Spock's Beard- Octane (Inside Out)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. A Flash Before My Eyes – The Ballet Of The Impact
2. A Flash Before My Eyes – I Wouldn’t Let It Go
3. A Flash Before My Eyes – Surfing Down The Avalanche
4. A Flash Before My Eyes – She Is Everything
5. A Flash Before My Eyes – Climbing Up That Hill
6. A Flash Before My Eyes – Letting Go
7. A Flash Before My Eyes – Of The Beauty Of It All
8. NWC
9. There Was A Time
10. The Planet’s Hum
11. Watching The Tide
12. As Long As We Ride



Octane, Spock's Beard's second offering without Neal Morse at the helm, is almost a near opposite of 2003's Feel Euphoria. That disc featured a batch of decent shorter songs and a contrived 20+ minute epic while Octane includes a group of mediocre shorter songs and an incredible epic.

One thing remains the same with both releases, though - that the best music is penned by bassist Dave Meros. A non-writing entity while Morse was with the band, Meros co-wrote Feel Euphoria's best song, the beautiful "Ghosts of Autumn." And here, he co-wrote much of the 31-minute "A Flash Before My Eyes," one of the best epics that Spock's Beard has ever produced. While FeelEuphoria's obligatory long piece, "A Guy Named Sid," seemed forced as an effort to replicate previous Spock's Beard epics, "A Flash Before My Eyes" works very well on two levels - both as a cohesive concept piece and as a collection of seven parts that individually stand well on their own.

About an individual who sees all of the highlights of his life pass before him just a moment before he dies as a truck smashes through his car, "A Flash Before My Eyes" starts with "The Ballet of the Impact" and its chilling mellotron intro. Composed by Meros along with recent Beard collaborator John Boegehold, this proggy piece makes for an excellent way to start off Octane.

This segues into the acoustic Alan Morse/Boegehold composition, "I Wouldn't Let it Go." Here, the flash of childhood is what drummer/lead vocalist Nick D’Virgilio sings about. Keyboardist Ryo Okumoto adds a pretty cool synth break towards the middle of the track and he finishes the number up playing church organ.

This quiet is broken up with the storming "Surfing Down The Avalanche." Written by Boegehold, Meros and D'Virgilio, the number is about remembering back to the days of being a reckless teen. Meros plays a heavy bass line throughout the song, Okumoto adds some stabs from the Hammond organ and D’Virgilio thrashes away on the drums.

Calm soon returns with Boegehold/Meros’ "She Is Everything." A tale about falling in love and marriage, it features an excellent extended guitar solo from Alan Morse and some wonderful, moody keyboards.

An up-tempo Boegehold/Meros piece, “Climbing Up That Hill,” continues the epic with D’Virgilio singing about mundane adulthood. Okumoto’s synthesizer interlude, “Letting Go,” follows and leads into the closing “Of The Beauty Of It All,” another Boegehold/Meros composition. Here, D’Virgilio sounds remarkably like Neal Morse as he sings about “all the love we leave behind/all the work we leave undone/all the words we leave unspoken/all the things we won’t become” as his life is now over. Musical themes from “The Ballet Of The Impact” return here. Some soft piano closes out this masterful epic. 

D'Virgilio's Rush-like instrumental, "NWC," starts out the second half of the disc with a bang. The whole band show off their chops as instrumentalists with Okumoto taking the forefront playing some squealing synthesizer and haunting mellotron.

After “NWC,” though, things go dramatically downhill for Octane with a series of forgettable tunes. The acoustic Boegehold/Alan Morse song, “There Was A Time,” starts this downward spiral. Despite a cool Hammond solo, this song is a fairly boring AOR piece.

An interesting bass part starts off “The Planet’s Hum,” written by D’Virgilio, Alan Morse and Stan Ausmus. Dark and heavy music gives way in the middle as the tune becomes a fairly pedestrian track. Again, nothing to write home about.

D’Virgilio’s gentle piano ballad, “Watching The Tide,” is perhaps the worst of the bunch. With D’Virgilio’s sweet vocal delivery, the song sees Spock’s Beard moving dangerously close to easy listening territory. Standard 80’s power ballad clichés are featured characteristics.   

Octane closes with the Boegehold/D’Virgilio/Alan Morse penned “As Long As We Ride,” another uneventful rocker.

So Octane is definitely a tale of two discs, and it is still another incomplete Morse-less release. That being said, it is definitely worth hearing for the stellar “Flash Before My Eyes.” And if anything, it is far better than Morse’s latest offering, One.

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