July 17, 2022

Myth of the Mostrophus, an album comprising six pieces of music featuring the signature keyboard sound and style of Spock’s Beard’s Ryo Okumoto, follows hot on the heels of his last solo album, Coming Through, released a mere twenty years back, and it arose out of Ryo watching I Am The Manic Whale in the autumn of 2020, then contacting their bassman /vocalist Michael Whiteman and asking if he’d be interested in putting together some music for an album, which eventually led to an exchange of ideas and some preliminary music being laid down, before Ryo then reached out to others in the prog world to get the music performed.

Every member of Okumoto’s current band, Spock’s Beard, agreed to participate in the recording and two of the tracks, Mirror Mirror and title track, the lengthy Myth of the Mostrophus, are performed by a band renamed here as ‘Ryo’s Beard.’ The other tracks on the album are performed by members of his current solo band, Progject, Jonathan Mover and Rich Houser, as well as luminaries like Nick D’Virgilio, Steve Hackett and Lyle Workman as well as several others .. and Mostrophus is the outcome.  

Prog differs from traditional rock in the sense of its greater usage of different polyrhythms and time signatures, both of which can be heard to full effect here. The eponymous title track Myth Of The Mostrophus runs for 22 minutes but I’m not certain it qualifies for the term ‘epic.’ Most twenty minute plus prog opuses … Supper’s Ready, Close to the Edge, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, etc … usually incorporate regular lateral tangents which take the listener to different places but, despite Myth being more wordy than the average film script and even referencing Hampshire (‘beware, innocent people of Basingstoke, beware beware’) this piece rarely strays far from the script. There’s no real evidence of the band stretching themselves on such a lengthy track

Ryo Okumoto’s previous studio album contained a couple of instrumental pieces but, on Myth, the lyrics abound. Mirror Mirror opens the album with a pure Spock’s Beard intro (no surprise, all the gang are here)  and it’s based on the classic Star Trek episode of the same name where Kirk and his companions, while teleporting during an Ion storm, get blown off course and find themselves meeting their evil counterparts in a ‘mirror universe’ … and Mr Spock has a beard!! But, in both universes, Spock turns out to be a man of honour and all gets resolved.

The Watchmaker, if you can get past the Asia intro, features scorching guitar licks from Todd Workman (Todd Rundgren) and, as it’s his solo album, soaring keyboard work from Ryo. The Watchmaker is a man on an odyssey through the past, present and future, with time being literally on his side at the workbench. Turning Point sees the album veering into Liquid Tension Experiment mode with some extremely flashy instrumental work, and anyone doubting the credentials of the musicians of the album should listen to this.  Chrysalis is a much quieter track with good use of flute and keyboard, giving a ‘Camel’ feel to the piece, and Maximum Velocity, after an acoustic intro, becomes a very powerful piece of music with fine playing all around.

Ryo Okumoto hasn’t stepped too far away from the shadow cast by his parent band on this album.  Nonetheless, Myth of .. is a good listen, conveying a range of atmospheres and moods, from Prog to hard rock, and fans of The Beard will quite likely lap it up.