Spock’s Beard – X

After we had an ıntervıew wıth Alan Morse of Spock’s Beard few weeks ago, it has become time for me to fill my duties towards the band and write a review for their brand new achievement, “X”. The title refers to the fact that this is theis 10th studio work of these progrockers and the fact that it’s been 4 years since they released their previous record “Spock’s Beard”, could only mean that they really tried hard this time to produce a great record. Read on to see if I actually feel that way!

X” is without doubt an album that tries and succeeds to make a connection between old Spock’s Beard works and today’s actualities on the world’s prog scene. This album contains everything that this band created back with their “cult” albums such like “The Light” or “Beware the Darkness”. This time I dare say that, in my opinion, this album is probably shoulder-to-shoulder with “Feel Euphoria”, which is, again in my opinion, the best album they’ve released after Neal Morse’s departure.

As a mature listener of this album now, firstly I would like to say that after my first listening of it, I had a juvenile “meh” attitude to it, but after every other listening it grew to be one of my favorite albums of 2010, certainly. We’ve been accustomed ever since their first album to listen to long records and it continues to be like that on the new album too. Eight tracks, of which two of them are epics that last over 16 minutes, with total duration of a little bit of 80 minutes, and what a 80 minutes! “X” just proves this band is good enough to show you that they cannot disappoint, no matter what has been happening.

Edge of the In-Between is probably one of the best opener songs I’ve heard recently, speaking of new albums of course. It seems to be simply and catchy, but it turns to be a MONSTER when Morse/Okumoto duo starts to duel each other with guitar/keys solos, respectively with the addition of Nick’s vocals and surely great drumwork, which, by the way, sounds fresh, as we are witnesses that, with all respect, Mike Portnoy’s fame is omnipresent, as is Gavin Harrison’s. Symphonic keyboard sound is another decorative element in this song which really rocks, or if you prefer to say, progs! And I have to say once again and now officially, that Mr. Ryo Okumoto is a real lunatic when it comes to keyboards playing.

Let’s move forward. Next in the row is The Emperor’s Clothes, which starts a with nice acoustic intro and… wait a minute… Do I hear some trumpetwork in there? I can’t be sure if it’s done with a real trumpeter or it’s a synthesizer, but I really like it. Very nice trumpet bridge to the rest of the tunes. Nick recites words in the stanzas, while Ryo shows his jazzy side by playing beautiful piano solo.

Kamikaze opens with Ryo doing some classy Hammond work and several riffs and then again Ryo overtakes leading role and demonstrates all his potential, knowledge and whatnot. Rhythm section works like clock. Oh, and yeah, this is an instrumental. I don’t why but I feel like this piece would be unforgettable when played live.

From the Darkness is one of the aforementioned epics and it’s huge! Dynamic in structure, this song is adorned with a catchy melody that shows Alan’s guitar skills, driven with the brilliant Hammonds of Ryo. This song could be easily described as a three-part suite, with the middle part mostly based on Nick’s singing and mellow mellotron. At the end there’s a nice slow part with mellow piano and guitar.

The Quiet House seems to be a classic rock song in the beginning, but it develops further more in the collection of nicely arranged tunes. I wouldn’t make mistake if I say that it reminds me of the mix of Deep Purple (especially of Jon Lord’s Hammonds) and Threshold’s rocking. Nick’s vocals are pretty amazing here, the piano ONCE AGAIN overtakes the leading role, what makes me conclude that Ryo’s work on this record is absolutely very significant.

Their Names Escape Me is a truly symphonic piece. There’s even a string section, with violins, cellos and that instrument family. An emotionally fulfilling song that will not for sure leave you indifferent, and if you ask me, I would certainly love this song as a part of their live repertoire. And who knows, maybe it already is.

The Man Behind the Curtain opens as another symphonic piece, but soon after it starts to get shaped into more of a classic rock song, similar to songs from their previous album. The leading role here is overtaken by guitars mostly, which go from acoustic passages to electrics, but there’s also a bass solo part.

Jaws of Heaven is the final song on the album and, you guessed it, the second epic. It opens with calm guitar and symphonic keyboards, it soon justifies the epithet of being the core of this album together with From the Darkness.

All in all, from all I said before, I can conclude that Spock’s Beard gave us a very nice work with “X”, which will be, surely, standing as one of the  best releases in their rich career. After all, time is the best judge.

Tracklist:

01. Edge of the In-Between

02. The Emperor’s Clothes

03. Kamikaze

04. From the Darkness

05. The Quiet House

06. Their Names Escape Me

07. The Man Behind The Curtain

08. Jaws of Heaven

Line-up:

* Alan Morse – electric & acoustic guitars, vocals

* Ryo Okumoto – keyboards

* Dave Meros – bass, vocals, additional keyboards

* Nick D’Virgilio – drums, vocals, additional guitars

Links:

Spock’s Beard official website

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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