Today, I want to spread the gospel of Spock’s Beard. Like my review for Ghost, you may also recall Spock’s Beard from my 2013 list of greatness. Their album, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless sleep, was featured on that list, and a few years later, Spock’s Beard is lighting up my day once again. While Ghost was progressive focusing more on Metal, Spock’s beard is progressive focusing more on the prog. They have always used unique melodies and structures to make intriguing music, and this album, The Oblivion Particle, is no different. It’s clever, inventive, and diverse. I don’t run into a problem where any song sounds like another, and each track has a life of its own. You can probably tell already that I really enjoyed this album…you’re right, I did.
I can’t help but enjoy true prog rock. It speaks to me in a way that most music can’t, but it could be because it’s so complicated, I can keep up with it and understand and appreciate what they’re getting at. If I can’t, then I can make it up and never know the difference. Some of you Spock’s Beard purists reading this may have given up on the band after Neal Morse left, but I think that Ted as the frontman has done a great job filling the void. Sure, it’s different, but unless you’re AC/DC getting Brian Johnson after Bon Scott died (but don’t get me started on Axl Rose), or the dude that took over Journey’s vocals that sounds just like Steve Perry, you’re going to have a different sound with a new vocalist. Despite the change in vocals, the heart and soul of Spock’s Beard hasn’t gone anywhere. You can hear the essence of the band with this track, Minion, which is posted below. They have one foot in classic rock and the other in prog rock, and it sounds wonderful.
I can hear influences of other bands in the tracks, like Tides of Time has some Dream Theater floating around in there, and Minion has Yes flowing through its veins (or whatever songs have for circulatory systems). It takes a good musician to use someone else’s sound, but it takes a great musician to use that sound and transform it into their own. I could keep pointing out that X song sounds like this or Y chorus reminds me of that, but Spock’s Beard is its own band capable of taking what it’s made so far as well as the music around it, and evolving it into something great. That may sound confusing, but what I mean is that they clearly are big fans of the progressive rock genre of music because they are paying attention to what other bands are doing. Listen to A Better Way to Fly. It’s a deep and complex nine minute track that starts slow and builds into something massive, and has the kind of power that can match other big bands of the genre with their long songs. It’s one of those “we can make multiple long songs on an album and sound great too, you know” situations. There are layers upon layers in the music, and that makes it even more impressive when you can get to the bottom of the music.
That being said, this is definitely a multi-listen album. The first time, I didn’t get the whole experience. It’s the kind of album you need to sit and listen to without doing anything else, and just pay attention to the music and the pictures the band is trying to paint. Everything on this album has been done for a reason, and there are no wasted sounds anywhere on it. It’s smart music, plain and simple. That isn’t to say that if you are not a fan (ugh, double negative) of this music, you are not intelligent. Not at all. You can like whatever you want, except for Coldplay, and I won’t judge you for it. There’s no excuse for enjoying Coldplay, though. That’s where I draw the line.
You can find the rest of the album elsewhere, I have given you three tracks officially released by the band, I have faith in you. It’s worth a listen, mostly because of how far down the rabbit hole they can go. I am grateful that I have a decent stereo system with multiple speakers arranged around me (that’s what we in the industry call Surround Sound) so I can hear the keyboards on my left, the percussion in front of me, and the guitars on the right. I can also hear them shift back and forth, and it lets me imagine how much fun it was to record and mix this album. When I listen to this album, it makes me smile. The song that made me the most glad was The Center Line, which started with a beautiful piano intro that obviously turned it something grand. You may have seen a pattern here, but that is progressive rock. Start with something simple, and explode it into something engrossing and beautiful. Yeah, go ahead, make the flower comparison, I don’t mind.
You won’t regret listening to The Oblivion Particle. It’s a beast of an album that isn’t bookended with strong songs at the beginning and end with nothing in the middle. It’s consistent and solid, and clocks in at just over an hour so it’s an excellent journey you can take. The shortest track is just under five minutes, so you should know what you’re getting yourself into. No three minute little tracks or short interludes, they’re all contained in tracks. You could probably break To Be Free Again up into different sections, but I prefer it all together because it tells quite a story. I have to admit, I had a little bias coming into this album, because I had heard a track or two a month before the album’s release and knew that The Oblivion Particle would be really something special. I was right. When you do listen to this album, pay attention to Bennett Built a Time Machine (which was sung by drummer Jimmy Keegan), The Center Line, and Get Out While You Can. Great stuff all around. I proudly give this album 14 Ratings Units out of 15, and the only thing that I found that took away from the album is that some of the choruses grew repetitive and weren’t always needed. Don’t be alarmed if the ratings for particular albums are lower than the ones higher up on the “Top Albums of 2015” list, it’s all relative and subjective. Speaking of relative and subjective, this is prog rock, we don’t need traditional or “objectively good” song structures here. Oh yeah, one last note – watch out for the violin in Disappear, it comes out of nowhere, and boy is it a welcome addition to the music.