Spock’s Beard - Octane

Spock’s Beard Octane cover
Spock’s Beard
InsideOut Music
This is the eighth studio album of the American prog rock band, but only the second after the departure of the former “mastermind” of the band, Neal Morse. Drummer Nick D’Virgilio is again behind the microphone and this time convinces us for sure about his vocal capabilities. Why is this a “prog gem”? Well, it’s no news that the Beard released one more excellent album. What is surprising is the capacity of the band to evolve, leave problems behind, change its sound a bit and offer us an album equivalent to those that enthroned them among the highest places of the modern prog rock scene.
I personally couldn’t believe that the Beard would release an equally qualitative CD to the previous “Feel Euphoria”. But the outcome here might be even better! This is because band members seem to have digested better the new approach they chose to follow. Indeed the Beard does no longer produce only up tempo, “happy” songs. A sense of melancholy has crept into the musical identity of the band, something that – to my ears – sounds great. The Beatles roots of Neal Morse here have subsided even more. The pop elements (especially like those of “Day for Night”) are almost absent, and in their place we can find some more hard rock elements, which have transformed and refreshed the identity of the group.
Furthermore I feel that things here are more... extreme. What do I mean by that? Rock songs are rock to the maximum (“Climbing Up That Hill”, “As Long As We Ride”), psychedelic songs are extremely psychedelic (“Surfing Down the Avalanche”), while acoustic/slow songs are extremely romantic. Furthermore this time we don’t find any long, epic, lyrical songs like we used to. The duration of the songs is averagely 5 minutes, while the approach is more groovy and straightforward. In this sense, I could say that “Octane” is closer to the plain rock than to the purely prog rock sound. I think that the prog thing here refers to the musical capabilities of the musicians and their unique way to combine dozens of influences into (this time) short songs. The Beard is a great band and the members knew that they would have been trapped had they followed the same recipe again. So, they changed! And yes, they deliver some great songs: “The Ballet of the Impact”, “She is Everything”, “Of the Beauty of It All” (the track-tribute to the past) and many others. Ah, by the way, in the instrumental “NWC” they let their prog power bust out – a glorious moment for prog fans as they tie their instruments into knots!!! I’m sure the Beard will be with us for quite long!