Radiant / Metal Blade Records, 2002
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/12/2002
Wow. Just…wow. The Beard is back.
I had some doubts after the blandness of their last studio release, V. I had even more doubts when Neal Morse publicly and loudly announced his conversion to Christianity. (Remember how badly it screwed up Kerry Livgren?) I had even MORE doubts when Radiant Records only sent me half the CD -- a twelve-track sampler from what was supposed to be a 26 track double CD. The doubt process was completed when I found out it would be a concept album about a boy albino with some serious messianic overtones. "Great", I thought to myself, "it's Jesus Christ Tommy with a need for sunscreen". So I tossed the review copy on a stack, and waited. Waited past the August 27 release date, waited until I finally found the CD at my local MegaBookMartThing, and paid twenty-one bucks of my own hard-earned money, grimacing.
It's frickin' phenomenal.
Snow is the greatest progressive rock CD in years. The sound is incredible, the production is incredible, the engineering is incredible. Worth the wait in every since of the word, this is a strong candidate for Album Of The Year. Spock's Beard has refined and honed their sound; the sterility of V has been replaced with a fierce, elegant passion and a fiery precision that has to be heard to be believed. The engineering and production is exquisite, able to handle the Beard's tendency to go from almost-metal to quiet and acoustic in a quick second or two.
There is some branching out on this CD; Nick d'Virgilio is doing some lead vocal work, and there seems to be more acoustic sound present than on past releases. But originality may not be necessary when the CD is this damned good.
The story is classic, the tale of one special man's journey from discovery to power to a bitter fall to redemption. Highlights include the brilliant "Wind At My Back", one of the best love songs I've ever heard; the bitter, funny, take-no-prisoners "I'm Sick"; and "Stranger In A Strange Land". The fifteen minutes or so where "Open Up The Flood Gates" become "Solitary Soul" were enough to make me paralyzed. This is, simply, great.
The album hit the stores on August 27. Go now, find it, buy it. Trust me.