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Artist: Spock's Beard
Label: InsideOut Music America
Length: 12 Tracks/55:55 (Standard Edition)
Check out the latest model from Spock’s Beard, a sleek and solid progressive rock ride called Octane. Octane is the second release featuring the Beard minus founder Neal Morse, and it is clear the band has not run out of gas yet. Octane features twelve tracks of progressive rock goodness chock full of memorable moments, starting with the haunting mellotron strains of “The Ballet of the Impact,” the first track in the epic seven part “A Flash Before My Eyes.” The musically ambitious marathon is broken up into separate songs that can be enjoyed apart from the whole, detailing the story of a man who in a collision that experiences the proverbial “life flashing before his eyes” experience, before he flies “Into the Great Unknowable.”
It is obvious as you listen to Octane that the members of Spock’s Beard love to create music that reflects their influences, and that they enjoy featuring their favorite instruments and sounds: layers of poignant horns, ethereal Theremin, scintillating keyboard sounds, mighty mellotron (man, I am a sucker for that sound, and so is Spock’s Beard), classic guitar tones, and rich, booming bass. There are so many little bits and nuggets of sonic goodness to mine on Octane! Musical styles and sounds from rock’s past bubble to the surface on the album, but the combination of Nick D’Virgilio’s alternately growling/smooth rock vocals and stunning drum prowess, along with the rest of the bands tasty chops keep the project sounding dynamic and decidedly current.
“NWC” is a rock instrumental at it’s finest, with a funky keyboard background featuring Mr. Ryo Okumoto tinkling the ivories. “There was a Time” is an almost Celtic-sounding rocker featuring a fantastic guitar solo from Alan Morse and some tasty organ thrown into the mix. “The Planet’s Hum” begins with the roaring bass of Dave Meros with a Gentle Giant reminiscent bass/flute/acoustic guitar call and response introduction, then takes a sharp right turn into a heavy rocker with a nice guitar/bass lick that will grab your ears and not let go. “Watching the Tide” starts as a standard ballad but sucks the listener in with classy piano and smooth string sounds. The CD ends on a grand note with the straight-ahead cowbell laden rocker “As Long as We Ride,” a song seemingly dedicated to the current version of Spock’s Beard driving down the highway with their unique version of rock featured on Octane.
Spock’s Beard continues to create an unforgettable style of rock that is refreshingly different. While I miss the lyrical direction and quirks provided by Neal Morse, the Beard soldiers on admirably doing what they do best…creating music that they obviously love and CDs that I can’t stop listening to!
DJ Barry 1/27/2005