Review Summary: Spock’s Beard sets a safe foundation with their debut, The Light.
The world is a revolving place. It also continues to evolve in mystery and philosophy as well. There’s not always a tale of the earth and space that can be foretold and there is still one concept that confuses the human mind: the light. The light has served the purpose of giving mankind a belief system. It has also given the human mind the ability to war and plague each other. It has also provoked the influential minds of famous (or infamous, for retrospect) people all over the world such as Mahatma Ghandi, Adolf Hitler, J.S. Bach, Abraham Lincoln, and many others to either make good decisions or bad ones. But did/does anyone truly know the purpose of the light?
The musical world has many different interpretations of what the light is all about. But there’s a particular genre that seems to almost find its purpose the most. That happens to be progressive rock, quite famous for incorporating a number of concepts into their music (along with the die-hard fans that support it). Puerto Ricans in New York, Miracles and Sleepers, flashbacks from the past, heaven and hell, the beginning of the earth, you name it. And it would become very obvious again in the 1990s, a time in which a loss of creativity in the prog rock genre had stopped after going so long in the 1980s, when it took a big toll. This is when bands such as Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, and most importantly in this case, Spock’s Beard, were getting very close to finding an answer to many of those mysteries. Of the three, Spock’s Beard would make the closest attempts to find the true purpose of “the light” and sets off onto a safe start in their debut album, The Light.
The Light, as a track, is Spock’s Beard’s own interpretation of the light. One part of the song you have to analyze very carefully is its lyrics. They give The Light a full, embodied story form, thus making the album more interesting. It also gives the listener a trip through a variety of scenarios that perplex the mind flow it with nostalgia and makes it worth listening to several times. One of the most nostalgic examples is Return of the Catfishman, which lyrics are absolutely extroverted, twisted, and rather odd in a good way. You also get the contrast between the serious, and the…well…insane side of the tale. To top it all off, the other band members give a great sense of instrumentation to the vocals and the song in general, making it a worthwhile experience, altogether.
Another element you might notice about this album is that it sounds like a modern take of Yes’s Close to the Edge. Take for example: the track, The Light, holds some similarities to the lengthy ballad, Close to the Edge, whereas On the Edge sustains an upbeat attitude of that similar to Siberian Khatru. There are a few noticeable differences, however. Spock’s beard doesn’t slow down much and tends to be heavier than Close to the Edge was. It also has some lyrical contrast as well. When you look on the scale of the lyric-style, Yes tends to lean closer to the traditional side of progressive rock, while Spock’s Beard takes more of a modern approach to their album. Spock’s Beard also tends to be influenced by two other groups: King Crimson and Kansas. Take for example, One Man, a movement from the Light, has a set of distorted vocals done very well by Neal Morse that show similarity between that and 21st Century Schizoid Man. Being influenced by Kansas, on the other hand, isn’t incredibly beneficial. However, Spock’s Beard seems to use it to their advantage. What elements that were well done in Leftoverture were refined in The Light, only sounding better.
Although The Light shows a lot of influences throughout the album, it may also lead to a few problems. One problem that is particularly noticeable is originality. While The Light doesn’t stray away from a Spock’s Beard sound, at certain moments, the album can sound more like modern versions of other prog bands. For some listeners, it can be quite tedious, where others don’t mind it that much. So originality, in end, can teeter-totter in either direction depending on the person.
The Light also has a particular difficult point to work through. One part of the massive 23 minute The Water, FU/I’m Sorry, contains some of the most questionable lyrics that Spock’s Beard has ever made. When you start throwing the f-bomb around about 10-20 times, it will easily startle and annoy the listener. All of the other movements in The Water are much more comfortable and fun to listen to, and eventually make up for all the unnecessary hype that had done damage to the song.
Most of what Spock’s Beard does in The Light that’s good generally outbalances what’s bad. What’s most important about The Light is that it remains within the safe distance of balance, composure, and complexity. It doesn’t heavily rely on solos, which gives all the band members a balanced sound and more of a frame of complexity to work with. So rather than focus on particular band members, like Ryo Okumato or Alan Morse, who could steal the show for most of the album, you get more of the enjoyable prog sound that the fans tend to look for.
In the end, The Light gets Spock’s Beard on a good start. It delivers a brilliant self-titled track and returns with the complexity, bombast, and eccentric style that progressive rock fans love. It also shows Spock’s Beard’s influences, ranging from King Crimson to Kansas, and perhaps a need to expand more on originality, so that the two can be equal in the next album. It also shows that constant swearing just doesn’t cut it, and will cause damage. And when these equal out, there is still enough other good elements that make this album an enjoyable experience. In conclusion, Spock’s Beard mostly gets it right and sets a safe foundation.