Spock's Beard - Beware Of Darkness
Metal Blade
Progressive Rock
7 songs (58:12)
Release year: 1996
Spock's Beard, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Aleksie
Archive review
After a splendidly wild debut record, California’s proggy masters Spock’s Beard returned two years later with added keyboard-wizard/live stage dynamo Ryo Okumoto and a clearly specified, song-oriented approach to their super-catchy, melodic and occasionally hard rocking prog.

The opening title track is actually a cover of George Harrison’s solo track of the same name, where the Beard takes the expectedly Beatlesesque pop of the original and adds their own dose of tempo frills, technical flashes and a notably harder edge. This rougher rockin’ side emerges also on the following Thoughts, which takes the band noticeably further into the realm of more complex and indicate vocal harmonies á la Yes and especially Gentle Giant. The results are good, but they illustrate that at this point the band’s strength was still in the songs that centered predominantly on floods of lush melodies and progressively more epic moments. Still, it’s cool to hear a point where their development in the field of vocal harmonies wasn’t yet as masterful as it would be, but where the work and vision in progress is so clear.

Speaking of the floods of lush melodies and epicness, this album kicks into a higher gear with The Doorway with those very elements. A sweet piano intro bows down commendably towards John Williams and the score of Jurassic Park before charging into an alternating mix of tight, widdly jamming from all band members and really subtle acoustic interludes – a style that the group would repeatedly use to awesome effect on later records. Also, brilliant chorus with sugary-sticky layered vocals abound.

Chatauqua is a snack-like acoustic instrumental leading us into Walking On The Wind, again bringing a more rocking edge to the jam and this time getting it just right. Just as one assumes the grooviness lasts until the end of the tune, the swerve is pulled and a wash of atmospherics takes over to a very nice dynamic effect. While on the subject of rocking, Waste Away is the band’s first display of pulling off a seriously straightforward rock tune really well. The catchy chorus backed up with the brutally good hook provided by the keyboards makes for a damn real crowd pleaser. For the closer, as if to remind the listener what it’s all about, the guys hit one out of the park with Time Has Come, a 16-minute epic with mood changes to spare that is the one tune on this record most reminiscent of their debut album.

Overall, Beware Of Darkness is a very logical follower to The Light. The band’s instrumental chops and especially singing harmonies lead by Neal Morse are just as tight as before and even a lil’ more confident (Morse really gruffs his voice up here and there in comparison to the debut), while the song material reflects that the band has a more specific direction in mind with each song. While it was a definitely positive sign for albums to come, in the context of the first two albums one is left slightly missing the mind-blowing adventurousness of The Light. Beware Of Darkness is no light picnic by any means, but it feels decidedly more controlled. In the context of the band’s whole catalogue, it’s probably my least favourite album of the Morse-era, but that simply speaks a whole lot more about the awesomness of the other records. While I wouldn’t recommend this record for anyone’s first taste of Spock’s Beard, it contains some of the band’s best tracks and is also a great look into the mid-phase of their evolution into solid masterpiece-makers.

Killing Songs :
The Doorway, Walking On The Wind, Waste Away & Time Has Come
Aleksie quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Spock's Beard that we have reviewed:
Spock's Beard - The Kindness Of Strangers reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 91 / 100
Spock's Beard - X reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Spock's Beard - The Light reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 95 / 100
Spock's Beard - Spock's Beard reviewed by Marty and quoted 83 / 100
Spock's Beard - Day For Night reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 94 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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