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Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.22 | 1074 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars In preparation for Phideaux's latest album, Snowtorch, I figured I should expand my catalogue from him, and pick up his most acclaimed album yet, Doomsday Afternoon. I had read that this was similar to Number Seven, which I enjoyed a fair amount, and though I hadn't listened to its predecessor, The Great Leap, I decided to give it a try. Although it has a lot of similarities to Number Seven, in my ears, Doomsday Afternoon turns out to be a more exciting and effective rendition from the band.

The first thing I noticed when I listened to the album was that it sounded characteristically like Phideaux. The sound of the piano and the arrangements made me feel right at home, and considering that was my favorite part of Seven, it was a good first impression. At first, the similarity was almost uncanny, and I couldn't help myself from hearing melodies from Seven in my head while listening to Doomsday, but luckily as I became more familiar with the music, that feeling went away.

For those not already familiar with the band's work, they have a very melodic sound, with a heavy use of themes, and a focus on piano and keyboards. Acoustic guitar is another one of their big instruments, and for this album in particular, they employ a number of orchestral instruments, such as flute, oboe, the string family, brasses and more. The first utterance from the viola in the opening number sticks out a bit in relation to the usual rock instruments, but once it settles in, it works really well. The entire orchestra ends up adding a lot to the music, and fills out the sound nicely, as well as having a lot of memorable solo passages. The tracks named Crumble especially show off the beauty of the flute and strings, which wound up producing some of my favorite music on the album.

While the orchestra is a big part of Doomsday, the real draw here is the strong composition, and the two flowing suites which are split evenly down the middle. There are a couple of long, slower developing songs, but every section feels pretty connected to the whole piece, with a good use of overarching themes. You'll hear a lot of reprisals, both in instruments and lyrics, usually in a different context than the original, which keeps them feeling really fresh. The last two songs are the culmination of the entire piece, and they bring a lot of previously introduced work together in a great way. Specifically, Formaldehyde, the penultimate song, has one of the best uses of a theme I've ever heard, by reprising a once evil sounding piano theme triumphantly on acoustic guitar. It's a moment I wait for every time I listen to this, and it's one of the most satisfying moments on the whole album.

The variations of the themes fit in with the story, and everything makes sense contextually. If, like me, you've not heard The Great Leap, the first part of this trilogy, don't worry too much. Doomsday is accessible as a standalone work, and the only points where you can convince yourself that this is the middle portion of a bigger story are the very beginning and ending. The lyrics allude to government and oppression, and though it'll take some digging to figure out what's really going on, they can be enjoyed on a base level. The lead vocals are done by Phideaux himself and one of the female members of the band. The contrast in voices and singing styles is nice, and they have some good back and forth moments. I do prefer the female vocals to Phideaux's, as she sings with a lot of emotion as opposed to his more laid back approach, but they can both hold their own.

My only real complaint about Doomsday is the same I had about Seven: the album starts off really strong and exciting, but it just loses too much steam in the middle for its own good. The few middle tracks slow things down a lot, and while this is usually provides good balance, they tend to linger too long, to the point where they become boring. The few times that they get a kick of energy, they usually end up losing it soon after. The difference here compared to Seven is that the slower tracks work better, and things ultimately pick up sooner and for longer than that album did. The last two tracks do take up about a third of the album, and they come at a time when the music really needs something fast and exciting going on. Luckily they keep it up until the end of the album.

Hearing that Snowtorch is less than 50 minutes got me excited, because that's the amount of music here that I really love. Even though there is a decent portion of Doomsday Afternoon that I want to start fast forwarding through, it winds up being a very enjoyable album. If you're a fan of Phideaux and somehow don't have this yet, definitely pick this up, but even if you're new to the band's work, this is a great place to start.

m2thek | 4/5 |


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