on 17 August 2008
Phideaux is an unusual group. It has a large membership (9 on this album), though the two core members are Rich Hutchins and Phideaux Xavier. They draw on a number of styles to produce a very pleasant mix of genres, and would generally be considered orchestral progressive rock. "Doomsday Afternoon" is their sixth album and it is quite an excellent experience if you are unfamiliar with this group. This album was released on the 21st of June, 2007. In addition to the nine listed members, there are another seven guest performers, as well as an "orchestra" of an additional 16 members. This album is subtitled "An Eco Terror Tale", and it does have an underlying feel of foreboding from the very start. It also has several sections which are beautiful yet also very dark. The message of the album is not one of hope; it is one of being a wake-up call, though one wonders if it is already too late.
The album opens with "Micro Softdeathstar", which is a tremendous opening piece that gives the listener a range of styles and sounds. This is followed by the instrumental piece "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (part one)", which introduces key musical themes which will return later in the album. "Candybrain" is a much simpler piece than the opener, yet it fits in well and has the same overall feeling of darkness and foreboding as the other pieces, as does the instrumental "Crumble" which serves much the same purpose as the earlier instrumental in building the musical themes of the album without the distraction of lyrics. Next is "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (part two)" which opens with a beautiful and dark section which then explodes to closes out the first act of the album.
Act two opens with "Thank You for The Evil", a dark piece which is haunting enough to become a single (at least in the eyes of the band). The next piece, "A Wasteland of Memories" is relatively short and revisits themes from the opening number briefly, before "Crumble" returns, this time with lyrics. "Crumble" is a beautiful song, but full of sadness, as if it were the death-song for our once beautiful planet. "Formaldehyde" is next up, and it opens with a nice instrumental section, though ultimately the piece when viewed as a whole is not quite as strong as most of the album, there are some fantastic sections even to this piece. The album closes with "Microdeath Softstar", a closing piece which pulls all the musical and lyrical themes together, a nearly impossible task which they pull off fairly well.
One is not surprised to learn that the group has been influenced by 70's progressive groups. One of the aspects which becomes very clear when listening to this album is that the group takes a great deal of care in making sure that the music is performed properly. This album was recorded twice because the first recording felt too rushed when they listened to it. Those who like 70's progressive will certainly enjoy this album, but it also does not suffer from feeling dated. It is a five-star album nearly from start to finish. If you are looking for something new to check out, there is no better place to start than with this one.
on 25 January 2008
Phideaux is a band started by songwriter Phideaux Xavier and drummer Rich Hutchins, who with a revolving cast of friends, specialize in adventurous art rock. There are some classic 70s dark progressive rock references throughout this album, which provides a gloomy outlook of the future. Think Genesis circa Lamb, Floyd circa Animals and Tull circa Thick as a Brick. It's awesome stuff but don't take my word for it. Take a chance on a band you've probably never heard of if you're a prog fan of the aforementioned albums.
on 30 March 2014
This has got to be one of the best progressive rock albums to come out in the last 20 years. Phideaux employed an orchestra to play with the band and the results speak for themselves. It would be easy to suggest that the orchestra pushed the album higher than the band otherwise could've reached, however their latter albums are just as good.
So, this is Phideaux's breakthrough album (of sorts...) and its easy to see why. The consistency and quality of material here is remarkable. It is a symphonic progressive rock album of the kind that Yes and Genesis were releasing 40 years ago. For some people that may put you off altogether, however to my ears it lacks the pompousness (and dare I say pretentiousness?) of some of the 70s prog bands *cough*ELP*cough*. This album isn't like other albums I can name that employed orchestras in their recording (Metallica - S&M, or Moody Blues - Days of Future Past), the arrangements are very much in the background mostly giving extra atmosphere and power to the already superb songs. The album title itself may even be a nod to the moody blues magnificent 'Thursday Afternoon'.
The album really flows and it makes fantastic use of repeated musical passages throughout its 10 songs. They may not be noticeable on the first few listens, however with repeated listening, you will start to hear passages that were played on several songs beforehand. They may be subtle, but its not repetition, its a musical technique used to give cohesion to the work. This is most noticeable on the two songs, both of which are called 'crumble'; the first being a atmospheric piano interlude, the second being a beautiful piano ballad. The two long songs that sandwich either end of the album act to introduce and then to tie-up all the various themes within the album. As such, it means that by the end of the album I feel like I've followed a progression, much like a story; it really does have a beginning, middle and an end.
Special mention must be given to the vocal performances, its rare to hear singing in this style of music that so much genuine character (even if not so much genuine beauty). The lyrics really stood out and even when it wasn't entirely clear to me what the band was singing about, it conjured up fantastic images in my mind...
"The converts come together
They're gathered to begin
And they swear their oaths forever
Slip chips down into the skin
So the keepers are inside them
Provide them what they need
To transmit and to receive
When they're in, they don't leave"
If I have one single complaint, its that at over an hour in length, its a tad long (although that's probably just my personal preference).
I'm waiting with much anticipation for its spiritual follow-up (being part of a strange trilogy of albums), 'Infernal', which, if its anything like their last few albums, should be a winner! Check out the album 'Snowtorch' after this one, its equally brilliant.