New Neal Morse´s ration and new Spock´s Beard´s ration for those hungry for the music of these artists. The same thing happens with Marillion and Fish, who seems to come to an agreement to release albums at the same time. The problem is that rarely the total talent is the sum of individual talents, even though both Morse and his ex band keep a healthy average of quality in every release.
The new Spock´s Beard has nothing to do with Morse era, and that gesture do them credit. Of course they keep on playing progressive rock, but without that curb that slowed them down in a spiral of auto plagiarism. The break-up has been beneficial for both sides.
With a highly controversial artwork (I love it), “Octane” is a fifty five minutes long album. It starts with the suite A flash before my eyes, divided into seven parts with their subdivisions. The opener “The Ballet of the Impact” (5:38) is classic progressive rock at its best, with mellotron sounds and sedative vocals. “I Wouldn´t let it go” (4:34) is a ballad with acoustic guitars and slight 70´s american rock feel because of vintage keyboards. I´m sure lots of people with hate this track, but it´s not bad at all. “Surfing down the avalanche” (3:43) enters in the winding path of metal, or even crossover, styles..D´Virgilio´s voice almost reminds me of James Hetfield. I know that some talibans of metal will send me mails saying I hate metal music… no way, I love metal but this track is out of place and has nothing to do with Spock´s Beard. Fortunately “She is everything” (6:46) takes us back to an oniric world. It seems to be written for Steve Hogarth, with a long, nice and moving guitar solo. “Climbing up that hill” (3:31) is a “single oriented song” with a structure and refrain that reminds me of Jethro Tull, and precedes the mellotronic revision “Letting go” (1:52), a nice intro for “Of the beauty of it all” (4:53), very similar to “Feel Euphoria´s” “Ghost of Autumn” but it doesn´t matter because it has wonderful instrumental intermezzo and ending.
Now it´s time for the “normal” tracks: a bizarre instrumental track “NWC” (4:18) is the best and most progressive Spock´s Beard´s track in years thanks to stretched guitars, experimentation, insolent keyboards and playful percussions. “There was a time” (4:58) passes almost unnoticed, but “The Planet´s Hum” (4:42) and the acoustical interplay with flutes, bass and guitars serves as a great intro to a wonderful and energetic track. “Watching the tide” (5:07) is a tasteless piano ballad without any feeling, except for a little bit of emotion in the end. The album ends with “As long as we ride” (5:35), another mainstream song with some brilliant instrumental moments.
As it´s usual there is a special edition with a multimedia track, three songs that belong to the suite, and five more cuts.
Spock´s Beard keeps on moving between mainstream rock and high quality progressive rock. The mediocre tracks always have some amazing instrumental brushstrokes. To be honest I´d say that this album is “an album with ups and downs but deserves a good listen”. And that´s because Beard never defrauds. Anyway if your level of progressive demand is very high, I´m sure you´ll be a little bit disappointed. One step back after “Feel Euphoria” but it´s not bad at all. I still have a lot of hope for the future. Ah.. Happy New Year!!!!!