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Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.22 | 919 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars As the quantity and consistency of reviews on this website attest, Doomsday Afternoon is not only Phideaux's strongest and most mature album, but it also is quite possibly the strongest and most mature prog album released in 2007.

Phideaux's albums are all category unique from one another, with some focusing on psychedelic sounds, others on something near gothic metal, and others straightforward singer-songwriter pop tunes. Doomsday Afternoon is more or less his symphonic prog release, combining a sort of neo-prog simplicity with the subtle and complex depths a la Camel or Pink Floyd. The main aspect of the difference is this: unlike previous Phideaux albums, this one features orchestra throughout. Do not make the mistake, however, of assuming that this is merely neo-prog plus an orchestra. Rather, this is as full blown and bombastic as it gets, while somehow some earthy quality of the songwriting and performance keeps it from suffering from that sense of pretentious pomp that a large number of prog band plus orchestra albums tend to assume. I believe it has something to do with Phideaux's own vocals not sounding like the traditional bombast of a progressive rock lead singer. Xavier and the other singers do not exploit technical proficiency but rather aim for a sort of homey vibe with their lyrics, delivering environmentalist messages with the humility of just a friend or concerned neighbor. And while highly bombastic vocals oftentimes are quite fun and engaging, Doomsday Afternoon's lack of such works very strongly in its favor. Do not expect an adrenaline-fueled rampage of solos and instrumental sections--those are not at all the focus on this one (Chupacabras probably is more up that alley).

The album opens with Micro Softdeathstar, clearly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the international computer and electronics manufacturers. This song, while standing alone plenty nicely, more forms a prologue, a teaser of the themes that will occur throughout the album. The orchestra kicks into high gear when the vocals are not there, and on the whole the tune sets a slightly gothic, creepy vibe to the album, while still somehow coming across as upbeat and mellow. The first part of The Doctrine of Eternal Ice segues perfectly smoothly from Micro Softdeathstar, introducing a good bit more high-energy melody and some distorted guitar. This is the album's first real moment of exciting pacing. It serves as a quick and airy instrumental to lead into the next track. Candybrain is a highly gothic track, featuring a very dark mood and a sense of foreboding. The female vocals play well with Phideaux's light voice, calming the album down just in time for Crumble. The first occurrence of the song is instrumental, built on thick orchestration, piano, and some wordless female vocals in the background. The melody is beautiful and stunning, though it is not quite as impressive as its second coming will be. The last song of the first part is The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (Part Two), and the downbeat mellowness that came off the tail of Crumble begins to build back up to something less dark. Do not expect a rehash of the first part, as even though the melodies and sections are mostly referenced here, they are much more laid back and dark. There are some vocals, and unhappy ones at that, but for the most part this is also instrumental. A lot of electronic sounds are present on this track, like in Candybrain. Slowed down from its first part, the complexities of the melodies really come to the forefront.

The second part starts on a very dark, somewhat Floydian tone as well with Thank You for the Evil. A slow drone and steady drumming build this song towards some upbeat acoustic guitar. The sound then drops off, fronted by some jazzy bass guitar, and Phideaux himself enters with the vocals. The music grows progressively darker here, and eventually becomes a heavy sort of creepy. By the end, there is a gentle if synthetic keyboard solo of sorts, and then it slowly winds to a close, not really having done much of changing over its nine minute length--a technique that sounds boring at first, but in the end, makes the song much more powerful and evocative. A Wasteland of Memories opens with a spoonful of cinematic orchestra. Xavier's light and here somewhat cheerful vocals pop in and break up the intense melody. It is essentially a transition track, being much more lighthearted (relatively speaking, of course) than the tracks before it and after it. Following then is the second Crumble, this time mostly just piano and a lovely female voice. Something about both the simplicity and the earnestness of this song make it an emotional climax to the album. Not necessarily downbeat or dark, it is simply a song of regrets and sadness. Thankfully, however, the second part of the album finally finds its upbeat element in Formaldehyde. This is the most exciting and upbeat the music has been since the first part of The Doctrine of Eternal Ice. Parts of it, naturally, are more quiet and gentle than others, but for example, the ending features, one of the only drum fills on the entire release. And, finally, the album closes in epic, dramatic fashion with Microdeath Softstar, the fifteen minute climax and conclusion. It mirrors in a lot of ways its cousin that opens the album. Strong orchestra presence, a reprisal of many of the main themes, and an emotionally sung finale draw this album to its sad but worthwhile ending.

This album is something of a fusion of neo-prog, symphonic prog, psychedelic rock, and singer-songwriter, but the only thing you really need to take away from it is the sheer quality of both the complex moments and the simple ones. Phideaux topped himself ten times over with Doomsday Afternoon, and even though he has been making progressive music for fifteen years, this is his breakthrough into the mainstream prog community.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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