Neal Morse

Metal Blade, 2003


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Neal Morse is the founder of the highly successful progressive rock band Spock’s Beard, as well as a member of the prog-rock supergroup Transatlantic. After almost 20 years in the music business, and a chance encounter with an old acquaintance who led him to Christianity, he chose to devote his musical career to his newfound spirituality. His first expression of his faith is a 2-disc tour-de-force titled simply, and aptly, Testimony.

Neal's personal insight adds immeasurable depth to a spiritually focused album. There are a thousand ways to express faith or belief, but none ring truer than "Here's what happened to me." Neal’s moving story is accompanied by a lush, soaring musical tapestry that flows across a dozen sonic landscapes.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

His story wisely avoids an abstract narrative, which is often a pitfall of a progressive-rock minded artist. It's easy to fall into a lot of artsy metaphor, flashbacks and fast-forwards. The story is very linear and tells of his early life, where the seeds of discontent and disillusionment are planted. Excessive partying, playing dives for empty rooms, and ultimately feeling detached and empty. Like a lot of born-agains, he speaks painfully about years of wondering and searching, with no real clue as to what he was seeking.

Neal's testimony feels remarkably similar to that of one of his musical and spiritual mentors, Kerry Livgren (Kansas, Proto-Kaw). Like Kerry, this is not the story of a down-and-outer, of someone who sinks to the depths. Neal's life wasn't filled with stints in rehab, serial marriages, or scandal. By all accounts he was a pretty stable and successful guy. He reflects a similar story to a lot of people. He didn't need to be saved from himself so much as he was looking for answers. He describes painfully the aching emptiness of the spirit that led him to wonder what was missing from his life.

Besides being a honest and moving testimony of faith, Testimony is a brilliant musical achievement. Neal’s songwriting skills are legendary among fans of Spock's Beard, and he pulls out all the stops to create an amazing musical journey. Soaring progressive passages and dense orchestration are used to spectacular affect. The styles and moods range from pastoral to chaotic. Morse plays the majority of the instruments himself, assisted by a host of stellar musicians including Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and Kerry Livgren.  The music itself if a brilliant accompaniment to the story, and adds stunning emotion and depth.

Progressive rock fans, even if the material doesn’t speak to you, the music will.  Powerful simply as the narrative of a transformational personal journey, Testimony is also an amazing musical trip, deserving a place with the best modern progressive rock.

Rating: A

User Rating: B



© 2008 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade, and is used for informational purposes only.