Spock’s Beard, as a band, has been through so much since the release of its debut record way back in 1995. Since that time, the band has seen lineup changes. It has also seen its albums released on a number of different record labels. Through it all, the members of this prog-rock fan favorite have weathered every storm. And it’s because the band’s members have kept going that the band has released in its new album, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, some of its best material to date. The band’s new double-disc album evolving even more from its equally impressive fan-funded tenth album, fitting titled X.
A big part of the reason that the band has evolved sonically on this album is that the band played a little game of musical chairs so to speak. Nick D’Virgilio, who had previously replaced Neal Morse on vocal duties, left the band after the release of X. D’Virgilio had originally handled drumming duties for the band while Morse was still the band’s vocalist. So having D’Virgilio out, the band was joined on this album by a new vocalist and new drummer. This brought a whole new feel among the band, obviously. That’s evident from the very beginning of the first disc in ‘Hiding Out.’ The song’s opening strains offer an interesting take on composer Edward Grieg’s ‘Morning’ from the Peer Gynt Suite before going into a full on old school rock vibe complete with guitar and keyboard solos. This is the kind of song that will make even Dream Theater fans proud as the similarity between the two is there, musically speaking. The song’s musical side is a good fit with its introspective lyrics, too. New singer, Ted Leonard soars effortlessly through the song as he sings, “I need you now to come and find me/I’m hiding out in a den of thieves/Be sovereign now, don’t’ crucify me/I’m hiding out!” In the same vein, he maintains control even in the song’s more intense moments, yet still has his own intensity. It’s just the start of what’s to come on this standout album among the band’s current catalogue.
The album’s second track keeps the energy flowing with its obvious Rush influences. Leonard again shows listeners that he was the right choice to take over for Nick D’Virgilio. And new drummer Jimmy Keegan gets to exhibit his skills behind the kit. His ability to handle some pretty touch polyrhythmic patterns is impressive to say the least. Keeping in mind the Rush influence in this song, he definitely holds his own with Neil Peart here. One could even argue that he shows he’s just as good as fellow prog heavyweight Mike Portnoy. Lyrically speaking, it would be interesting to find out the story behind the song. It sounds like a story about someone with quite the storied past. Leonard sings of his subject, “I know the secret that you keep/I know the demon deep inside/I know the reason you can’t sleep/I know the past you’d like to hide/I know the monster you have made/I know the wars you don’t regret/I know the blood that stains the blade/You know I won’t let you forget.” Suffice it to say with such lyrical content and such a powerful musical side, this song is certain to be a topic of discussion for fans. Then again all of this album’s songs are sure to be topics of discussion for both their musical and lyrical side. Another prime example of this is the closer on the first half of the album, ‘Waiting for Me.’
‘Waiting for Me’ is an epic twelve-minute plus opus that bridges the band’s gap between its past and its future while also incorporating some other influences at the same time. The guitar and keyboard solos throughout the song’s mid-section will instantly conjure thoughts of Pink Floyd. The song’s “A” section and “C” section expertly bookend that middle, making for a solid end to the first half of the album. The song screams to be played live. The manner in which it ultimately crescendos to its final seconds, is incredible. One can listen to this song, eyes closed, and almost see a setup like that of Floyd performing The Wall live with this song to equal joy from audiences. The second half of Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep picks up right where the first half of the album left off. It has that certain heaviness exhibited throughout the first half of the album in ‘The Man You’re Afraid You Are.’ ‘Down a Burning Road’ exhibits more of that mix of the band’s past and present, musically speaking, while ‘Wish I were Here’ perhaps offers a glimpse of what is to come in the future for this band. It’s another rather heavy piece that would make any prog-metal fan proud. This is another one of those songs, judging by its lyrics, about which it would be interesting to learn the story considering it was written by Alan Morse. On one hand, it could be a commentary, considering how Leonard sings about “Watching TV with Dave (perhaps Letterman?), eating Hot Pockets and drinking PBR. Again, it is that ability to make audiences think and create discussions that makes this another high point to the album. That ability to get audiences thinking and talking along with the song’s music makes it so impressive.
By the time that audiences get through ‘Wish I Were Here’ and the remix of Something Very Strange’ (which is strange yet interesting in its own right), they will realize that they have experienced something very special. This is especially the case for long-time fans of Spock’s Beard. They will realize that what they have experienced is an album that is one of the best works released by Spock’s Beard to date. Fans don’t have to wait to check out these and all of the songs on this album. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Spock’s Beard online store at http://spocksbeard.com/buystuff.html. After ordering the new album, fans can keep up with the latest news and updates on the band’s tour online at http://spocksbeard.com, http://www.facebook.com/spocksbeard, and http://twitter.com/SpocksB.
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