Spock's Beard_The Oblivion ParticleWhat do you think of when I say “progressive metal?” Well, if you’re anything like me, you think of early ’90s wanks from New York, nerdy band photos of cheap sunglasses and bad haircuts, masturbating guitar solos, cheesy keyboard theatrics, and lengthy double-albums longing to be The Wall or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. If your mind does indeed work like mine (you poor, poor bastard), then Spock’s Beard has a cranial nook reserved somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of your perverted, throbbing skull organ. Having been a regular fan before the Snow fell and Neal Morse left us all for God, I haven’t revisited them in over a decade, as I chose to avoid the beard oil of the band’s ’00 era. However, after being forced by the AMG HR department to listen to their entire back-catalog and review their newest opus, The Oblivion Particle, it turns out I rather enjoyed myself. Rediscovering a band is as satisfying as relieving oneself (By the way Steel, you should send a goon to mop up HR).

After losing Neal Morse in 2002 and then drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgilio after 2010’s X, Spock’s Beard recruited Ted Leonard and Jimmy Keegan for mic and drum duty, respectively. With this fresh blood, the band took Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep to a level that Spock’s Beard has been trying to achieve for years. While nowhere near classics like The Light and The Kindness of Strangers, the band was refreshed, focused, and having one hell of a good time. And that is definitely true for The Oblivion Particle. On par with Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, The Oblivion Particle takes everything a step farther with a spontaneity and drive that harkens back to the old days and puts this release up around the Neal Morse era in quality.

Though “Tides of Time” plays out rather typically with it’s Dream Theater-esque qualities and keyboard wanking, the chorus is catchy and the midsection acoustic guitar build-up would make Joe Bonamassa throb in his pants. It’s these progressions and curve-ball antics that make The Oblivion Particle stand out like the older releases. Other nifty tweaks to the formula come in the way of the Nick Drake-meets-Dax Riggs verse of “Hell’s Not Enough” and the overly fun “Bennett Built a Time Machine;” where Benny builds a machine in order to fix the past. “Bennett Built a Time Machine” not only sports the goofiest rhythms and lyrics on the album, but uses them in a chorus ripped from the staffs of “I’m Into Something Good” [Herman’s Hermits] while providing some Arcturus-inspired synthing that sends Benny careening down a fourth-dimensional rabbit hole. With such progressive intensive tracks back-to-back, it is only fitting that Benny’s number be succeeded by “Get Out While You Can;” a straight-forward ditty that delivers the goods while providing a breather from all the “progression.”

Spock's Beard_2015

Though Spock’s Beard have done away with the multi-part epics they’re famous for, “A Better Way To Fly” and “To Be Free Again” are for those listeners that itch for ten-minute campaigns. Neither are really groundbreaking, but both are solid. The former includes some calming Ghost-like background organs, and a full-band vocal performance at the 7:00 mark, while the laid-back attitude of “To Be Free Again” could lull you to sleep and close this album perfectly. Instead, closer “Disappear” begins like Skynyrd‘s “Free Bird” and casually moves along through an odd barbershop-esque arrangement near the 4:00 mark before finally ending. Sadly, I’m not a fan  of this one due to the location on the album, and elsewhere, the off-putting chorus and lyrics of “Minion” are an issue.

Overall, this a really fun album that requires a few spins to penetrate. The production is top-notch, the instruments are evenly balanced, the performances are stellar, Leonard’s vocals are highly enjoyable (and so are Keegan’s as he takes the lead on “Bennett Built a Time Machine”), and the songwriting is concise and focused. And if that’s not enough to get you to click on the embedded track, look at that fucking artwork! So, strap in, dear reader, as we take this pod not to the yesteryears of Spock’s Beard, but rather to the future. I never thought I’d say it again but I’m excited to see what the future holds for this band [Report to HR with a large mop.Steel Druhm].


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Websites: www.spocksbeard.com| facebook.com/Spock’sBeard
Releases Worldwide: August 21, 2015

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  • Thank you for reviewing this. I wouldn’t have thought this was in normal AMG territory, but that’s why I love AMG. I caught the Bennett video last week and enjoyed it, so I might try and get back into them again. At one point, they were my favorite band. Now they have this Ship of Theseus thing going for them that I don’t really know if they are the same band.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      It was a fun one to review so I’m glad we got it. Honestly, they are NOT the same band anymore but this album and the last one show signs of new life that I am enjoying. It is definitely worth a listen even if it’s not the Morse-brothers days (however, Neal did help write a little on this one).

      • Kronos

        “Neal Morse left us for God” is a spectacular little nugget of a clause.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          I do what I can. And so does god…

          • Get mop, go to HR!

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I’ve taken over that corner! I can do whatever I want in it!

  • Chris Timbó

    What a treat to read something about Spock here! Hope the album is good, last one left me somewhat cold, which was surprising, since X was very very good. Ted Leonard is amazing on Enchant and Thought Chamber, but I’m not sure he was a good fit for Spock. Hope the new songs change my mind.
    Will buy it though, just on the promise that Spock’s Beard almost always delivers. Prog on!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      BUY IT….

      • Chris Timbó

        Will do, doc, will do.

  • sssgadget

    Great review. Always love some prog myself.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks much! Prog is good when it’s fun.

  • MelbCro

    Good review, used to really be obsessed with this band years ago. But they aren’t a prog metal band, they aren’t metal at all.

    • Elton Chagas

      I agree.

    • Celaeno

      It’s maybe not metal, but it’s definitely not *not* metal. I don’t know what I would classify it as.

      • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

        ore?

        • Celaeno

          yes, i like this.

    • Tanuki

      yeah it’s neo prog rock. A genre that churned out more crappy bands than decent ones.

      • MelbCro

        No they aren’t. Neo prog is a sub genre that was born in the 80s with bands like Marillion and IQ as part of a second wave of prog. Its has very clean guitar sound with not much in the way of the technical jamming that you saw with a lot of 70s prog. A modern example of neo prog is Gazpacho, who have been reviewed on this site. Spock’s Beard on the other hand was part of a third wave in the 90s of retro sounding bands like the Flower Kings.

  • Celaeno

    All of this throbbing and penetration makes me want to fly to the sexual world. Seriously though, love this. Greta review.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I was waiting for someone to make a comment about my throbtastic performance.

    • Dr_Fisting

      I can only hope “fly to the sexual world” becomes a catchphrase.

      • Celaeno

        how could it not?! it is pretty great.

  • Hideous destructor

    Sounds interesting. These guys were on my radar a while back but I never checked them out. Might rectify that.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Royally rectify.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    it´s nice to hear Joe Bonamassa mentioned around here.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Couldn’t help it. Love that dude. Actually watched his acoustic show the other day. Fucking incredible.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I am absolutely convinced Joe should do a couple of Yngwie Malmsteen covers. “Bedroom Eyes” and “Deja Vu”. I think he could both pull it off and leave his own stamp on the songs.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Interesting idea… I guarantee he can pull that shit off (not surprising with his skill). I still love that Tom Waits cover he does. Nothing amazing as far as guitar work goes. Just classy and impressive.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Which Tom Waits cover? I know he did “Chocolate Jesus” with Beth Hart, I’m not aware of another.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            “Jockey Full of Bournon.” From
            The Rain Dogs album, I believe. Great stuff. Check it out.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I’ll check it out!

  • Banana boy

    Holy crap! I have never heard of this band. After reading your review, I listened to “brief nocturnes and dreamless sleep” and am loving it! WOW! This is so good! I am a picky music listener so when I listen to other peoples suggestions I am always like, ehhh… But holy shit, man… So good… I can’t wait to hear what they come up with…in 2 hours? LOL.