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(88:51, Bloodfish Music)
TRACK LIST: CD 1 1. Cast Out and Cold 5:32 2. The Error Lives On 7:14 3. Crumble 0:55 4. Inquisitor 8:22 5. We Only Have Eyes for You 4:00 6. Sourdome 1:30 7. The Walker 4:39 8. Wake the Sleeper 1:29 9. C99 3:24 10. Tumbleweed 4:59 CD 2 11. The Order of Protection (One) 4:35 12. Metro Deathfire 4:57 13. Transit (Instrumental) 1:13 14. In Dissonance We Play 2:48 15. The Sleepers Wake 5:22 16. The Order of Protection (Two) 4:34 17. From Hydrogen to Love 14:03 18. Eternal 5:46 19. Endgame - An End 3:29 LINEUP: Phideaux Xavier - vocals, piano, guitars Valerie Gracious - vocals Molly Ruttan - vocals Linda Ruttan-Moldawsky - vocals Gabriel Moffat - guitars, dobro Johnny Unicorn - keyboards, sax, vocals Mark Sherkus - keyboards Ariel Farber - violin, vocals Matthew Kennedy - bass Rich Hutchins - drums with: Andy Camou - trumpet Stefanie Fife - cello Frank Valentini - handclaps Doug Moldawsky - backing vocals Nina Moldawsky - backing vocals Caroline Oster - backing vocals Mary Kelly Weir - backing vocals
Prolusion. US band PHIDEAUX is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Phideaux Xavier. His tenure as a recording artists stretch back more than 25 years, but Phideaux as a band unit didn't appear until 2003. "Infernal" is the ninth studio production to appear under this moniker, and was released through Phideaux's own label Bloodfish music in the summer of 2018.
Analysis. Infernal is an album with quite a bit of history to it. It all starts with thr album "Doomsday Afternoon", the second album in a planned thematic trilogy, and kind of the album that established Phideaux as both a known and popular entity in the progressive rock universe. Until then Phideaux had been rather the productive band unit as well, releasing just about one album every year. "Infernal" was planned to be the next album from Phideaux, but then a matter of things appeared to sidetrack the creation of this album. Up to and including two additional studio albums, as well as a marked slow down in the number of the releases from Phideaux in general. I wouldn't at all be surprised if part of the reason for this latest album being called Infernal is due to mutterings from the man himself and his various collaborators about ...this infernal album..., especially as fans have been rather vocal about asking for it in the 11 years that have gone since the previous chapter of the story explored here appeared. As far as being the next chapter of a story goes, this is a production that clearly is different from the previous one as far as the music itself goes. Not on a superficial level, but at least for me this double album struck me as being quite the different beast on a number iof levels. The most striking aspect for me is that the Floydian tendencies of the previous chapter are tuned down and often out here. In fact, on several occasions, when the songs explore darker moods and atmospheres, I almost gets the impression that Phideaux deliberately choose not to use some of the more common elements Pink Floyd had a tendency to opt for in similar circumstances. While this is a difference perhaps only music nerds and reviewers may notice, I was still struck by that element not being revisited this time around. Many of the songs revolve around a key foundation of vocals and either acoustic guitar or piano, and fairly often all three elements. Liberal use of keyboard embellishments, flavoring and soloing is the order of the day for such a production of course, and more often than not in a retro-oriented manner at that. Which works really well on a somewhat sprawling conceptual production as this one. Atmospheric laden, floating guitar textures is an additional detail used to good effect, as are occasional strings and saxophone. But the stars of the show, so to speak, are the lead vocals. Phideaux himself and the various lead and backing singers he use does a masterful job in that department. On quite a few occasions I did note down that the songs appeared to have something of a 60's and 70's psychedelic feel to them as well, referencing a more mainstream oriented psychedelic rock orientation just as much and at times more than a more purebred progressive rock oriented one. If this is by plan or accident I don't know, but my impression of Phideaux is that the former is more likely than the latter. All this being said, those who know, love and treasure "Doomsday Afternoon" will feel right at home with this album too. Numerous details have been borrowed and replicated in the songs here. Most often by way of vocal melodies and general melody and harmony movements, at least that is the impression I get, and fairly often with some subtle and some not as subtle deviations added for good measure. This is progressive rock after all. Some minor themes and arrangement details appears to have been brought in as well, to emphasize the connection with an album that is by now 11 years old. I rather suspect there will be several pointers to the first chapter of this trilogy as well, and fans will get a lot of fan service in that department to enjoy. While this is a solid album, crafted to excellence in just about all departments, personally I do not find this album as striking as the by now much referenced "Doomsday Afternoon", and in my opinion this album is a slight step down from the most excellent "Snowtorch" as well. Possibly because there are too many references to an album I by now hold in high regard, possibly because this is an album that needs a lot of time and repeated listening to really sit. Still, for me this is a great rather than a brilliant album. Case in point for me is the track 'Inquisitor', that for me comes across as very much this album's version of 'Thank You for the Evil', complete with multiple references to that very song, as well as a comparable structure and length. Both of them good songs, but for me at least the one from 2007 is just a better song overall.
Conclusion. Those who know and love Phideaux's work will find a lot of pleasure from this long awaited double album as well, concluding a three part conceptual journey in good style and in a compelling manner. Retro-oriented progressive rock with symphonic rock orientation is the name of the game here, but where the stars of the show and the most vital ingredients, at least to my ears, are the vocals, the piano and the acoustic guitar. Those who love and cherish a well developed story and lyrics of the kind that begs for analysis and interpretations should also find this album to be worth seeking out, in addition to existing fans and those with a general taste for accessible, well made retro-oriented progressive rock.
Progmessor: September 30th, 2018
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