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Phideaux - Snowtorch CD (album) cover

SNOWTORCH

Phideaux

 

Crossover Prog

4.18 | 663 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Negoba
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Another Yummy Prog Dish from Chef X

Among the artists creating what I'd call "retro-prog" these days, many either water down the prog with modern trappings or are too derivative. Phideaux seems to be one of the few artists who actually has something to say other than "these sounds are really cool." His high-water mark was DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON which not only indulged the prog fan with all the favorite flavors of the genre, but also had a good sense of coherent theme both musically and lyrically. Two albums later on SNOWTORCH, all those musical flavors are all here in all their delicious glory, with a few extra spices as bonus. But the sense of musical purpose, though present, isn't as strong as on DOOMSDAY. With a few exceptions that I'll mention, this album is good retro-prog but doesn't push the artist's sound any further into exploratory territory.

So the delicious stuff: there is a dark keyboard part at about 5:00 of Part 2 that is reminscent of RPI, KC, or the awesome French one-off Arachnoid. The nastiness is a welcome suprise, a much needed aggression that is not a usual Phideaux trait. There are multiple odd time instrumental lines that are further into "deep prog" than I remember from DOOMSDAY. My favorite occurs at 14:30 of the first track. These passages (including an earlier, particularly Yes-y section in Part 1 which is quickly followed by some Gabrielish flute) makes this record seem much more like a symphonic prog record than a Floydish psychedelic or crossover affair. As a piece of nostalgia music, this record is superb.

But I'm usually looking for a little more than that. And frankly, Phideaux gave me more on DOOMSDAY. Some of the sections are a little taped together, and a few of the dreamier sections lack any bite or danger. My biggest beef with record, however, is the increased use of the female lead vocal. Though prettier than Xavier's voice, the female lead lacks the unique character of the bandleader's and isn't as emotionally expressive. The voices work well together, but I preferred when Xavier's voice was the primary lead with a few passages of female lead for contrast. Here's it's more a 50-50 affair, so neither feels like a break in the action.

Phideaux has always had some fun wordplay ("Blowtorch Snowjob?" - watch it there mister) and the "Fox Rock" section of Part 1 most feels like an actual song rather than simple a section in a Phideaux composition. Certainly, like all music writers, XP has his own favorite / signature melodic moves and some of these reappear from earlier albums. While their are particular lyric themes for this album, I don't feel like SNOWTORCH has many signature melodic lines.

As a listen to the final minutes of Part 1, I am reminded that this is some mighty tasty prog. It beats virtually all neo-prog I've heard even though it shares alot of spirit with that genre. So I'm rounding a 3.75/5 feel up to 4. I have no problem recommending this to any prog fan - after they've gotten DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON first.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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