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Spock's Beard: The Oblivion Particle

With vocalist Ted Leonard now on his second album with the band, Spock's Beard sound even more confident and ready to take on the world than ever before. After the mighty success of 2013s Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep, the follow-up had some big shoes to fill, but The Oblivion Particle more than delivers, giving longtime fans a healthy dose of classic-meets-modern prog as only Spock's Beard can produce.

"Tides of Time" kicks things off in glorious fashion, filled with all those complex, Gentle Giant inspired passages that we've always come to expect from the band (especially their earlier material), complete with intricate lines from guitarist Alan Morse and keyboard player Ryo Okumoto. For "Minion", Leonard pulls out all the stops with a heartfelt performance, supported by some lovely textures from Okumoto on a variety of keyboards and a killer closing solo courtesy of Morse. Mixing some lush, pastoral sections with heavier Deep Purple inspired guitar/organ bombast, "Hell's Not Enough" is a wonderful triumph, while "Bennett Built a Time Machine" is a lovely pop/prog number highlighted by some great Mellotron and a surprising lead vocal from drummer Jimmy Keegan. Could he be the next to eventually rise from behind the drum kit to the microphone? Time will tell. "Get Out While You Can" is a punchy rocker driven by Dave Meros' thunderous bass lines and layers of fantastic vocal harmonies, and the immense talents of Okumoto are on full display throughout the dark "A Better Way to Fly", featuring some tasty Moog & Mellotron sounds.

One the most appealing aspects of Spock's Beard's music throughout the years has always been their ability to drop in catchy pop hooks within quirky, symphonic, and complex arrangements, and you can hear that in full swing on the engaging "The Center Line", another great vehicle for Leonard's soaring vocals, but also one that lets the instrumental talents of the band shine. This one is sure to become a fast favorite, and hopefully a song that makes it into the bands live set. The epic "To Be Free Again" is Spock's Beard at their symphonic best, as they dive into classic prog waters in the grand tradition of vintage Genesis, complete with emotional vocals, lush atmosphere, and plenty of bombast. And, what better way to close out the album than the quirky, fun take on classic Gentle Giant, Yes, and Genesis, titled "Disappear", filled with sizzling lead guitar, symphonic keyboards, and a cappella vocal sections.

2015 has seen quite a few very strong progressive rock albums, and you can certainly stack The Oblivion Particle up there with any of them. Spock's Beard are once again on a roll (and you can argue that they've been on one for a LONG time), and with this latest release, we can easily say that the leaders of the modern prog rock scene continue to forge the path ahead with a healthy nod to the past. Well done!

Track Listing
1. Tides of Time (7:45)
2. Minion (6:53)
3. Hell's Not Enough (6:23)
4. Bennett Built a Time Machine (6:52)
5. Get Out While You Can (4:55)
6. A Better Way to Fly (8:57)
7. The Center Line (7:05)
8. To Be Free Again (10:24)
9. Disappear (6:36)

Added: October 28th 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 3639
Language: english

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Spock's Beard: The Oblivion Particle
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-10-28 17:11:30
My Score:

Not many bands have shrugged off key personnel changes with the ease that Spock's Beard have, the most recent major question asked of the band when singer Ted Leonard (also of Enchant) stepped into the shoes of drummer (and obviously singer) Nick D'Virgilio, who had in turn taken Neal Morse's place behind the mic. Leonard and his bandmates passed the test with flying colours, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep a triumph. However their latest effort, The Oblivion Particle, looks set to rival it for the position as the strongest release from this latest configuration.

A band keen to evolve, while holding on to a strong, individual identity, SB have in many ways looked forward and back with this latest effort. The band's own unmistakable sound still the basis of everything in earshot, while some of the album strides boldly onwards and some looks back to a time long before Spock's Beard's twenty years. "Minion" hits hard, Ryo Okumoto's keys bulging and boisterous, Alan Morse's guitar work thick, fast and verging on furious, while "Hell's Not Enough" begins in intricate, intimate fashion, before breaking free in ebullient style. The acoustically based "Bennett Built A Time Machine" darts off in a different direction, a broader approach incorporating a beautiful arrangement to highlight some wonderful vocals from throughout the band. The guitar sting and soar and Jimmy Keegan's drums knock out a groove few prog acts would even hope to sit so comfortably atop. Leonard is imperious throughout, his vocals confident and vital, always holding the attention, never afraid to stray from the expected, while bassist Dave Meros is the glue that holds the good ship Beard together. Both aspects hugely evident on the atmospherically uplifting "Get Out While You Can" and the album's longest track "To Be Free Again". The former light and airy, the latter utilising its ten minutes plus to run the gamut from foreboding to fun, while also being a good excuse for this collection's most obvious musical workout.

Other highlights come thick and fast, with each and every song a reason for celebration, "Disappear" a gentler close to the album, "Tides Of Time" a confident introduction. "A Better Way To Fly" illustrates the clever use of dynamics Spock's Beard can conjure with ease, while "The Center Line" initially allows Okumoto to reveal his inner virtuoso before giving Keegan room shine.

So yes, they've done it again. Spock's Beard have confirmed their status as one of prog's most consistent and longest lasting players. Was there ever any doubt?

Spock's Beard: The Oblivion Particle
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-09-21 12:23:45
My Score:

It is always an event when the mighty Spock's Beard produce a new platter of goodies. Well folks, the time has come once again as the Beard have recently released their twelfth studio album, The Oblivion Particle , coinciding with their twentieth anniversary.

This is the second album with Enchant's lead vocalist Ted Leonard, he made his first appearance on the excellent Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep. His vocals fit the music like a glove as he sounds even more comfortable with the band giving a sublime performance throughout the disc. In fact, the vocal arrangements are superb often delving into multi-part harmonies which this band does so well. Musically speaking the band is as solid as ever, in fact I would venture to say they have never sounded better. Alan Morse turns in some brilliant guitar antics as he traverses everything from heavy staccato-like riffs to gentler atmospheric textures. Ryo Okumoto is also a force to be reckoned with as he indelibly stamps the album with his multi-faceted playing ranging from lush Mellotron soundscapes to huge organ riffs and dramatic synth solos.

The album begins with the classic Beard sounding track "Tides Of Time" with its intricate guitar and keyboard lines and tremendous variation between softer soundscapes and heavier progressive rock. It's a great opener creating high expectations for what lies ahead. Next is "Minion" opening with acapella vocals ala Yes or Styx before ramping it up with heavier riffs, ripping guitar solos and big organ chords. The chorus is a huge sing along anthem that should be great in concert. The bass of Dave Meros also deserves special mention as his sinuous bass lines permeate the music as does Okumoto's piano and synthesizer. On "Hell's Not Enough", pretty acoustic guitar and a breezy keyboard melody make for a softer beginning before a barrage of heavy guitar riffs unfolds along with raging organ and more complex rhythmic patterns. Jimmy Keegan really works his magic on the drum kit on this one. One of the album's many highlights is "Bennett Built A Time Machine" built upon a catchy vocal arrangement and joyful instrumentation including Morse's mandolin work. This one has a '60s pop vibe. It is clear the band have a few tricks up their sleeves and are not content to rest on their laurels. Although the tune is uplifting there are moments of darker instrumentation and more experimental flavourings ensuring the music never gets stale. The clanking of machinery and droning guitar chords fills the intro to "Get Out While You Can", adhering to the steam punk theme and when the full band enters its classic Spock's Beard. Here the lyrics are a little darker matching the brooding atmospherics.

More surprises await in "To Be Free Again", the album's longest track and the Black Sabbath classic "Iron Man", listed as a bonus track on my edition. The band remain true to the original but still add enough 'Beardisms' to make it worthwhile.

As the music world has come to expect from Spock's Beard, the production (Rich Mouser, Alan Morse and John Boegehold) is second to none and the album artwork is fun to peruse. You will know what I mean once you have a look.

Engaging, uplifting, spontaneous and delightfully melodic are just a few words I can use to describe this album in a nutshell. If you left the Beard after Neal parted company there is no better time to give them another try. I assure you it will be an hour well spent.

Released on InsideOut Music.

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