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Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.22 | 904 ratings

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4 stars Al Stewart meets Maggie Reilly!

No, not really of course. But as we were listening to this album over and over on a recent car trip, we were trying to figure out who the vocalists sound like. The light bulb finally came on and I do believe that Phideaux sounds like Al Stewart, the "Year of the Cat" guy. And while I realize there is more than one female vocalist here, one of them sounds a bit like Maggie Reilly circa "Moonlight Shadow." Both observations should be considered a compliment! Anyway, on to the review.

I always kind of dread getting those "hot" CDs that have been getting the 5 star pile-on ratings because I usually end up hugely disappointed. With this ambitious conceptual feast titled "Doomsday Afternoon" I was definitely NOT disappointed. But on the flip side I cannot jump on the 5-star bus either.

The music of Doomsday is alive, warm, animated, and quite easy to enjoy. The nod to the 1970s conceptual prog album is certainly there but DA never sounds stale or dated. Melody, atmosphere and pleasing instrumentation seem to be the first concern. The album really is more on the mellow side of things with plenty of acoustic and light rock parts. Harmonized vocals, strummed acoustics, flutes, strings, pianos and other keyboards, orchestral's all here and arranged with great love to create a fairly unique tapestry of storytelling magic in an age when flash wankery seems to be the overriding concern of too many young musicians and listeners. Complexity can certainly be great but it never trumps beauty or storytelling (musical or lyrical) in my book, and Phideaux knows storytelling like the back of his hand, and he has beautiful melody up his sleeve in spades.

My complaints about the album are few but I'll try to explain in some detail. It is a little longer than it needs to be which always bugs me. There are some sections that coast in mid gear and just cry out for something more aggressive; a little too much mid tempo that could use a kick in the pants in places. I'm not suggesting they go metal but I am saying that those classic 70s masterpieces almost always contained high quality mellow sections, mid tempo sections, and high gear sections. I think Phideaux is a master of the first two but seems to have forgotten the third for the most part as it concerns the electric guitar and drumming. I fully realize there are a few spots where an adrenalin injection is attempted, but the dosage is too low to provide enough "edge" for a 66 minute long rock recording. There are plenty of great songs here as impressive as, say "Aqualung," but there is nothing as kickass as Mr. Barre's guitar solo. Perhaps Phideaux didn't want that which is fine but I'm not alone in thinking it could use the equivalent of that Aqualung solo in a few spots. The up-front (in the mix) burst, packed with immediacy, as opposed to the more laid back solos woven into a busy sound fabric.

In summary DA is not a perfect masterpiece to me but it is a very special recording in the year 2007 and it sits in high company on my 4-star shelf. This is an album that will reward the listener for years to come and it will age very well because it is essentially timeless music. He doesn't grasp at hip/coolness factors which is precisely what makes something seems dated or silly years later. Take one listen to the 2 part track "Crumble" and you'll know what I mean-such beauty is timeless. I can easily recommend this album to fans of quality symphonic prog, especially the more mellow and pretty side such as Willowglass or Faveravola, as well as to neo-prog fans. And I think fans of this album should definitely check out the band Chaos Code which is making modern epic symphonic like this, but with a harder guitar rock edge. Congratulations to the band, well done.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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