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5 stars I have eagerly awaited this album after the EP, We Only Have Eyes For You, was released earlier this year to whet our appetites. Not scheduled for release in Europe until 9 September 2018, I managed to get hold of a copy from Progrock Wales via Amazon.

The EP had seven tracks. The album has 19 but most of the EP tracks have evolved in the intervening months so it doesn't seem like there is much overlap between the two. The album is a massive double release. There is nearly one and a half hours of music and, when you listen to it, there does not appear to be any pause for breath. It seems like one piece of music with each track rolling into the next. Because of this I found it an extraordinary listen and I have kept playing the entire album on repeat whenever I get the chance.

Apparently this is the third instalment in a trilogy that commenced with Great Leap (2006) and continued with Doomsday Afternoon (2007). So in theory this has been 11 years in the making. There have been other albums Phideaux released in the intervening years but nothing since 2012. I am not sure what Phideaux Xavier has been doing with himself over the last six years but this has certainly been worth waiting for. A wonderful album.

Report this review (#2009472)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a prog rock fan I expect to find esoteric music the most interesting, so I don't spend many hours with some catchy melody echoing in my brain. 'Infernal' has instantly changed all that. We all know Phideaux is a genius of melodic composition and here we have 89 minutes of relentlessly catchy tunes. 'Infernal' is the last part of a trilogy, and had a lot to live up to, as its predecessor was the massively-acclaimed 'Doomsday Afternoon' of 2007. For me, he has succeeded. A big mention for the gorgeous female vocals and superb bass parts. The lyrics are just completely wacky - they sound great but the whole trilogy is a music-fest rather than a meaningful message. But the same could be said, after all, for most Genesis albums.

Verdict: Einwahn's #1 album of 2018.

Report this review (#2024101)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2018 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I will admit up front that I have never been much of a fan of Phideaux music; the band's releases have produced very little that have impressed or engaged me. I understand intellectually what Phideaux Xavier goes through to compose and put together his music--and I appreciate the knowledgeable sources extolling his compositional virtues--but no release, no song, no performance (save, perhaps, "Thank You for the Evil") has ever won me over as a prog lover (and I own all of the Phideaux studio releases). Phideaux's sense of melody and simplistic song constructions have never matched my own preferences (they have, in fact, mostly repelled me). And yet I get as excited as everyone else when news of a Phideaux release leaks out. I'm ALWAYS willing to give his stuff a chance. As a matter of fact, many is the time I've returned to older releases with the mindset of "I must have missed something" or "maybe I'm ready now." After all, I finally "got" and "liked" Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator! But, no, this album elicits the same responses and gut reactions from within me as the others. So sorry! I even find it a challenge to write a review because I have so little positives to offer--and I much prefer writing a review that raves or extolls the positive (though never afraid to offer criticisms in hopes of provoking band growth as well as more responsible listening among the consumer audience).

Disc 1 01. "Cast Out And Cold" (5:32) I'm intrigued. Something fresh and promising. (8.5/10)

02. "The Error Lives On" (7:15) intricately constructed but too quirky, too theatric, too enigmatic and shifty. (7.5/10)

03. "Crumble" (0:56) female vocalist over orchestral synths moving the story forward. (3/5)

04. "Inquisitor" (8:21) this album's new variation on "Thank You For The Evil." The vocal melodies in the verses are even nearly the exact same! Nice electric guitar work and excellent from the synthesizers. I actually like the male vocal performance, I just don't enjoy the Broadway feel provided by the piano base, background vocalists, and many divertimenti, bridges, codas, and other twists and turns familiar to me from stage crafting. Perhaps this is also why The Decemberists' folk rock operas have always failed to click with me. (8/10)

05. "We Only Have Eyes For You" (4:00) a pop rock song drawing constructive elements from many songs of the 60s and 70s and 80s, including Cream, Pink Floyd, and Blondie. (7.5/10)

06. "Sourdome" (1:31) an acoustic guitar and electric guitar showpiece necessary to give the stage crew time to change the sets. (4/5)

07. "The Walker" (4:39) this drum beat and guitar strum syncopation is just way too familiar--way over-used in all of Phideaux's work. My favorite aspect of this song is the constant augmentation of voices chiming in as the song progresses. (7.5/10)

08. "Wake The Sleeper" (1:30) solo electric guitar beneath emotional male vocal. The distortion effect used on the guitar sounds as if it came from the 1960s. (4/5)

09. "c99" (3:25) same pace, same plodding piano, same screaming guitar, same female vocalizations, nice drumming and synth play. Guitar play gets exciting/emotional in the second half. (8/10)

10. "Tumbleweed" (4:58) Why does Phideaux think that his piano play has to hold the 4/4 time? Even Elton John uses some syncopation and flourishes to make it interesting! This vocal cries out for some space--for a break from the incessant piano metronome. The "orchestral" build and crescendo of the second half helps. (8.5/10)

I just had a thought: Perhaps Phideaux Xavier should be creating musicals for Broadway!

Disc 2 11. "The Order Of Protection (One)" (4:35) spacious, echoing solo piano notes! What?! Did Phideaux hear my complaints? Chords and synth accompaniment ensue over which harmonizing female voices sing about shepherd's protecting sheep. Electric guitar and bass drum join in as male voice(s) takes a turn. A 80s Keith Emerson-like piece develops with a cheezy combination of keyboard sounds. If the musicianship were a little more complex they might get away with it. (7.5/10)

12. "Metro Deathfire" (4:58) Hasn't the author used up these type of titles? This one sounds like a kind of attempt at a Beatles/Bowie/Pink Floyd tribute song. (8/10)

13. "Transit" (1:14) an acoustic guitar interlude (3.5/5)

14. "In Dissonance We Play" (2:49) opens with power trying to emulate one of Roger Waters' angry anthems--and continues in the same vein for its entirety. At least it's using second gear. (8/10)

15. "The Sleepers Wake" (5:22) opens with some pleasant acoustic guitar work, soon joined by harpsichord-like keys. A folky Renaissance feel continues as female vocals join in. By the middle of the song, as the folkie Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) male voice joins in and takes over the lead, the song has evolved into more of Pink Floyd affair. Still, this is the best thing on the album. (9/10)

16. "The Order Of Protection (Two)" (4:33) a longer instrumental interlude (must be quite a complicated set change!) turns into a return to the opener of Disc Two. Nice vocal. He sounds committed. The 1/1 kick drum drives me crazy. Cheezy organ, sitar effect, and background vocal staccato "bah"s do not work for me. (8/10)

17. "From Hydrogen To Love" (14:04) the album's only prog epic opens with a bit of the sinister tension of GENESIS's "The Knife" while synths and ensuing vocal section shift it more into the realm of Steve Hackett solo stuff. Unfortunately, in the fourth minute it all falls into the tell-tale formula of a Broadway musical. The music tries to remain proggy with a kind of "Apocalypse in 9/8" rhythmic foundation and classic synth sounds used in the instrumental section in the sixth and seventh minutes. Back to Broadway with sudden mood and stylistic shifts over the next minutes. What a great ensemble piece this would make for a stage musical! (8/10)

18. "Eternal" (5:46) a 1960s Broadway happy-go-lucky love theme seems to open this song before all shifts into a LLOYD-WEBBER/Yvonne Elliman stage ballad. (8/10)

19. "Endgame - An End" (3:29) again, an awesomely visual stagecrafted song to end this wonderful homeless Broadway musical that is desperately seeking a theatric outlet. Ends with a bit of an "Unfinished Symphony" sound and feel to it. (8.5/10)

Mr. Xavier: you are really a very talented closeted Andrew Lloyd-Webber wannabe so why not try your prodigious talents at stage craft? A musical seems in order. I think you and your cast would find great success there.

3.5 stars; a solid album of nice music whose audience should perhaps be treated to the visual and theatric components of this very stage-friendly music.

Report this review (#2024965)
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2018 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band PHIDEAUX is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Phideaux Xavier. His tenure as a recording artists stretch back more than 25 years, but Phideaux as a band unit didn't appear until 2003. "Infernal" is the ninth studio production to appear under this moniker, and was released through Phideaux's own label Bloodfish music in the summer of 2018.

Those who know and love Phideaux's work will find a lot of pleasure from this long awaited double album as well, concluding a three part conceptual journey in good style and in a compelling manner. Retro-oriented progressive rock with symphonic rock orientation is the name of the game here, but where the stars of the show and the most vital ingredients, at least to my ears, are the vocals, the piano and the acoustic guitar. Those who love and cherish a well developed story and lyrics of the kind that begs for analysis and interpretations should also find this album to be worth seeking out, in addition to existing fans and those with a general taste for accessible, well made retro-oriented progressive rock.

Report this review (#2039831)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars So, here it is at last - the third part of Phideaux's epic prog rock opera trilogy which began with The Great Leap and continued on Doomsday Afternoon. If The Great Leap leaned hardest on the "rock" part of that equation and Doomsday Afternoon cranked the "prog" dial up to 11, the much-delayed Infernal is the "opera" phase, a double CD affair of torch songs and apocalyptic foreboding which wraps up the narrative.

It has its proggier moments, but I cannot put hand on heart and say it has anything quite as astonishing and exciting as the magnificent Micro Softdeathstar on Doomsday Afternoon. That said, Infernal is the beneficiary of a really finely judged mix - apparently the phase which caused all those delays, and in this case I'd say the extra time was worth it since bandleader Phideaux Xavier uses the production to make even comparatively routine material sound powerful and ominous.

Report this review (#2054900)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars There seemed to be a lot of anticipation for this album amongst at least a few of the musicians whom I follow on Facebook, though I myself had only a passing familiarity with the music of Phideaux. Soon after joining ProgArchives some years back, his name crossed my path, and I sampled music from some of his albums trying to decide which one to buy. In the end, however, I couldn't decide and moved on. With this, his tenth studio release, I decided my time had come and I ordered the album without having heard a note.

After only three listens so far, the album has already captivated me and tunes randomly spring into my head when I am not listening to music. There seems to be so much on this double disc that is already familiar to me as far as sounds and styles go. As I listen, I am reminded of Nektar's "Remember the Future", Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut", The Beatles "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", albums by Ayreon, and others that I can't quite name but spin around in the periphery of my musical memory banks while I listen to "Infernal".

This is crossover prog, so there is a strong pop element to most of the tracks. But I doubt such pop music could make it on the charts today. Perhaps in the nineties, a song like "We Only Have Eyes for You" could have attracted mainstream attention for a short while. The trick is, as in often the case with crossover prog bands, that while the melodies and music might seem deceptively simple, it's how the songs are constructed and how the instruments are employed in the song that lift an album like "Infernal" above the standard pop fare. It's easy to listen to. It's catchy. It's intelligent. And it's imaginative, creative, and fun!

I haven't paid that close attention but I believe this double album is divided into four sides as it would be for vinyl. On each side, the tracks segue into the next, creating a continuous flow as on many conceptual albums. Certainly there are highlights, be it a catchy vocal melody, some terrific guitar playing, or the appearance of strings with a steady bass drum beat. But more than the sum of all the ear-perking parts, the album plays through, short tracks and longer ones, like one enjoyable musical ride. This is an album that's very easy to listen to as an album. Just push play and enjoy the journey.

Sadly, other Phideaux albums are not as easy to get a hold of as they were a few years back when I first looked. This might be my only Phideaux album for now. But it was well worth the money spent. The digipak is also beautiful with lots of artwork inspired by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. All in all, it's a beautiful piece of work to have!

Report this review (#2077108)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
4 stars Back in 2006 Phideaux released the first album in a trilogy, 'Great Leap', and followed it up the next year with 'Doomsday Afternoon'. There have been two studio albums since then, but now, seven years after 'Snowtorch' and 11 years on from part two, the trilogy comes to a close with 'Infernal'. The artwork is also linked to the other two albums, in case the casual listener doesn't realise. I have long been a fan of the project initially put together by Phideaux Xavier and Richard Hutchins (can it really be 15 years since 'Fiendish'?), and many of the players in the band have stayed the course, although I did notice one new interesting name among the current band, namely Matthew Kennedy who of course is also bassist in the mighty Discipline, another of my favourite bands.

This double CD set contains 19 songs, and lasts just under 90 minutes with only one lengthy number, the 14 minute long "From Hydrogen With Love". This is all about music and songs as opposed to exercises in self-indulgence. With three different female lead singers also playing their part, as well as plenty of backing singers, it means that Phideaux has plenty of support and although he is an excellent singer in his own right, he passes much of the work over to others. Reminiscent at times of the gentler side of Pink Floyd, this is an album which lures in the listener and refuses to let them leave. Although in many ways the music is quite simplistic, there are plenty of instances when there is a complex nuance which adds finesse to what is already compelling music. Although the arrangements are often multi-layered, there are plenty of times when it all falls away to leave singers with just a piano or guitar for accompaniment. The piano is an incredibly important part of the structure, often underpinning what is taking place, while guitarist Gabriel Moffat knows exactly when to be restrained or when to come to the fore and provide some much-needed aggression.

The music is often at the gentler end of the spectrum, with arrangements and production that allow the music to feel like a soft blanket keeping the listener warm, but it is never too sweet or one-dimensional. It is an album that I can play repeatedly without getting tired of it, and that isn't often the case. There are times when it bounces along, others where it is more reflective, but always a delight. Yet another incredibly strong addition to his canon, let's hope it isn't so long for the next one.

Report this review (#2083080)
Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2018 | Review Permalink

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