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Spock’s Beard: Noise Floor

Although their sound has evolved considerably over the years, Spock’s Beard are one of those rare outfits who seem impervious to change. No matter what life throws at this band, they continue on and continue making stunning music. Welcome to the Noise Floor.

With drummer Jimmy Keegan moving on from the band in 2016, Spock’s Beard do what they do and find a way to get it done, this time with the return (albeit not in a full time capacity) of Nick D’Virgilio, who, as you’d expect, slots right back into the groove as though he’d never been away. However, the less obvious change with Keegan drumming up pastures new, is the removal of his charismatic backing vocals from the equation. As he did when he stepped up to the mic when it last became vacant, Ted Leonard takes up a lot of that slack, but then D’Virgilio is also the man Leonard replaced as the band’s singer, remember!?

With an open statement of bringing the melodic side of the Beard to the front, Noise Floor opens with the broad strokes (by SB’s standards, anyway) of “To Breathe Another Day”, a bright, breezy, energetic slap of melodic prog rock. Leonard is immediately immense and immediately in control, his sparkling vocals bringing a surprise Styx like edge to proceedings. And with Ryo Okumoto’s organs underpinning much here and elsewhere, it’s an unexpected theme throughout. With synth strings and meandering bass (the latter coming from the ever dependable Dave Meros) punctuating what is still a song with a sweet chorus, things do quickly become more overtly prog, but then like “Somebody’s Home”, there’s a keen ebb and flow between little instrumental workouts and ear snagging hooks and melodies. Where some would make this balance a precarious one, so Spock’s Beard traverse this dangerous territory with sure footed ease.

With all the music here running to around 70 minutes, the unusual step has been taken to split proceedings into a main album, Noise Floor, and a shorter EP, Cutting Room Floor. I must admit to having basically grouped all of this music together for this review, album flowing into EP and back again and while the intention is possibly to split things up for the modern era’s alleged inability to sit still for an hour, the flow isn’t harmed in the slightest by all of the songs being viewed as one continuous piece. However, as it is, the grandiose “Have We Gone Crazy Yet”, dreamy and loose “So This Is Life” and its wonderful vocal layers, the gloriously keyboard heavy “One So Wise” and instrumental “Box Of Spiders” continue the journey through the main event. As ever guitarist Alan Morse darts between foundation forming riffs and adventurous fret forays, while often rushing to the front to rip out an understated solo.

For a band of contradictions, it’s only fitting that “Beginnings” closes the album out. Bold, bullish, uplifting and, as the rest of Noise Floor does, living up to the promise of more accessibility, without ever compromising the intricacies that make Spock’s Beard who they are. It’s also a glorious crescendo and stunning calling card for what makes this album as delightful as it is.

But, then that isn’t it. The four track EP just as sparky, bright, challenging, involving and rewarding as Noise Floor itself. Here “Days We’ll Remember” plays to the band’s more celebrated strengths of instrumental interplay and dexterity, but you can still sing along-a-Leonard if you want to! “Bulletproof” proves a surprisingly melancholy aside, before evolving into a proud march with a Kansas like undertone. Finally, the quirky “Armageddon Nervous” throws just about every instrumental lick this band have at the wall and watches each and every one stick and stay. Spock’s Beard can still bring it and still drop jaws.

Noise Floor and Cutting Room Floor are simply magnificent. They are hugely memorable. And they are massively interesting and exciting. Noise Floor and Cutting Room Floor are Spock’s Beard.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
Noise Floor
1. To Breathe Another Day

2. What's Become of Me

3. Somebody's Home

4. Have We All Gone Crazy

5. So This Is Life

6. One So Wise

7. Box of Spiders

8. Beginnings

Cutting Room Floor

1. Days We'll Remember

2. Bulletproof

3. Vault

4. Armageddon Nervous

Added: July 7th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Spock's Beard online
Hits: 2388
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Spock’s Beard: Noise Floor
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-07-07 16:02:56
My Score:

Say what you will about the mighty Spock’s Beard but a new platter from the band is always a main event in the world of progressive rock. We all know the history of the band so I will not go into that here. Since Neal left the new era began starting with Feel Euphoria (2003) and culminating with their latest album Noise Floor with five albums in between. It is hard to believe the band has been together for over twenty-five years. Although there has been some ups and downs throughout the post Neal era I felt it really came together on their self-tilted 2006 release and for me it’s been uphill ever since. On the new album D’Virgilio is back behind the kit after a two album absence. This is also Ted Leonard’s third album with the band and he really stepped up to the plate on the new album singing with conviction and heartfelt emotion. So, just what concoction has the band cooked up for us this time? Well, it’s mighty tasty that’s for sure.

At first listen this album may seem to be deceptively in the AOR camp and while that is partly true there is much more behind this record than radio friendly rock music. Just when you think the band is settling into a solid rock groove they throw in a keyboard flourish or a staccato riff to always keep it interesting. There is perhaps more of a Kansas influence this time around and this is okay with me as the band is still unmistakably Spock’s Beard. Crashing rhythms and a huge organ riff begin the opening track “To Breathe Another Day”. Great vocals, fiery guitar, organ solos and a catchiness that had me hooked from the very first note. The interaction between Morse and Okumoto is really quite stunning. It’s a rocking tune setting up the rest of the tracks with the best of intentions. “What Becomes Of Me” is a little moodier with more of an edge, especially at the start. The acoustic and electric guitar are used in near perfect tandem. Another ripping guitar solo from Morse and Leonard soaring to the heavens. The vocal melodies are just so tasty I could listen to this all day. The Kansas flavoured “Somebody’s Home” is another catchy tour-de-force with classy organ riffs and D’’Virgilio setting an urgent pace. The staccato part is really cool before Okumoto and Morse catch fire with their respective soloing. All the while the drums get a major workout. “Have We All Gone Crazy Yet” is another great tune with infectious acoustic strumming and more tasty keyboard and muted guitar work. The band’s instrumental prowess really shines on this one with another rocking jam. It’s classic Spock’s Beard, very grandiose with a larger than life sound. With the calming “So This Is Life” the band channel their inner Beatles with gorgeous strings and vocals. Perhaps the most progressive song is the playful “Box Of Spiders”. With a title like that you would expect some interesting twists and turns and that’s exactly what you get. It’s a complex tune with tricky time sigs with Okumoto’s keyboards leading the charge. The last track on the first disc is “Beginnings”, one part ballad/one part complex prog. Another strong melodic track featuring Leonard’s soaring vocals.

The second disc titled Cutting Room Floor contains four short tracks that are no less memorable than those found on the main disc. The beautifully orchestrated “Days We’ll Remember” begins the disc with another superb melody. Next is “Bulletproof” which just might be the catchiest of all with its grandiose sound and killer chorus. “Vault” is a rousing pop rock tune featuring dynamic acoustic and electric guitar, great organ embellishments and another hummable chorus. The quirky instrumental “Armageddon Nervous” ends the disc in classic Beard style.

The bottom line; Spock’s Beard have made another highly listenable and accessible rock album that fans of their recent output should absolutely love. Highly recommended.

An InsideOut Music release.

Spock’s Beard: Noise Floor
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-07-03 13:44:50
My Score:

For their third album with Ted Leonard in the lead vocal slot, progressive rock mainstays Spock's Beard once again have hit it out of the park with Noise Floor...another album, another triumph, something this band seemingly has done with ease over the course of their 13 studio album career. Drummer Jimmy Keegan left the band back in 2016, replaced for this recording by former drummer/vocalist Nick D'Virgilio, but his status in the band seems temporary at best, with no permanent member as of yet announced. As for Noise Floor, the band pull the listener right in with the vibrant "To Breathe Another Day", a song rich with Ryo Okumoto's lush Hammond organ & Moog layers as well as a great vocal from Leonard, the band bringing forward influences ranging from Deep Purple, Styx, and Kansas. Lovely Mellotron, virtuoso guitar leads, and huge bass run rampant on the emotional "What Becomes of Me", while folk, pop, and prog styles mesh on the charming "Somebody's Home". The longest track here is "Have We All Gone Crazy Yet", a melodic & symphonic slice of modern prog with plenty of classic elements, quirky acoustic guitars meets Moog meets slippery lead guitar & bass while the drums rumble underneath and Leonard paints a wonderful picture with his excellent vocals. Images of Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant, and ELP pop up all over the place on this one. After the soaring pop of "So This is Life" (great hooks on this one) comes the daring prog of "One So Wise", complete with roaring keyboard work from Ryo and lots of tasty Alan Morse guitar chops. Speaking of chops, check out the blistering "Box of Spiders", a wild instrumental that sees the band channeling their inner Kansas & ELP for some fiery heavy prog rock chock full of Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, piano, guitar, bass, and drum interplay. The album closes with the passionate "Beginnings", another great vehicle for Ted Leonard, who really has proven that he's one of the finest singers in progressive rock, and a perfect fit for Spock's Beard.

If that's not enough, the band also include here the bonus Cutting Room Floor EP with an additional four shorter tracks that didn't make the cut for the album. "Days We'll Remember" again brings to mind the more melodic side of Kansas or Styx, Leonard's vocals again soaring to the heavens and Okumoto delivering some vintage sounding keyboard textures, while "Bulletproof" mixes hook laden pop with some symphonic prog, the subtle use of Mellotron and bluesy guitar leads a nice touch. The band go for a harder rocking tone on "Vault", but also toss in some gentle acoustic guitar as well as Mellotron for added effect, Leonard & D'Virgilio sharing vocal duties together and doing a fine job of it, and things close out on the EP with the instrumental "Armageddon Nervous", the influence of Gentle Giant looming large so expect some great acrobatic interplay.

The release of any new Spock's Beard is album is always cause for celebration, and Noise Floor is another outstanding release from this band, who are sure to find this latest album ranking quite high on many Best of 2018 lists when the year comes to a close. Well done as always guys.

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