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TRACK LIST: 1. Micro Softdeathstar 11:13 2. The Doctrine of Eternal Ice 3:01 3. Candybrain 4:06 4. Crumble 2:55 5. The Doctrine of Eternal Ice-II 8:06 6. Thank You for the Evil 9:16 7. A Wasteland of Memories 2:23 8. Crumble-II 2:54 9. Formaldehyde 8:17 10. Microdeath Softstar 14:48 LINEUP: Phideaux Xavier – vocals; keyboards; ac. guitars Rich Hutchins – drums, percussion Gabriel Morfat – el. & ac. guitars Valerie Gracious – vocals; piano Mark Sherkus – keyboards Matthew Kennedy – bass Ariel Farber – vocals With: Paul Rudolf’s Symphonic Orchestra Linda Rutan – vocals Molly Rutan – vocals &: Several additional musicians
Prolusion. The most fruitful among contemporary American progressive rock outfits, PHIDEAUX brought out six full-fledged studio albums during the previous four years and are already halfway to finishing their forthcoming output. “Doomsday Afternoon” is their latest release, following “The Great Leap”, “313”, “Chupacabras”, “Ghost Story” and “Fiendish”, and features two newcomers, Mark Sherkus on keyboards and Matthew Kennedy (from Eyestrings) on bass.
Analysis. The majority of the band’s previous recordings are excellent, but I feel really happy to report that “Doomsday Afternoon” is even better than any of those. Despite its title, which brings me back to the times when I was hunting out progressive acts among those belonging to various extreme metal-related styles, the album is rich in dark colorations only at the lyrical level, while its pan-musical palette suggests the concept of drama, at times combined with lighter emotions or even romantically-pastoral moods (in some vocal sections), which is quite typical of Phideaux’s entire work. Their stylistic recipe hasn’t undergone any significant changes either, the music still having a strong vintage and at the same time very English feel to it, but in terms of both composition and arrangement “Doomsday Afternoon” is a huge step forward compared to any of their previous creations. The project’s basic lineup consists of seven members, all handling rock instruments: keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and vocals, the keyboards including Hammond organ, Moog-voyager and mini-Moog synthesizers, acoustic piano, Rhodes electric piano and ARP string ensemble. Paul Rudolf’s 14-person chamber ensemble, most of whom play various woodwinds and violins, is almost as crucial to the disc’s sound as the group itself. “Doomsday Afternoon” isn’t overburdened with singing, far from it, and is not even a song-based creation, but due to the variety as well as heterogeneity of vocalists involved it can or, rather, could’ve been regarded as a Rock Opera hadn’t this term been too indistinct. What I see as the album’s actual and at the same time prevailing style is probably best of all exemplified on the opening track, Micro Softdeathstar, the 11-minute suite with a truly epic magnitude. There is such a marvelous combination of symphonic art-rock and classical-like orchestral textures that I’ve instantly felt in love with that composition. (The only time this sensation left me when I listened to the disc was on the 6th track, Thank You for the Evil, which strongly echoes the reflective side of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.) The concluding composition, another epic Microdeath Softstar, is overall much in the same vein as its similarly-titled track list counterpart, only evolving a bit more unhurriedly. On these two, the violins and woodwinds are fully integrated into art-rock structures, the most driving movements included. In other words, both the aforesaid components appear to be united into a single whole, but it is done in such an original way that the arrangements often reveal contrasts between the band and the orchestra, creating a great sense of dynamism and drama. The Doctrine of Eternal Ice, Parts I & II (the first of which is the only instrumental here, and the other is largely-instrumental), and Formaldehyde all at first seem to stand closer to symphonic Art-Rock in its classic form, but in fact orchestral elements quite often find their way into the rock constructions of these compositions also. Without casting doubt on the band’s identity, I’ll nonetheless dare to use some reference points while describing the disc’s prevalent musical picture as I see it. And I see it like Phideaux, having collected together “The Days of Future Passed” by The Moody Blues, Procol Harum’s “Grand Hotel”, Alan Price’s “Oh Lucky Man” and “Tales of Mystery & Imagination” by The Alan Parsons Project, retell these creations by having changed them almost beyond recognition and then pushed the result into a more progressive direction so as to get something really innovative in the end. Though being performed without the rhythm section and woven mostly of keyboard and chamber textures, Candybrain and A Wasteland of Memories are both simply wonderful pieces, as they are. Even such simple ballads as Crumble and Crumble-II (with only piano and female singing) are quite compelling, as each possesses an inner beauty and still doesn’t arouse any direct associations.
Conclusion. “Doomsday Afternoon” is definitely Phideaux’s best effort to date and is a superb masterpiece, regardless of the one track sounding like a tribute to Pink Floyd. This music isn’t as complex as classic Yes or King Crimson, but it just breathes with honesty and inspiration that are so typical of the heyday of Progressive, contrary to what we most often meet with within the genre nowadays. Top-20-2007
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: April 3, 2008
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