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Phideaux - Snowtorch CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.20 | 828 ratings

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5 stars Snowtorch is another exceptional album from Phideaux. Especially since Doomsday Afternoon, they have maintained a high level of creativity without losing the particular elements which define their sound. The band still makes dark elaborate rock music with lots of acoustic touches. Also par for the course, Phideaux make use of a large cast of musicians all of whom have now been present since 2007. The outcome of this collaboration is a tightly played, but also very intricate album.

As time has gone on, Phideaux have drifted further and further away from their eccentric gothic pop roots deeper into symphonic prog territory. Their songs have become longer and their structures increasingly more complex. I have to say their themes have become increasingly obtuse as well. The end result of all this is a serious musical progression for the band and a regression of their sound towards the heyday of extravagant progressive rock in the 1970s.

While keeping largely to their own character, the band has also drawn from the giants of the era. The most distinctive influence on the band, as I touched on in my review for Tempest of Mutiny, is Jethero Tull. In addition, certain passages easily evoke Supertramp, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and even Tangerine Dream. Phideaux have for the most part borrowed rather than stolen though. They've augmented their already rich sound with ornate organ and synthesizer passages. There is also a degree of complexity in their structures which has few precedents in their own discography. Furthermore, the band has adopted a style a lot like Yes at their progressive peak. The band has always had excellent lyrics, but I've also found them slight on meaning. Vocals have now more or less simply become part of the music. Trying to decipher them is about as productive as counting the number of angels which could fit on the head of a pin. It isn't a bad thing, it is however a new thing for Phideaux.

Before I conclude I want to jump back to Jethro Tull for a moment. I listed them as the main influence without backing up my position. Snowtorch is very reminiscent of Thick as a Brick. While it lacks any of Ian Anderson's poignantly snarling wit, there is a laundry list of other similarities between them. The most obvious connection is musically. Rolling heavy organ lines make up the core of both works. The fusion of acoustic and electric is also an integral feature. Both also go through a number of movements yet always seem to settle back to the organ. Again from a lyrical perspective, Thick as a Brick is always powerful but only manages to stay comprehensible for about the first quarter. After that the words sound interesting, but lack substance: e.g. "where the hell was Biggles?" etc. The same can be said for the basically entirety of Snowtorch: e.g. "When is a fox not a fox?" etc. It is a concept album, but I don't even begin to grasp the concept. And finally from a structural perspective, both albums are comprised by a suite of two large mostly instrumental tracks. Snowtorch incorporates a smaller intermediary track, but it is pretty much perfunctory. I will stress that each of these works are their own beast. There is however a discernable relationship between the two. I was able to pick up on it during my first listen.

To summarize Snowtorch is a grand and complex album. Phideaux have pushed themselves into new and interesting territory. Here, more so than ever before, they've chosen wear their influences on their sleeves. The result is a throwback to prog's glory days. I joined Prog Archives to find albums like this. I also trust that a number of you out there have the same motivation. This album is essential. I think old fans of Phideaux will love it as I do. I also think it will broaden then band's appeal on this site. Lastly, I'd like to say I still like Doomsday Afternoon and the epic from Chupacabras better, but Snowtorch is easily among their best work. Five stars out of five

R-A-N-M-A | 5/5 |


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