Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.25 | 677 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars A personal favorite: simple and elegant, very cleverly crafted.

I'm really not a fan of concept albums in general, I often find them to be full of clichés and clumsy literal lyrics. I'm thinking of albums such as Scenes From A Memory by Dream Theater or The Human Equation by Ayreon - both good in my opinion, but I think the music would have just been better if it did not have to carry some forgettable storyline. The beauty of a music album, especially in progressive rock, is that it always feel like it is telling a story at some subconscious level just as long as it is coherent as a whole. And this is probably the reason why many albums have been deemed "conceptual" when they were not intended to be. Think of Selling England By The Pound by Genesis or Aqualung by Jethro Tull. This is why it sounds a bit awkward to me when lyrics literally describe events throughout an album. Musicians are not always good story tellers, plus, it is quite difficult to properly combine narration and music, and I'm not convinced it is often well executed.

So what makes Doomsday Afternoon special? First of all, there is no storyline. It is not a narration of the end of the world, rather it is a collection of pictures from the event, with characters helplessly witnessing the disaster. The imagery is very inventive, colorful and unexpected and really stimulates the imagination - these are much more poetic lyrics than those from your average concept album, and they are also more cryptic. In effect, you are not told what happens, Phideaux shows it to you. And that my friends is the key to a successful concept.

Oh and of course, the music. Some will argue that Phideaux is not a very original progressive artist. Indeed, he does not aim for innovation, but much more for solidity and balance in his music. There is nothing that you could call "impressive" about the musicianship here, neither in the composition nor the performance. It's all about making a good, refined album, and the overall result sounds very mature and modest. Each song works perfectly well on an individual level and as part of the large picture. You get a feeling of great diversity, with big progressive pieces (the opening and the ending track, The Doctrine of Eternal Ice and Formaldehyde) next to more intimate songs (Crumble, Candybrain). The album is made of two parts and does feel that way: the separation in the middle is not an arbitrary decision just intended to mimic the two sides of a record, it makes sense from a musical point of view.

I really want to give credit to the great artist Molly Ruttan who is responsible for the cover art as well as for the illustrations of most individual songs, like she was on the previous album, The Great Leap. She also happens to be part of the band as a backup singer. The characters in the clover were inspired by an obscure painting by Salvador Dali. Make sure to check her website for the full illustrations of the album.

So I really love this album. Easily in my personal top 5.

Anyway, a quick track-by-track review:

1 - Micro Softdeathstar

This is actually not a great way to introduce a new listener to the album. Don't get me wrong, this is an excellent opening, but you really need to know the whole album to appreciate it, as it makes continuous references to the next songs and does not sound very welcoming or catchy, it is in fact very dramatic. But it is a key track nonetheless in the logic of the concept and it reveals itself after a few listening to be a perfect introduction to the greatness of what is to come.

2 - The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (Part 1)

A short quirky instrumental that strongly contrasts with the previous track. It gets more serious and beautiful towards the end and leads us to the heart of the first part of the album.

3 - Candybrain

A playful folky song with a strong gothic feel. This could be my favorite moment of the album. Clever and fun lyrics. The way the song alternates between a quirky mood and a deeper feel is brilliant.

4 - Crumble

This is the instrumental and more atmospheric version of a song that appears in the second part. Very, very beautiful, yet so simple.

5 - The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (Part 2)

A big progressive moment, also in the way the song goes crescendo. This conclusion to the first part of the album is one of its strongest moments.

6 - Thank You For The Evil

A song about a boy, a girl and an apple. This modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve is a very slow and steady composition with a strong Pink Floyd feel, especially in the keyboards and the rhythm.

7 - A Wasteland of Memories

A transitional piece that sounds like the soundtrack from Lord of the Rings, very orchestral and dramatic. I hate to say it, but this is probably the weakest part of the album, although it does a good job at leading us to the next track.

8 - Crumble

A piano and vocals only reprise of the earlier Crumble, this one is in F minor while the first one was in A minor. This is definitely the most emotional passage of the album.

9 - Formaldehyde

A strange story about people living under a glass dome while the outside world is being covered in toxic chemicals. This is what the album builds up to and is often pointed out as the best track of the album. That is not my opinion, but this is undeniably one of the most important tracks.

10 - Microdeath Softstar

This epic conclusion to the album is what you would expect it to be: dynamic, beautiful with a lot of reprise of the most memorable themes of the album. It even has what I think is the only quote from the previous album to which Doomsday Afternoon is the sequel: "You... against them..." Great track once more, ends the album without being over-the-top as it is often the case in concept albums.

Five full stars !

Runei | 5/5 |


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