With the release of the 2CD set Snow, Spock's Beard have joined the ranks of recent epic recordings like Dream Theater's Scene's From A Memory, IQ's Subterannea, Mei by Echolyn, and Symphony X's V in concept album history. While these albums all represent a fresh take on the concept theory, Snow seems to have more in common with albums like Tommy by The Who or even The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, as the album as a whole fixes on the adventures of one character, named Snow, and all the interesting and bizarre sub-characters that he comes in contact with throughout this musical journey.
The traditional Spock's Beard formula of symphonic pop/prog is in full steam here on this sprawling 2 CD concept story. The band combines Gentle Giant complexity with Beatles harmonies and Yes sophistication, plus throws in the occasional guitar crunch. The story centers around a character named Snow, a disillusioned albino who leaves home as a teenager and decides to rediscover himself after becoming the target for much negativity back home. When he makes it all the way to New York, Snow encounters all sorts of interesting characters, from prostitutes to homeless people to junkies. Such is the life in NYC! It's quite a heart warming and wrenching story, and amassed within all the prog firepower it's a compelling listen. Neal Morse is at the helm as always, his voice in triumphant form, while he and Ryo Okumoto lay down all sorts of keyboard textures and solos with their arsenal of pianos, Moogs, Mellotrons, organs, and the like. Guitarist Alan Morse and bassist Dave Meros give the music a sophisticated punch (check out the rampaging Dream Theater meets Gentle Giant of "Devil's Got My Throat"), and drummer Nick D'Virgilio adds the right amount of nimble percussion, as well as fantastic lead vocals on "Looking for Answers." The pacing of the CD is simply marvelous, as the band segues from tender ballady sections to stomping prog rock rave-ups with the blink of an eye. To say there is something for everyone here is making a severe understatement, and the fact that they accomplished all this within the confines of a concept album is realy impressive.
There are way too many parts to this CD to go into a track by track analysis, but let's just say that this is an essential listen for any fan of symphonic progressive music, or lovers of pop who want a little more than the norm. Spock's Beard is unparalleled at this point in terms of creating intelligent music that is catchy, melodic, complex, and rocking all at the same time. Highly recommeded, and a future classic of the genre.