May 22, 2018 Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor (Album Review)
Just like any other well-established genre, Progressive Rock continued on through the decades following the 1970s, when it was the toast of the Rock arenas as pioneered by the likes of King Crimson (In the Court of the Crimson King); Yes (Tales from Topographic Oceans); Genesis (Selling England by the Pound); Gentle Giant (The Missing Piece); Rush (A Farewell to Kings); and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Brain Salad Surgery).
Despite its not being in the eye of the commercial spotlight anymore, Progressive Rock remains to this day one of the most potent and structurally complex kind of music—next to Classical—beloved especially by connoisseurs who prefer that their music be rather cerebral and indulgent than abstract and emotional. In fact, many of the genre’s subsequent purveyors are still actively gigging and releasing new materials—for instance, the 1990s-originating Spock’s Beard.
Formed in 1992, in Los Angeles, California, United States, Spock’s Beard has released 12 studio albums—from 1995’s The Light to 2015’s The Oblivion Particle—and the latest installment is forthcoming, titled Noise Floor.
Currently comprised by founding member Alan Morse (guitars, backing vocals) and Dave Meros (bass, backing vocals, keyboards), Ryo Okumoto (keyboards, backing vocals), and Ted Leonard Ryo Okumoto(lead vocals, guitar), with original Drummer Nick D’Virgilio joining in albeit only for the recording of the new album, Spock’s Beard is scheduled to release Noise Floor on May 25, 2018 via InsideOut Music.
Noise Floor opens with the anthemic “To Breathe Another Day,” whose Power Pop sensibilities and hints of Progressive-attributed keyboard melodies serve only as a primer—an apt track to start the album in subtle grace. The piano-flavored ballad “What Becomes of Me” then tiptoes slowly with its melodrama, undulating and pulsating at the same time, achieving an obviously contrapuntal effect. The ensuing string-laden “Somebody’s Home” returns the listener to the album’s feel-good and easy-listening mood, exuding faint echoes of Asia (“Heat of the Moment”) and Styx (“Come Sail Away”).
The album’s longest song, “Have We All Gone Crazy Yet,” is also the highlight – and where Spock’s Beard finally dons its Progressive Rock colors in full regalia and reverts to its multi-section predisposition – syncopated time signatures, guitar and keyboard interplay, instrumental interludes, guitar ad-lib, Thrash flourishes, and ornate vocal harmonies. After this relatively short epic, another accessible and lushly orchestrated treat follows in the form of “So This Is Life,” whose style takes the listener back to ’60s Psychedelia in the league of The Moody Blues (“The Afternoon”) and Procul Harum (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”), and with a dash of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “My Love.”
Noise Floor’s spacey rockin’ stomper, “One So Wise” is a trek back to the ’90s sound of Spock’s Beard, vibing off a combo of Glam Metal a la Mr. Big (“Just Take My Heart”) and Alternative Rock/Grunge in the veins of Alice in Chains (“No Excuses”) and Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun”) but, of course, not without Spock’s Beard’s Progressive organ-and-lead-guitar call-and-response trademark.
The penultimate track, “Box of Spiders” is the customary instrumental piece that most Progressive Rock albums are never without – a choice cherry on top for true Progressive Rock aficionados. Finally, Morse and the rest of the Mister Spocks cleans up Noise Floor with another anthem – “Beginnings” which, this time, is a hybrid of Glam, Power, Gothic, and Progressive, thrown into a sweet-sour metallic concoction, resulting in a soaring album closer.
Among the slew of third-generation Progressive Rock bands that include The Porcupine Tree (The Sky Moves Sideways), The Flower Kings (Flower Power), and Glass Hammer (Journey of the Dunadan), Spock’s Beard proves to be one of the most enduring and prolific. The much-awaited Noise Floor is a testament of that. CrypticRock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.