Spock’s Beard are a band that really knows how to survive. After losing frontman and songwriter Neal Morse, they soldiered on with drummer Nick D’Virgilio taking over as lead vocalist and the whole band splitting song writing duties with long time friend John Boegehold. Then after 4 albums, D’Virgilio also quit the band. The band hired Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard and touring drummer Jimmy Keegan to replace D’Virgilio. Now comes yet ANOTHER change, Keegan quit after 2 albums leaving the band without a drummer.
Enter D’Virgilio again! While he is NOT a full time member, he does handle his old post behind the kit on the new album “Noise Floor.” This marks the third album with Leonard on lead vocals. In looking back on their last album, “The Oblivion Particle,” it didn’t hold up well for me. I liked it when I first heard it but it just was nowhere near as good as albums prior, especially “Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep.” I think “The Oblivion Particle” was rushed; at least it sounded that way.
Now 3 years later, the band have another winner! “Noise Floor” stacks up well with ANY album the band has done from ANY era. “Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep” was one of my favorite Spock’s Beard albums and I think “Noise Floor” matches really well with that album. One thing I noticed is the involvement of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto in the song writing. He either wrote or co-wrote 3 tracks on “Noise Floor” and those are my three favorite tracks!
The album kicks off with one of those tracks “To Breathe Another Day” which was also the first video/single. It’s the perfect combo of pop hook and prog sensibility that Spock’s Beard are known for. Boegehold brings the pop to the song and co-writer Okumoto bring the prog. From there, “What Becomes of Me” is next and is better than anything Boegehold wrote for the last album. The band leaned a bit too much on him for material on the album, so it’s nice that the band really took over on this album.
“Noise Floor” is missing one thing that most fans of the band are used to: epics. There are two mini-epics: “Have We All Gone Crazy Yet” and “Beginnings.” However, neither are very long…but they don’t NEED to be. The band didn’t pad these songs at all and the album is better for it. Neither track should be any longer. The former has an odd section that while I like it, I think it’s the one weak spot on the album. “Beginnings” is one of the Okumoto tracks (with Leonard on this one) and it is totally KILLER. You want to hear just how incredible Ted Leonard STILL is vocally? Listen to the last part of this song. WOW!
“So This Is Life” is a cool song with a Beatles vibe to it. It makes for an excellent change of pace while being just a great track. Another killer track is the instrumental “Box of Spiders” which is the other Okumoto written song (solo this time). If you wonder if this band can play, this is the song to listen to: a jaw dropper of a tune.
As if those songs weren’t enough, the band include a bonus 4 track EP of outtakes called “Cutting Room Floor.” While I don’t think any of these songs are necessarily better than the ones on the album itself, they are all as good as anything on “The Oblivion Particle” and certainly deserve to see the light of day. The closing instrumental “Armageddon Nervous” is my favorite of those 4 songs. I love bonus tracks and these are no exception.
“Noise Floor” is Spock’s Beard hitting on all cylinders once again. And it never seems to matter what those cylinders are! The band have certainly gelled with Leonard as vocalist and those still waiting for Neal Morse to come back should just give it up. There’s no question that “Noise Floor” (and “Cutting Room Floor”) will rank as one of my favorite albums of 2018.
1. To Breathe Another Day
2. What Becomes Of Me
3. Somebody’s Home
4. Have We All Gone Crazy Yet
5. So This Is Life
6. One So Wise
7. Box Of Spiders
Cutting Room Floor
1. Days We’ll Remember
4. Armageddon Nervous
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 25 May 2018
Yo, man, do the ‘Rank em’ column for these guys! Not that I insist, but a) Why not b) I’ve finally found time and inspiration to give myself a ride through the whole Spock’s Beard discography (almost finished with only the three newest albums + Falling for Forever left to hear), so I’d be curious to compare my fresh impressions with your seasoned ones.
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That’s a good idea. I’ll definitely make them my next one. I am sure I’ll get death threats for where I place “Snow” on that list! hahahaha!
Yeah, I send death threats to musical and movie critics all the time! It’s a pity they’re never able to decipher my handwriting.
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