Octane (Bonus CD) (Spec) Limited Edition, Special Edition, Import
Octane is the 8th release from Spocks Beard, the undisputed heavyweight champions of the new progressive rock movement; it also marks the second release by Spocks Beard on Inside Out Music America as well as their second release after the departure of former lead-vocalist and founding member, Neal Morse.
Octane (as with Feel Euphoria) continues to show an evolution and marked growth in the Spocks Beard sound. Still present are the trademark melodies, lush vocal harmonies and instrumental ferocity that elevated Spocks Beard to the top rung of the progressive rock ladder. However, Octane sports a more aggressive and heavier sound. There is a new power and immediacy to their music which should help the band to further blur the lines which separate musical genres and cross Spocks Beard over to new fans while also satisfying the expectations of their longtime followers.
The Special Edition version of the release will be packaged in digibook format with extended booklet and will contain an additional disc featuring 8 bonus tracks and a multimedia section.
The second album of the post-Neal Morse era finds Spock's Beard settling into its more focused (if less openly adventurous) framework with increasing confidence. While there's no denying the irony that these champions of modern progressive rock sometimes find themselves locked into a retro-prog groove here, it's offset by an ever-ambitious sense of scale. "Flash Before My Eyes," the seven-part suite that dominates the album, reviews the life of its protagonist just as he's about to be struck down by a runaway truck. Anchored by a melodic motif reminiscent of Howard Shore's stately themes for Lord of the Rings and propelled by drummer Nick D'Virgillio's expressive voice, it gracefully soars beyond some awkward lyrical moments towards the inviting psych-pop realm of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. Elsewhere, the instrumental "NWC" fuses the aura of early Genesis with bursts of Alan Morse's solo guitar, while "There Was a Time" turns on familiar, harmony-rich metal-ballad conceits. "Watching the Tide" is a cut above, a Queen-centric slice of drama that showcases the D'Virgillio's supple vocal range. The bonus disc contains a self-deprecating "making of" video featurette, as well as five album outtakes and a handful of "Flash" overdub sessions. --Jerry McCulley
We had glimpses on Snow that these musicians could let loose when unfettered by Neal's excellent but recognizable style.
Now with "Octane" these guys have finally been able to shed Neal's dominant style and cut loose with their own writing and musical styles and unleash all the musical ideas which surely have been kept deep within themselves in the past in order to preserve the Spock's Beard "sound".
It is nice to hear Ryo finally being able to step into the limelight and demonstrate what a great keyboardist he really is, same with Al, ripping away at the guitar like we've never heard him.
Even Dave's bass playing seems lighter and fresher.
I must admit I was more than skeptical about Nick stepping into the vocalist position but he has more than proven he is the right man and his vocals are both moving and worthy of "front man" status.
He also can summon forth a good "earthy" edge at times even singing "Neal-like" on one or two songs but this is done sparingly.
In whole, I feel these musicians feel like kids in a candy store.
They are finally in my opinion, able to fully express themselves and you can feel their joy of this gift all through "Octane".
The phrase "stepping out into the sunshine" comes to mind.
Is this "Snow", "Kindness of Strangers","V"...Spock's Beard?..no.
If your'e looking for "Snow II", it's not here.
This is fresh new music created by some excellent musicans which with repeated listenings becomes even more enjoyable and the Bonus Disc has even more great music, some songs I feel could very easily have been on Disc 1, they are that good.
I only awarded this cd 4 stars because I feel it leaves room for a future 5 star cd which will only be a matter of time.
Neal is gone, he's happy and still making great music, Spock's Beard lives and is still making great music and boldly going where.......
But enough about FE...
Octane, while not being the most "progressive" album I've heard, is still very good. The songs are interesting and keep me entertained. The best of the album, and the most "progressive" offering, would be the epic "A Flash Before My Eye" which is great! It's got great melodic instumental sections, great lyrics, and NDV does a good job with the singing. The last five songs tend to be kind of vanilla, but not NEARLY as bad as FE. Again with the FE comparisons, but it reminds me a bit of "A Guy Named Sid" from FE. I saw a couple other reviews describe this as a "heavyier" album. Well, they must have gotten a different CD than I did, because there is very little here that I would describe as heavy!
Is this as good as Beware of Darkness, V or Snow? No. But if you look at it as a good sophomore effort (which considering the Neal/post-Neal era thing, it is) you wont be disappointed.