Spock's Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep
2013 Inside Out Music / Century Media
It’s been nearly three years since Spock’s Beard released their independently released and funded X, music wise, it gave all of it’s backers what they wanted – extended & epic tracks, musical hell raising across the board; in short, it was their most intricate release to date. But about the whole funding thing, how could this band do it? Why? Because Spock’s Beard are a people’s band, that’s why. Ever since their incarnation they have melded just about all forms of progressive rock from the ages, developed a modern sound when the genre was practically dying at the end of the 90’s; and for one they survived two major frontmen departures, both Neal Morse and Nick D’Virgilio. Regardless, the band moves on.
Enter Ted Leonard, best known for providing his high tenor to Enchant, Thought Chamber, and newbie prog metal group Affector among others. He fits in like a glove, being a familiar voice, as his presence on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep is like a visit form an old friend; and the record itself, as Spock’s Beard’s sum of all it’s parts, is nothing less than what we would expect. When it comes to progressive rock, an album is either good or it just out and out sucks; why, because with this type of tunage, there is no room for mediocrity, something that is middle of the road, sub-standard, or just simply ‘alright’ (mainly if you want crossover potential outside of the prog world); all this jaded, show-offy musicianship, shitty & muddy production, lackluster songwriting, and no real focus on what the hell is going on seems to blow every progger’s mind; and let’s not get started on all of these ‘gimmicks’ out there – why are minds blown you ask, because some listeners are listening with their brain and not their ears (or crotches, as Paul Stanley would put it). So here is an album that doesn’t suck.
Okay fine, now we get to the music on this album – you have what any progger would want, the whole odd time signatures, key changes, your keyboard solos, guitar solo, another keyboard solo, another guitar solo – and somehow the ‘verse, chorus, verse’ ideology fits in all of this. But you also have things that everybody would like, those who listen to this genre in moderation – yet we all know, this will probably be readers and critics poll for uno progressive rock album of the year, and rightfully so.
Leonard brought two compositions to the table that are completely his own, both the opener “Hiding Out” and “Submerged,” the former being this epic pop prog masterpiece, shining with intricately laced hooks, and the latter being in the vein of atmospheric balladry – again, he not only fits in like a glove, but has brought something special to the table. As the album spins on, both “I Know Your Secret” & “Afterthoughts” reign out in the band’s metal edge, pondering upon a more aggressive demeanor in both the loudness and intensity while “A Treasure Abandoned” & “Something Very Strange” kind of ease the vibe back a little where the flow is in a more tranquil state of mind, but far from diving into ‘new age’ territories, still grabbing attention when necessary. Diverse ideas are heard throughout, mostly clocking at six-to-seven plus minutes. The closing number on the album is the nearly thirteen-minute multi faceted track “Waiting for Me”(co-written by Neal Morse, who also plays guitar on this cut), mixing moods together as a more free form pop/rock opus rather than a musical wank fest, all in all, making Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep one of the few true prog albums that remains relevant to something comprehensible and moving.
And now we have the bonus disc, tunes detached from the album itself, but included as an extension of the sessions, hence they give us more – five songs including the Zeppelin-turns-Yes-turns-George Harrison tune “The Man You’re Afraid You Are,” the ballad “Down a Burning Road,” and the heavier frenzy of “Wish I Were Here” are tracks that could have easily made the album, but stand well on their own, as does the instrumental “Postcards from Perdition” and the remix of “Something Very Strange.”
So in the end, it is the Spock’s Beard album we all have been waiting for, as Morse, Meros, Okumoto, Leonard and Keegan have produced another excellent offering of musical mayhem, as this colective is not the work of some guy sitting on his ass, tweaking everything to soulless proportions, thinking he is going to be modern prog’s answer to Todd Rundgren or Tom Scholz; it’s five guys putting their minds together and to work, being inclusive of ideas of everybody involved made to be translated to the ears with ease; plus they have honed their skills on the live stage as well, enhancing their musicianship all across the board to be more soulful and honest. A true testament to what progressive rock is in the 21st Century and beyond.
Copyright & Publishing: 2013 Tommy Hash for Ytsejam.com – Hands Off!
CLICK HERE to read an interview with bassist Dave Meros from 2012
CLICK HERE to read an interview with Nick D’Virgilio from 2006