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Phideaux - Snowtorch CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.20 | 828 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Phideaux have made a name for themselves over the last decade, growing their reputation with each subsequent release. Snowtorch is an album that is poised both to increase their already sizeable fanbase as well as satisfy existing fans of the band.

Although their discgraphy has been fairly eclectic to date, the previous two albums aren't too far from this one in terms of the sound. It almost seems like the band have settled on a sound, and although that may give the impression that they are not exploring as much as they once were, I would disagree with this assessment. They are simply exploring within a more defined area than they were before, where the sound of two albums back to back could be wildly different.

Furthermore, always doing something new had the downside that you do not really get the chance to perfect your craft. This is Phideaux's third album in this style, and in terms of composition, it is both more succinct and expressive than their previous two.

Snowtorch, the bands 8th full length album, Is a long-running concept piece contained almost entirely in a single 35 minute piece, split into two halves with a combined total of 7 parts and broken up with Helix (and . in the vinyl version) between the two halves.

Myself, I love this album and it is defintiely poised to sit high on my top album of 2011 list (if not at the top - only time will tell for that!). It's hard to say where this sits in Phideaux's discography - all I can say for sure is that, while this is not their masterpiece (Doomsday Afternoon holds that crown still), it sits with Number Seven and Chupacabras as another fantastic release from this artist.

The music here is spellbinding. From the first listen, you will "get" it - as soon as that piano kicks in around the two minute mark, the music is set to hook. The melodies are infectious, the mood is mysterious, the sound is clear and organic. The band heavily features pianos, keyboards, and stringed instruments, and I am a huge fan of the symphonic sound this is able to create.

For the past few albums the vocals have slowly been moving away from those Phideaux and towards the vocals of the lovely ladies in the band lead by Valerie Gracious. The trend continues here but for this reviewer, that is a fantastic thing - the female vocals continue to give this band a great sound, and Phideaux's voice still provides great contrast. The different in sound between the female and male vocals really allows the band to convey some great drama in the lyrics as well - the sweet sound of the females undercut by a more sinister delivery from Phideaux, for example, adds great depth to the emotion.

Lyrically this album is strong as any of the past few Phideaux albums. Like Doomsday, it contains a reference to Supper's Ready with the section Fox on the Rocks (When is a fox not a fox? When it hides in the rocks and prepares to reveal itself). This homage is a nice nudge for other fans of classic prog while at the same time working on it's own for what it is in the music. There is only one lyric in this album that sounds a little bit awkward to me, that being in the final scene: "I hear breaking, what is that sound? It's confusing, and boy is it loud", it sounds good up until the very last bit which just lacks the smooth flow of the lyrics in the rest of the album.

This album contains what I believe to be one of the best musical moments of the bands career in the fourth movement of the first half of the title track, the instrumental "Celestine". To date the band has been largely vocal driven without a huge amount of straight-up instrumental sections, but between this part, which contains the most intense, beautiful, and catchy melodies Phideaux has ever released, and the opening of side 2 (Blowtorch Snowjob), the band show that they have a great knack for creating compelling instrumental-only pieces.

These days symphonic-styled and neo-styled prog bands are a dime a dozen, and there is very little in the modern scene to excite. It can be easy to write the styles off completely because the market is saturated with so many groups that sound alike. But there are still a few bands in these styles that create music that is fresh and exciting ... and Phideaux are definitely one of the top groups in this category. With Snowtorch, they continue to demonstrate why they hold this crown.

As an aside, this is the first album Phideaux released on vinyl. Personally I tend not to buy a lot of vinyl compared to CDs - I reserve vinyl for vinyl-only releases or as "trophies" of albums I really love. I knew I was going to own this album on vinyl after a single listen, and hope that over time I am able to add a few more Phideaux trophies to my collection. (I've heard word of a Great Leap / Doomsday triple vinyl set - this would be amazing if it happens!)

TheGazzardian | 4/5 |


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