chug-chug is simply put a horrible combination. Another extremely horrible thing is the couple seconds of borderline hip-hop in the title track. Lyrically the album just seems like it was written quickly and lazily. The following excerpt from “A Guy Named Sid” Part IV is just overly plain and sounds like something an angst-filled teenager wrote in his bedroom.
“This is the story of a guy named Sid
Who lost his heart when he was just a kid
Don't judge him on the things that he did
This is the story of a guy named Sid”
But every thorn has its rose; this otherwise unentertaining album does have some high points. Part III of “A Guy Named Sid” is actually quite enjoyable and doesn’t feel overdone at all (the bVI-bVII-I progression with second inversions is sublime). Some of the writing on Part VI is not quite in the progressive genre but still can be fun if you’re a fan of any kind of rock. Even though the melodies here don’t compare with those on V they’re still decent enough to be moderately satisfying. Tracks like the closer, “Carry On,” add interesting solos, wind instrument sounds, and unexpected chords to progressions that would otherwise be fit for playing in a local mall or a modern radio station. It’s amazing that some parts of tracks like “The Bottom Line” can have such great, placid sections that are so thought-provoking and yet still disappoint on an overall level due to too many style changes from radio rock to progressive. The bad news is that this somewhat decent, but overall unstable sound is a great representation of what to expect from the album.
Therefore this album sits a little lower than being good but it’s not all poor. Some things that deserve an honorable mention are “Sid’s Boys Choir” (which is possibly the weirdest song on the record, being just vocals), the chord progression in the first part of “Carry On,” and the good sections of “The Bottom Line.” For big fans of Spock’s Beard, this is probably not the album you want to get, as it really doesn’t compare with their previous works at all and ends up being at the lower end of their discography.