Welcome to day 16 of my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ top 30 countdown. If you’re new to this series, worry not because links to every post up to now, from 30-16 can be found at the bottom of this article.
But without any more ado, let’s get on with today’s main event…
If you’d said to me a decade ago that I’d enjoy the progressive rock genre quite so much, I’d have chuckled at the very notion. However, as time has passed and I’ve grown a little more broad-minded, it is a genre from which I derive a considerable amount of enjoyment. More so when the quality of the output is as high as it is here with the latest offering from Spock’s Beard, a name synonymous with the highest standards of the genre in any case.
Spock’s Beard 2015 is comprised of Alan Morse (vocals, guitar), Dave Meros (bass, vocals), Ryo Okumoto (keyboards, vocals), Jimmy Keegan (drums, vocals) and Ted Leonard (vocals, guitar). And, with ‘The Oblivion Particle’, the quintet may just have delivered their best album yet.
Since it’s release, I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions of this record both positive and negative. Those who have been more negative have suggested that the material on ‘The Oblivion Particle’ is perhaps not as immediate as previous albums. However, I humbly disagree. It is fair to say that the output is a little more ‘progressive’ and maybe even a touch quirkier. But that said, this album pressed all the right buttons for me almost right from the very beginning.
To quote my original review which can be read in full here: ‘My overriding first impression of album number twelve was of a collection of songs that, whilst new, felt strangely familiar and welcoming. Within moments, it was obvious who I was listening to. I don’t mean this to sound derogatory, quite the opposite in fact but ‘The Oblivion Particle’ instantly felt warm and comforting, as if being greeted by one of your oldest and well-loved friends after a lengthy absence. However, having delved into it in much more detail, I’m also pleased to report that, as familiar as much of the content is, there are plenty of differences to explore within the nine compositions.’
One of the principle differences is the heavier sheen to a lot of the material. We’re not talking extreme death metal riffs or growled vocals of course but as evidenced on the chunkier and robust ‘Get Out While You Can’ or the opening riff to ‘Minion’ for example, there’s the occasional riff, bold crescendo or overall atmosphere that raises an eyebrow and, in my case, brings a smile to my face.
Then there’s the fabulous ‘Bennett Built a Time Machine’. A contender for one of my favourite songs of the entire year, it is a bright and breezy composition that I can only be describe as the kind of song that the Beach Boys might have written if they dabbled with prog rock. The lead vocals from Jimmy Keegan give the song an almost 60s pop vibe but, complete with a darker mid-section extended instrumental workout, its a wonderful piece of music that immediately gets under your skin and will have you singing along with gusto.
Then there’s the more straight-up hard rock attitude of ‘Get Out While You Can’, the utterly stunning and majestic ‘The Centre Line’ which is driven by a galloping tempo and which contains yet more delicious melodic hooks as well as some peerless musicianship. ‘To Be Free Again’ is arguably the most epic and cinematic track on the record whilst the closer ‘Disappear’ is arguably the most catchy track on the record with a chorus to die for and a guest appearance from violinist David Ragsdale.
As prog rock albums go, ‘The Oblivion Particle’ is up there with the very best and, in a year of some great releases within the genre, it stands out above the rest.
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30
And from previous years: