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‘X’, unsurprisingly, marks the tenth studio album from American-based stalwarts of modern prog rock Spock’s Beard after a 4 year break from the studio following their 2006 self-titled release. Self-financed and initially released independently by the band in May this year, with ‘Their Names Escape Me’ as an additional track (not available on this general release), the album now sees the band move away from their original label, Inside Out, to Mascot’s new platform for progressive music, Music Theories Recordings. Remaining firmly rooted in their unique style, ‘X’ displays a huge leap forward in maturity, not only in terms of songwriting and composition (mainly in the hands of Dave Meros and Alan Morse this time), but also in terms of how they play together as a band and in the evident progression and maturation of Nick D’Virgilio’s vocal skills. The upbeat and typically Beardy ‘Edge Of The In Between’ works well as an opening track, despite its perhaps overlong and slightly repetitive nature, which then leads straight into the Ryo-keyboard-fest of ‘Kamikaze’ (Okumoto’s only contribution to the album). Original member Neal Morse lends his songwriting skills (just when SB were starting to shake off the “they miss Neal Morse” whingers) to ‘Emperor’s Clothes’, which is a slightly bizarre but effective mélange of prog, Sgt Peppers era Beatles (only in terms of the orchestration) and Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies, but with a slight ‘Octane’-era slant. 17 minute epic ‘From The Darkness’ sees vocalist and drummer Nick D’Virgilio make his only songwriting contribution (something that, to be honest, this album noticeably lacks), with each ‘movement’ moving from classic rock stylings to quieter melodies, prog and the rather beautiful ‘Start Over Again’ section. Final track ‘Jaws of Heaven’ (part-penned by “silent” Beardies member John Boegehold) sits as perhaps the most outstanding track on the album in terms of composition, orchestration and musical skill, especially the last three or so minutes – that cello line and the Alan Morse guitar solo stick with you for days. Maybe now they can finally shake off the “they’ve not been the same since Neal Morse left” tag and be truly appreciated as the band that they have grown into since, and long may they continue to make their mark on the modern prog rock scene.
Music Theories Recordings
Review by Hannah Sylvester
30th August 2010
1) Edge Of The In Between
2) Kamikaze
3) Emperor’s Clothes
4) From The Darkness
5) Quiet House
6) Man Behind The Curtain
7) Jaws of Heaven
"Maybe now they can finally shake off the “they’ve not been the same since Neal Morse left” tag and be truly appreciated as the band that they have grown into since..."