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Phideaux - Snowtorch CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.20 | 828 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've given this a lot of listens prior to reviewing this evening, because I do really think that a rushed review is a bad one, and does an injustice not just to the artist, but also to the integrity of the site. Given that this album has been catapulted into the dizzy heights of one of the finest prog albums of all time, then a careful review is, in my opinion, even more important.

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album, Number Seven, and gave it a four star rating. I was, therefore, really looking forward to this, and was very grateful to the great man himself for allowing me an advance download.

Most of the hype, I am glad to report, has been fully justified. This is a fantastic album, and I think that Phideaux has managed to pull off the very difficult trick that only a couple of other outfits manage (The Flower Kings and Transatlantic come to mind); that is producing a deep and complex work that is so obviously a tribute to classic progressive rock of the classic era, but still managing to make it sound fresh, invigorating, and thoroughly modern.

Whilst parts of the album are a natural progression and recognisable from Number Seven, it is actually very different. The main track is a pure symphony owing more to the influence of acts such as Yes, Genesis, and Camel than its predecessor did to more crossover acts such as Oldfield and the like. It is some 36 minutes split into two segments, and at times the arrangements, very much keyboard and woodwind led in the first act, are stunning. The second act has guitars more to the fore, and is far harder in terms of its sound than the first act. The solo towards the denouement is spectacular.

The album also departs from previous works in a very important, and welcome, aspect, in that this sounds more like a band than a solo artist with a crew of interesting guests. The vocal performance by Valerie Gracious, and the other female vocal harmonies, are stunning, and all vocal harmonies combine effectively throughout the suite with the grandiose music to create, mostly, a grand sense of orchestration and atmosphere.

There are two other tracks on the album. Helix is actually my favourite piece of music in its own right, with a delicious female vocal performance set against a dark and foreboding mood that reminds one at times of Celtic acts such as Enya & Clannad.

The album closer, the unnamed track number four, is a fun, celtic folk rock tinged oddity, as compared to the main title track, but no less enjoyable for that. It's actually a good way to come down after the intensity of much of what preceded it.

So, how to rate it? Personally, I see nothing wrong with rating modern symphonic works as a masterpiece. Each album, and act, should be judged on its merits, rather than a futile comparison.

To these ears, though, it just falls short of that. Whilst an excellent album, with some stunning arrangements, vocals, harmonies, and performances all round, there are some (admittedly few) moments, especially during Snowtorch Part One, where the attention wonders, and the music fails to completely captivate. For sure, when, as in the exceptional flute led passage, it reasserts itself, I personally feel that perhaps the suite is overextended.

These are, though, at the end of the day, pretty minor quibbles.

A very strong four stars, but 4.5 if we had such a rating. Another excellent release from an artist who is deservedly one of the favourites on this site.

lazland | 4/5 |


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