Perhaps the best way to start a review of Spock's Beard's twelfth album, The Oblivion Particle, is with a summarization, notably from bass player Dave Meros. He said of the album, "... the whole album is still within the parameters of what people expect to hear from us." Now there's a shocking revelation, and fans breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But I'm sure I'm not the only fan who listens to Spock's Beard simply because they always sound like Spock's Beard and I like that. That, and every album is consistently creative and well-crafted. The Oblivion Particle is no exception.
Fundamentally, one of the best things about Spock's Beard, being a melodic progressive rock band, is that they're never excessively technical. You know what I mean. That wacky musical wonkery that you can't follow because it butchered the melody of the song to pieces. Melody, rhythm, and the collective pursuit of song coherence drive the Bearded Ones. (Well, only Ted Leonard has a beard.) It's not their goal to overwhelm you with odd time signatures or mesmerize you with their individual expression of instrumental wizardry. But both are there, as expected, notably the great musicianship. Yet everything's subservient to the song. Listening to the Tides Of Time or A Better Way To Fly, you certainly hear the technicality and individual skill in the varied parts of the arrangement, but as a parts that serve the whole.
Another terrific aspect of the Spock's Beard sound is the vocal arrangements. I still say that with inclusion of Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard at the microphone, the band has raised the bar for themselves, stepped up another level. He is completely melodic and harmonious; his delivery smooth and strong, never out of range. Leonard adds presence that only enlivens what you hear surrounding him. Then in harmony with his cohorts, the arrangements take on even greater substance, almost Yes-like expression in places. You can definitely hear that motif at the start of Minion. Alternatively, listening to the vocal arrangement and refrain of Bennett Built A Time Machine, it sounds like Neal Morse sneaked into the studio with a few ideas of his own.
With these things said, ultimately, it's the songs that capture the imagination and attention. A few more words about some of the songs. The aforementioned Bennett Built A Time Machine is the song that definitely puts the melodic rock into the prog arrangement, simply for it's AOR like accessibility in the refrain. Alternatively, even with it's quiet start, Get Out While You Can reminded me of a more direct hard rock song, yet with these soft segues lacing within. Another song, The Center Line has this wonderful classical piano line that leads into a song that can only be described as bright and lively from generous keyboard and guitar play. Some other songs, not so much. Both Hell's Not Enough and Disappear felt moderatel melancholic early on, only taking time to rise and engage you. Not bad songs by any means, but definitely not my favorites here.
Nevertheless, as a long time, hardly unbiased, fan, it's hard to find fault with a band with such immense talent and genuine creativity. The Oblivion Particle expresses both qualities with enthusiasm and skill for entertaining results. Easily recommended.
The Oblivion Particle is another fine expression of Spock's Beard's immense talent and genuine creativity. Perhaps not quite as impressive as some previous material, but a delight nonetheless.
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