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Phideaux - Number Seven CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.02 | 515 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've been waffling on this review for a long time now. A good part of me is desperate to promote Phideaux and this his latest release, Number Seven. But I still find it not quite daring enough to ever enter the realm of a progressive rock masterpiece. Naturally, don't just stop at those words. I do recommend this album, and highly.

Phideaux has been an artist doing his own thing for some years now. It wasn't until the surprisingly popular (at least on this site) Doomsday Afternoon that his "thing" that he's been doing started gathering attention. It was with Doomsday Afternoon that I, too, came across his music. Believe me: if you enjoy Doomsday Afternoon, it's almost guaranteed that you'll enjoy Number Seven. The same meticulous attention to melody and harmony, with still the dense atmospheres and the meager amount of instrumental solos--all still Phideaux. The female vocals are even more amped up on this release, with the band's namesake in the vocal minority. That, along with a greater sense of "epic" sound, is what differentiates Number Seven from his earlier releases. The band rocks full tilt at points, slides gently forward at others... All in all, falling somewhere in between exactly what you'd expect and exactly what you'd demand, depending on who you are. Got the gist? So let's zoom in a bit, then.

The album is divided into three parts, though I find the middle part much less cohesive and more like a short series of segued songs that all exist very independently. The first suite, Dormouse Ensared (yes, this album is about rodents, for some reason that I haven't quite grasped of yet), opens with a quiet and whimsical melody as it turns into the haunting crawl of Waiting for the Axe to Fall. There are tons of keyboards dominating this album (this band, really), but here is one of the most densely keyboarded parts anywhere from the band. Lovely vocals, wonderful melodies, very nice to listen to though not particularly challenging or surprising. Also, as a note, don't believe everyone who might tell you that Phideaux is just a retro-prog band or that they're just trying to sound like the 70s. There is credence to such a claim, but it is not the whole truth. A lot of different musics go into Phideaux, and classic prog tends to be the one we hear the most simply on account of it being the one kind of music we all know really well. Or something. That argument is not entirely fleshed out, so perhaps I'll edit this later with a better ability to make sense.

The second part, Dormouse Escapes, is, as mentioned above, much less of a unified piece. Four of the seven tracks are short little pieces, falling somewhere between filler and mood-setter (I'm not counting A Fistful of Fortitude in this group, as it seems to me to be much more of a coda to The Search for Terrestrial Life). That leaves the two long tracks of this section: Gift of the Flame and The Search for Terrestrial Life. The former is the highlight of the album to my ears, being upbeat, beautifully performed, and much more diverse in its sonic textures than many of its Phideaux peers. The saxophone in here is wonderful. The Search for Terrestrial Life was a difficult grower for me, as the alternate female lead irked me a bit at first (trust me, her voice is great, just give it a few listens if you dislike her initially). The melodies here are also very striking and well-crafted, turning into A Fistful of Fortitude and cleverly wrapping up the second portion of the album.

The final third, Dormouse Enlightened, sometimes seems great to my ears and at other times feels like the low point. Love Theme from "Number Seven" is a bloated (but not entirely disagreeably so) instrumental. The piano near the beginning and the keyboards near the conclusion lift it a couple of notches, though. Again, there is very little soloing to Phideaux's music, so don't expect this to be a seven minute instrumental driven by a wild guitar solo or a freestyle bass duet or whatever was hip back in the day. The track then turns into the strange Storia Senti, which is a weak point for a little while. By the end, before it transitions into the final song, it does pick up, however, into a cheerful-sounding ditty. Infinite Supply rings more like classic pre-Doomsday Afternoon Phideaux, with a simpler, more rock-esque structure and Phideaux himself on the lead vocals. Lastly, the album closes with the (yes, it's all been tongue-in-cheek at King Crimson) folky tune Dormouse - An End, which features some of his strongest lyrics and most darkly whimsical performance yet.

Is Number Seven the album of the year, then? No. Is it good? Quite. If you're into metal or bizarreness or jazz fusion, it may not be the album for you (it still may, but don't expect it to sound like any of those things). If you're looking for some modern prog that holds to the ideals of the classics without actually mimicking their sound and song structures, or if you already like Phideaux and are unsure about this one: get it. Very enjoyable, and recommended more strongly than four stars might imply.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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