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Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.22 | 964 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of the most rewarding aspects of some 21st century progressive rock music offerings is found in hearing the way many of the newer artists weave tapestries of sound utilizing various influences of the genre's greats of yesteryear. Phideaux is an excellent example of this honorable technique. Encouraged by numerous favorable and oftentimes exuberant reviews of the apocalyptic- themed "Doomsday Afternoon" found on this very site, I sprung for the CD and sat back to see what the fuss was about. I wasn't disappointed.

First of all I must point out that leader Phideaux Xavier's pleasing voice is an interesting blend of David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Roger Hodgson to my ear and decent vocals are always a big determining factor in whether I'll like new music or not. The impressive opening song, "Micro Softdeathstar," begins as an eclectic ditty that jogs along without commitment until a violin leads to a droning segment with haunting yet quite effective vocal lines. The lyrics aren't bad but they are definitely surreal and obtuse more often than not so I have to claim a certain amount of apathy to their exact meaning. The tune has a broad depth of field and it's always refreshing to detect the presence of a female voice in prog. It also features skillful usage of real orchestration and the changes in feel and tempo come in quick succession, keeping things from getting stale. The instrumental "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (Part One)" follows and it rocks pretty well as it combines piano, synthesizers and brass over a tight rhythm section. One of my complaints with the group Salem Hill is the old, outdated ARP keyboard sounds they insist on using and I have the same gripe here. The reedy timbre detracts rather than adds to the ambience and there are much better options to explore, it would seem. But that's just me.

The acoustic guitar-driven "Candybrain" is next and it showcases Phideaux's admirable ability to create memorable melodies and arrange them tastefully around each other. No legitimate musical instrument seems to be off limits to these guys and they even find inventive ways to include group handclaps here. What follows is one of the album's many highlights, the instrumental "Crumble." The simple piano performing a beautiful melody over a flowing symphonic score makes this number shine brightly. "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice (Part Two)" ensues and reintroduces the song's central piano theme as the group continues to manipulate intriguing chord progressions and brief musical sections throughout. A palpable but respectful Pink Floyd influence pervades "Thank You for the Evil" with its ominous drum beat layered over pulsating bass notes. The engaging song builds steadily with the help of massive acoustic guitar chords and sharp, penetrating vocal lines.

Things then segue into the too short but nonetheless superb symphonic piece, "A Wasteland of Memories" that, with its soaring female vocalist (unfortunately non-specified in the credits), is almost operatic in its scope. A welcome return to the gorgeous melody of "Crumble" is next but this time the lady's singing voice makes it even better than the first go-round. It's a thing of beauty and you'll be hard pressed to find a prettier tune in all of progdom. Flutes, violin and acoustic guitars give "Formaldehyde" a striking and lively prog folk atmosphere that lifts the mood at this juncture. It eventually grows to be a rocker of sorts but my second beef arises here with the introduction of a thin fuzz tone electric guitar that should have been dropped out of the mix. It nearly spoils what otherwise is a quality song. "Microdeath Softstar" is the 15-minute finale and, although it starts out in a promising way with spacey organ chords leading to a hypnotic drum pattern and some boisterous orchestration, it eventually drops into an amateurish, ho-hum rock & roll guitar riff that causes the momentum to suffer at a crucial point in the proceedings. Phideaux recovers somewhat by tacking on a subtle, effective coda but I can't help feeling that a golden opportunity to blow the listener's mind and to plop a cherry on this delicious sundae was missed.

I hope I haven't given the impression that this isn't a very good CD because it is and deserves your consideration. The variety of imaginative ideas that appear throughout are entertaining and often downright delightful and I sense that Mr. Xavier could be on the verge of becoming a major player in the prog world for years to come. "Doomsday Afternoon" is a little too inconsistent for me to call it a "must-have masterpiece" but if you're looking for an album that's unlike anything else in your current collection then by all means dive in. You could do a whole lot worse. 3.8 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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