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Phideaux Snowtorch album cover
4.21 | 891 ratings | 43 reviews | 45% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Snowtorch - Part One (19:39)
- a) Star Of Light
- b) Retrograde
- c) Fox On The Rocks
- d) Celestine
2. Helix (5:54)
3. Snowtorch - Part Two (16:11)
- a) Blowtorch Snowjob
- b) Fox Rock 2
- c) Coronal Mass Ejection
4. (hidden, uncredited) (2:34)

Total Time: 44:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Linda Ruttan Moldawsky / vocals
- Molly Ruttan / vocals, metal percussion
- Ariel Farber / vocals, violin
- Valerie Gracious / vocals
- Phideaux Xavier / acoustic guitar, piano, vocals
- Gabriel Moffat / electric guitar, producer
- Johnn Unicorn / keyboards, saxophone, vocals
- Mark Sherkus / keyboards, piano
- Mathew Kennedy / bass guitar
- Richard Hutchins / drums

- Stephanie Fife / cello
- Chris Bleth / flute, soprano saxophone

Releases information

Artwork: Molly Ruttan with Dirk Schoenau and Yorgos Nikas

LP Bloodfish Music ‎- 826677904591 (2011, US)

CD Bloodfish Music ‎- 8 26677 00459 8 (2011, US)

Thanks to tendst for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PHIDEAUX Snowtorch ratings distribution

(891 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

PHIDEAUX Snowtorch reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars US composer and musician Phideax Xavier made a name for himself back in 2007 with the brilliant "Doomsday Afternoon" production. With an energetic, all encompassing marketing campaign instigated, lead and executed by Xavier himself he almost overdid the marketing back then, but with an album of such quality he was soon forgiven for being just a tad too eager at that time.

That was then and this is now. Four years have passed, a well made album that didn't quite live up to the expectations built by it's predecessor have since come and gone, and Xavier's plans for future releases was jinxed by a piece that started living a life of it's own. A strong-willed composition that wasn't satisfied until it had been expanded into an album's worth of material, due to be released later this year under the moniker "Snowtorch".

And whatever muse that took control of the proceedings that lead to this creation has most certainly been an inspired one. A lyrical concept is explored that should please most fans of such endeavours, intellectual in scope with a strong spiritual if not even religious touch, but without any starkly obvious points of reference. Those who enjoy thinking about lyrical contents and their meaning can note down this production due to this alone. Those who prefer wizards, unicorns and elfs can move on to the 70's section in the back, as fantasy, high magic and flying capes are features nowhere to be found on this disc. Although the final instrumental track may be to their fancy by way of association, with the piano and violin leading into a bittersweet dance with dampened sounds of festive folks as a constant drone in the back. Kind of what one might imagine at ye olde public house in a medieval fantasy land on a Saturday night, at least of you disregard the subtle undercurrents provided by keyboards and other instruments belonging to this day and age which flesh out this creation in a neat, sophisticated manner.

But there's plenty to enjoy other than the enticing qualities of the brief epilogue that ends this production, first and foremost the two epic length creations that share the name "Snowtorch". The former with the piano appearing to be the main supplier of the thematic foundations explored, in an excursion elegantly moving between passages reminding of various great bands of yesteryear and various interludes and transitional pieces that mostly are instigated by the ebony and ivory. More often than not with one or more instruments quickly added in for delightful soloing passages. Echoes of Kansas and Gentle Giant are in place alongside shades of Genesis, a whiff of Jethro Tull and a touch of Camel. While Xavier's vocals at times takes on a delivery reminding me of German act Sylvan - emotionally laden, expressive and heartfelt. He's still not what most would describe as a highly talented vocalist I guess, but in the four years that have passed since "Doomsday Afternoon" it has improved markedly, adding an additional sheen to these compositions. But for sheer vocal prowess Phideaux still has a way to go, as brilliantly showcased by the ladies in the band, who are given ample room to showcase their talents this time around.

Aside from the lead vocals dampened, richly layered symphonic progressive rock is the name of the game here, with a multitude of delightful details that should captivate anyone fond of the previous efforts by Phideaux the band and probably convince a few more. Keyboards, organ and Mellotron are used to good effect, as are backing vocals and the occasional sounds of a more synthesized nature. The second part of Snowtorch explore territories of a slightly harder hitting nature too, with the guitar given an elongated passage to dish out some delightful riffs with occasional textures from various tangents coming and going in a neat, subtly dramatic manner. A nice follow up to the dream-laden acoustic guitar, Mellotron and keyboards theme that opens the second part of Snowtorch, leading on to more distinctly symphonic territories reflecting back to the opening composition as it approaches the end.

Wedged in between the Snowtorches we find Helix, a brief escapade of a slightly less adventurous nature. Not as impressive as the massive epics at hand but a nice, soothing and playful affair to calm the mind that works extremely well in an album context.

A common denominator for all the songs as good as all stages of their development is the inclusion of a small myriad of instrumental or vocal details. The dominating theme is just that, the general atmosphere is rich and pleasing, but the intent listener will enjoy all the additional sounds, textures and motifs that makes up the rich undercurrents of these creations. Aside from that the band have opted for a delightfully uncompressed mix that should please retro-oriented symphonic prog rock fans no end, especially since the overall sound and instrumentation of this CD also have more than a few nods in the direction of yesteryear. Mix and production are as crystal clear as any contemporary production you can name however, making this album less retro-oriented than it might have been.

Those who have been looking forward to this album will most likely be pleased. Personally I was positively surprised by this album. I had expected a solid effort and hoped for a really good one, and I'll readily admit that even my hopes for this disc was surpassed. And while hardened, dedicated avant fans won't see the light when encountering this CD any more than what they have done with the previous efforts of the band and the man, those who enjoy the symphonic part of the progressive universe will most likely enjoy this one. Quite a few immensely so. In fact, I'll be surprised if this one doesn't make it into most lists of the top 10 albums of 2011.

A side note towards the end here, as I'm writing this some three weeks prior to the album release. Phideaux was kind enough to send me (and some other lucky bastards) a digital advance copy of this CD. Not quite the finished album, as he had a few minor tweaks he wanted to add prior to sending this one to the CD press. These minute details aren't of a kind that will have any impact for my assessment of this CD, other than perhaps adding a slight increase in overall quality.

Summa summarum: "Snowtorch" is an album I think most of not all existing fans of Phideaux can look forward too, and a production that should win him some new followers to boot. It's not an album one might describe as boundary crossing or capital P progressive, but a darn fine, high quality effort through and through, fast closing in on perfection as far as my own personal musical taste go. A CD to look forward to, and enjoy.

Review by Menswear
5 stars Album of the Year (so far).

Phideaux hasn't lost his sense of mystery throughout Snowtorch, and he hasn't lost his sense of melody. Boy oh boy, are we for a treat this time! I was one of the few lucky to receive a demo by Phideaux himself, and I tooked my time before writing a review, give it the attention it deserves.

After the End of the World, now the Birth of Life, the Source of all Reason. A fun concept, full of the quirky lines by Xavier's pen ( ''...Let's meet at the grave of the wax figurines...'') and with the same quality of the other records. Even better? Perhaps. It's a short album, the band has chose quality over quantity this time. With longer albums, the chance of baloney get higher and God knows how many albums are way too long (everything by Beardfish or Astra's album for instance). A modest 45 minutes (which is almost an EP in the modern prog world) with no filling, never a dull moment, not a weak track.

Snowtorch is more piano/ vintage keys oriented, with less guitars but more flute and cello. It's the HUGE palette of keyboards that had me: colorful variety that reminded me the great years of Kerry Minnear (Gentle Giant), ELP and many acts of the 70's Italian scene( like Balletto di Bronzo). I love the fact that the band is not bending over by being du jour with a Riverside ,or Marillion approach, we have way too much of those these days. No, I almost felt the ghost of Solaris' Martian Chronicles at times! Yes, it's a rare thing these days, and it's a new hope for the ones who are not into Post Metal (ouch my ears) and who longs for an album without growling.

What to say? Phideaux and his band delivered a masterpiece; (again! can you believe it?!)this band has more epic records in 5 years than many bands over their career. He's spoiling us again: long, lushious instrumental parts with countless hooks that makes you think: ''Is this guy's gonna run out of ideas one day?''

Phideaux at the top of his art, not a black cloud in sight.

Review by poslednijat_colobar
5 stars Ode to progressive rock

What an album... It's just incredible how Phideaux managed to create another consecutive masterpiece after the great - Number 7. But this time even more accomplished and completed than before. The progress of the band over the years is remarkable and that brings to a construction of a perfect and flawless album with potential classic statute/presence in the future. I hail Snowtorch and wish it long stay among TOP PA albums list. In fact, the result of the progress of the band is better and better albums all over the years. But from here... to eternity!!!

The expressiveness of the album is the main impression in me! So pure and majestic pictures and ideas combined in hyper-advanced songwriting abilities of Phideaux Xavier. There's not spoiled places or professional void around the album. Little emptiness is usual even for a 5 star album, but not in here. The sound continues to evolve, too. With perfect musicianship and a lot of instruments implemented in it, Snowtorch inflames the human imagination with supreme arguments of combination and flirtation between its themes and motifs into the suites. The heavy organ and keyboards as whole are the divine thin (and sometimes not so thin) line all over the album.

In terms of subgenres inclusion, it is quite different to its predecessors and departs almost completely from Phideaux's early gothic/psychedelic sound and decreases significantly Pink Floyd/Mike Oldfield influence. Snowtorch is mainly symphonic prog album (one of all time bests) with art rock twist. As my title displays, it's like ode to progressive rock, because Snowtorch uses lots of the means of expression of progressive rock. It's classic prog produced in 2011, without imitating a tangible 70s band or direction. As our respectable PA user JoeMcK said - it's Snowtorch, but not A Passion Play. I would add - it's not Palepoli by Osanna, it's Snowtorch by Phideaux. I make the comparison, because of the equal structure of both albums.

Of course, it's impossible without influence from earlier bands. It's always been like that. My brain detected most notably ... I won't say band names, because in Snowtorch's case without imitating, it would be inappropriate. I shall just strongly recommend the album to all fans of english and italian symphonic prog, art rock and folk rock. As a conclusion I would say Snowtorch is one of the most accomplished and balanced contemporary album (if not the most) in the world of progressive music!

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Phideaux have created a cacophony of eargasmic soundscapes, designed for a captivating headphone experience.

I officially announce my conversion to Phideaux. After being absolutely blown away by the brilliant "Doomsday Afternoon", I was very keen to get hold of the latest Phideaux This eighth journey into prog excess is a triumph of controlled instrumental prowess. There is a strong concentration of piano running like a thread through the dense layers of music. Interwoven within the tapestry are powerful lyrics that are open to interpretation. The music takes the listener on a journey with sweeping synth washes and the poetic beauty of ambient violins. The lengthy epics that house the album are wonderfully crafted with felicitous time sig changes and some extraordinary instrumentation. The album becomes an absorbing work of beauty that has the power to transport one to other places, moving through a myriad of emotional twists and turns.

The lyrics are powerful and moving on Snowtorch Part One, with vocals interjecting over the music immediately; "Star of light, see what you gave, you cheated away the core, dark night edge of a blade, as we tap the grave of the wax figurines, ice melts upsets the sea, submit follow me, walk with me now in the sunlight, daylight down with the night, invincible light are you back with us now, source of all reason, I come alive finally I cry, and it's me I have arrived...." This could be about a protagonist who is searching for an answer to the chaos in life, the despair that he feels is due to the disappointments that have plagued him but around the corner is the light at the end of the darkness, things will get better. It is open to interpretation. He questions nature itself, "is it the tree that I wanted to climb" and his senses drive on for all he can see.

Then the time sig changes with the strong synth melody is excellent with nice keyboard swells too. I really love this first track. The lyrics continue to disperse mystical imagery and enchanting words weave a spell of compelling words; "Are you dusty, my figurehead friends, what's it feel like to come to the end..." The protagonist is questioning his existence, people are like wax figures to him, no soul and no emotion, the disillusion of life's tragedies has emptied the man of emotion and filled him with regret. He continues, "From your glasshouse can you see what you set, are you listening to the things that they said, in your diary, the book of the dead". Perhaps the diary, the words written therein are all dead and gone now that he is moving on to a new life, leaving behind the pain of the past. The glasshouse is his life open for all to see, his life as an open book, and there is nowhere to hide so he must reinvent himself, to live again after all that has occurred to mar his existence. I must admit that the feel of the track is like vintage Van der Graaf Generator and I am delighted that this is so. The retro feel of the instrumentation is wonderful especially that Hammond sound and off kilter rhythmic metrical pattern.

The flute section feels happier but there is an ominous lead guitar threatening to dominate and swallow the peaceful feelings. The twin flutes merge together and dance merrily along with cloudbursts of drums and chiming synths. A minimalist piano brings the mood down till the female vocals come in with enchanting lyrics, "I bring to you the words you threw into my face once before, I'm only here to spread some fear, I need you to know you will die." Here the female is expressing how she feels about the angry words that were in the air during their torrid relationship. The male answers "I know what you need", but the lady sings that she promises she will "purge all the words left inside". This section really sounds like Ayreon the way the male and female vocals trade off. The mood becomes intense but then the tension is released with the lonely piano and bright synths. Both male and female vocals harmonise that they are entwined. The song changes feel then with a very pronounced piano forte passage. The staccato piano is joined by ambient passages of synths and a tirade of fast tempo hi hat cymbals and low buzzing synths. The piano section is reminiscent of classic Emerson, and a delightful keyboard break to enhance the mood. Xavier sounds excellent on the vocals; "When is a fox not a fox when he hides in the rocks," and, "how can you count the amount of the mountain that sprouts if you're not there when it comes out." All these words and phrases contain a plethora of rhyming words, alliteration and assonance. We have heard how words are important to the main theme of the album, and perhaps in these phrases we are seeing how words can be used as nonsense phrases, the rhyming showing the uselessness of words, perhaps words are futile once a relationship has burned out.

There is a masterful piano section that is heavy handed like Emerson at his most vicious. When the violins and woodwind section blazes away the song has completely become a majestic work of art. Words are literally replaced with vocal sounds and high-spirited music when the band go into full flight. The lengthy instrumental is incredibly progressive and there is even an indelible saxophone that blasts out benign notes. The saxophone epitomises the ultimate accompaniment to the wall of sound that has been built over the foundation of electric piano.

After a spacey interlude, a guitar break intervenes, dominating and forcing its way through the thick cloud of keyboards. The opening track is ineffaceable masterful prog at its best, multi instrumental and very provocative, moving in textural shades of many moods and making an impact on the listener due to the virtuoso playing and reflective lyrics.

Helix begins with a delightful Hammond, sad violins and some ascending guitar chords. The beauty of the soundscape is augmented by Enya like echoed vocals and then an absolutely enchanting vocal performance from Valerie's crystal clear intonation. She pleads with a soulful melodic tone; "so tell me how to lose the regret, the glass is more than half empty yet, salvation in one last cigarette, I might want to forget or get lost in the rush of distraction at last." The lyrics are about stepping towards finding the hope amongst regretful feelings, finding a moment of trust. She explains, "Maybe this is a test to get off from the sloth and face what I've seen, for the kill that is coming for me," and she comes to the conclusion that "all heroes are false" perhaps because she is over those who she has put her trust in, and now has learnt the hard lesson that nobody can be trusted when it comes to love. The track moves into an elegant piano driven sound, and builds gradually with the vocals that become stronger with some spacey effects, and high pitched squeals on guitar and synths. There are washes of sound like waves washing up on a beach that are very effective. The time changes are pronounced and it ends with quite a joyful section of multi layered keyboards until the lone piano finishes it off with the main motif. Sandwiched between the two sprawling epics, Helix is a short track but an effective one thanks to the emotive vibrant performances.

The next track is Snowtorch Part Two, another lengthy epic track with a focus on instrumental breaks and introspective or reflective lyrics. Once again the track is a tour de force of virtuosic musical finesse. The musical interludes are a high wire act of inventiveness and creative inspiration. The sporadic percussion section and weird effects add a sense of controlled chaos and there are notable acoustic guitar chords creating some impressive atmospheric vibes. This track is very different to the rest of the album, as is every track for that matter. There is a heavy guitar riff that cranks out with some excellent keyboards and pounding drums. Eventually the music breaks out into a heavier guitar hook, with fabulous Hammond-ish hammer blows. Phideaux's music commands attention and once it grabs you, it is virtually impossible not to be moved by the quintessence of the music generated. After three or four time sig changes the music locks into a crunching riff that never ceases to impress me.

The jaunty riff is broken with a piano until the spine tingling female vocals come in. There is a spiritually uplifting feeling embodied in the music, laced with some of the more poignant lyrics I have heard on a prog album, sung with a degree of venom, perhaps instigated by hurt feelings; "Nothing to say, has the cat got his tongue, and then he lost his balls, what if I said that he might not be dead in the head but instead, he's over me." There seems to be a thread of hope in her words but she is coming to terms with her jilted lover who has moved on. The missing beat in the next section is typical of a prog song and it works beautifully. The way the music builds in this section is inspirational. She continues in this vein in one of my favourite melodic sections; "I'll bet you probably want to stay away from all the things you found, cos it's bound to drag you down, it takes you further from home, try to crush your doubts, there's so damned many now, what will it take to erase the mistakes from the day when the fox threw it all away." The regrets of wrong words that have been said are overwhelming and yet it's impossible to erase the memories and the words. There is anger in the words but yet relief that the pain is ceasing, only to produce a new level of pain; the pain of loss.

The next section is a quick tempo rhythm and some folkish vocalisations. Then it settles into a slower melancholy style with Xavier's vocals that are more like Pink Floyd at this stage; "Isolate and take what you get, I don't want to know, say it's not so, out on my own, I'm bleeding uncertainty, it's a long way home, a long way home again, a long way, a long way alone, ice, nice, it gets you so cold, but you don't even know what feelings you've folded in again" . Perhaps this section is voicing the isolation that one feels when a relationship is broken, when one feels locked up in their own fortress of solitude. He knows it's not easy and all he can eat from these bones, the framework of a broken fractured relationship. The fractured time sig echoes these feelings. The ice cold sensations of seclusion are strong and there is no way of overcoming these feelings without allowing one to question the madness, the uncertainties of mixed confused emotions. "These words, these beautiful beautiful vowels" , continues the warm female vocals as she is perhaps reminiscing over the words of relationships, it could be symbolic of a bond made and broken to be replaced by the emptiness of a wordless world, devoid of familiar sounds when one has departed forever. The silence that hangs in the air is one of the most unnerving things to cope with when a loved one has gone. The words are swallowed in stark cold emptiness. The isolated piano echoes the sentiment. The piece really grew on me and I found myself more and more drawn into the meaning which is still rather vague and could be interpreted in a myriad of ways. The emphasis on vowels, poetic rhymes and assonance is astonishing. Though it is the music itself that resonates a high emotional response and the melodies are solid, with some ferocious playing by Xavier on keyboards.

The last track is a prog jig. Full of revelry and exuberant voices, it sounds as though it was recorded at a celebratory festival. The melody is virtually a revamped motif of Helix though there is more emphasis on Irish violin sounds. The crowd are heard whooping and hollering as the violins slice away the canto conjuring up images of Riverdance ladies in swirling skirts tripping the light fantastic. It works as an appropriate ending after all the intense complexity of previous tracks. The light hearted nature of the jig plays off as a stark contrast to the usual Phideaux works. It ends the album of a joyful note, washing away the darkness of impassioned feelings poured out before it.

In conclusion this short album, abounding with bursts of innovative prog, will no doubt be valued highly as one of the albums of 2011. In days where prog is being reinvented into nothing more than alternative rock, it is refreshing to find an artist who refuses to commercialise his music, instead holding on tightly to the very essence of all that made classic prog great, with shades of Van der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd, Genesis and ELP. The lengthy audaciously complex instrumentals, accompanied by slabs of progtastic lyrics, make this one of the best examples of symphonic prog in recent years. On first listen I was prepared for a 4 star rating, but having heard it many times the music has actually embedded itself into my conscious and stamped an indelible impression on me. The album is wildly inventive and brimming over with a cacophony of eargasmic soundscapes, designed for a captivating headphone experience. There is no point comparing this with other albums, as it stands alone as a monumental 5 star Masterpiece.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Snowtorch' - Phideaux (8/10)

With the nearly overwhelming amount of praise it has received over the course of the past month, I found myself feeling obliged to check out Phideaux's eighth opus 'Snowtorch' out for myself. An independent band that has since developed quite a devoted underground following, I had only early a handful of tracks from the band before diving into what has been said to be their greatest work to date, I enjoyed my existing taste of Phideaux, and to put it simply; my first album experience with the band has been excellent. A massive undertaking consisting of a thirty-six minute long epic divided into two parts along with a little more music for good measure, 'Snowtorch' is certainly an album that has taken some time to grasp fully, and while I may not agree with it being the greatest thing to come out of 2011, Phideaux has found a new fan in me.

As has been the norm for everything I've heard out of Phideaux, the music is dark and mysterious, but keeps a playful attitude throughout. There's no major revolution to this formula for Phideaux here, but the grandeur of the compositions certainly puts the album on their discographic map. These strangers to epics (the suite 'Chupacabras' comes to thought) but there is a sense throughout that Phideaux Xavier and company are experimenting with musical structure here. As with all experimentation of course, there are faults along the way...

As a whole, the 'Snowtorch' epic leaves a lasting impression. A feast of vintage mellotrons and keyboards, the track features about as much variety and dynamic as one could hope for; catchy melodic segments are followed by drawn out instrumental showcases and focused build-ups. Both halves of this piece are showered with great moments of composition that sometimes reach the caliber of being classical in nature.There are plenty of counterpoints and harmonies and- not to go without mention- a wide variety of instruments to behold throughout the music. As is typical for Phideaux, this epic composition is backed up by some great performances from everyone involved. Leading some of the most memorable parts is the voice of Xavier himself, who may not have been gifted with the greatest vocal range, but has a really warm and personable tone to his voice that is scarcely seen in progressive rock.

As great as 'Snowtorch' is as an epic, I cannot consider it a perfect piece. Every vocal moment to hear in 'Snowtorch' is absolutely mesmerizing and a joy to hear each time, but the instrumental segments do tend to drag on longer than I may have liked. This is not to say that the instrumental aspect of Phideaux is weak in any way, but it does tend to get a little self-indulgent, especially towards the second half of the piece. On it's own though, 'Snowtorch' is still a masterpiece, taking into account even its least inspired moments. There is however, the middle track 'Helix' to take into account. While the same sonic depth and warmth is employed here, it lacks the structure and melody to be memorable, which would have made it a welcome respite from the more involving compositions, instead of a track which feels as if it gets in the way of the real gold.

'Snowtorch' may not have the same effect on me as others on the international progressive rock scene, but Phideaux really proves themselves here as one of the frontrunners on the independent prog scene here. An excellent album.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Once again I am astounded at the reception this music receives here on ProgArchives. Theatric like a Broadway musical. As I listen to Snowtorch I constantly feel as if I'm either caught in a lost ANDREW LLOYD WEBER musical from the 1970s or in a church rock opera production. The keyboards are so music studio, so Broadway-support. The vocals--male and female--are total pop rock opera. (I have no idea what they're singing about and frankly could care less.) The musical theme shifts are so swift and incongruous as to lead the listener to expect a scene change--"Gone to commercial. We'll be right back!" The drums also feel/sound as if they're in the orchestra pit. Where's the show! I can't see it! While I find several themes from "Snowtorch, Part 2" pleasant and memorable (guitars in general; male vocal harmonies; piano instrumental part; Eastern European violin/sax-led theme), and "Helix" has some redeeming parts (female vocal towards the end; guitar soli), overall I find myself more repulsed by obnoxious or cliché sounds and structures. Not an album that I will seek out except only to try to understand what it is that people so like about it (as I have done with Phideaux' last five albums). Good Broadway music; a bit too cheezy for true prog accolades. Good performances--especially guitars.
Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I really don´t know Phideaux that much. I guess I just heard two or three of his CDs and I must say that although they were good in parts, I was not impressed. I always felt they lacked a kind of cohesive whole. It was obvious that the guy had a lot of talented and the right influences to please my tastes. Still, something was missing. And that´s why it took a little time to finally get his latest work Snowtorch. And in my humble opinion this is by far the best of his records I´ve heard so far.

Contrary to other of his releases like Doomsday Afternoon and Seven, this one does not sound like made of bits of (good) songs thrown together without much care. It may sound a bit light on the first listenings, but that´s deceiving. The more you hear the more you discover how good and elaborated it really is. Snowtorch finishes as it started: strong and coherent, complex but still accessible, melodic and varied. In its short 44 minutes of playing, he definitly released a very convincing piece of prog rock that defies categorizations. His music is pretty much his music. And yet it sounds quite familiar and pleasant. A very hard - a rare - feat.

There are only four tracks and in some moments - like Helix and parts of Snowtorch part 2 - he reaches some of those sublime moments when you push the repeat button again and again because of the extraordinaire beauty and power encapsuled in those tunes. There are no fillers and the production is very good. The strong compositions, the tasteful arrangements, the terrific perfomances and the powerful delivering of all involved made this CD a very enjoyable experience for any prog lover to hear.

I´m glad Phideaux finally reached the potential that was only partially shown on his previous CDs. Everything works here and the sheer force of his art is quite palpable. I´m looking forward to hear his next works. And I´m also willing to give his previous ones another shot.

Final rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended.

Review by lazland
4 stars I've given this a lot of listens prior to reviewing this evening, because I do really think that a rushed review is a bad one, and does an injustice not just to the artist, but also to the integrity of the site. Given that this album has been catapulted into the dizzy heights of one of the finest prog albums of all time, then a careful review is, in my opinion, even more important.

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album, Number Seven, and gave it a four star rating. I was, therefore, really looking forward to this, and was very grateful to the great man himself for allowing me an advance download.

Most of the hype, I am glad to report, has been fully justified. This is a fantastic album, and I think that Phideaux has managed to pull off the very difficult trick that only a couple of other outfits manage (The Flower Kings and Transatlantic come to mind); that is producing a deep and complex work that is so obviously a tribute to classic progressive rock of the classic era, but still managing to make it sound fresh, invigorating, and thoroughly modern.

Whilst parts of the album are a natural progression and recognisable from Number Seven, it is actually very different. The main track is a pure symphony owing more to the influence of acts such as Yes, Genesis, and Camel than its predecessor did to more crossover acts such as Oldfield and the like. It is some 36 minutes split into two segments, and at times the arrangements, very much keyboard and woodwind led in the first act, are stunning. The second act has guitars more to the fore, and is far harder in terms of its sound than the first act. The solo towards the denouement is spectacular.

The album also departs from previous works in a very important, and welcome, aspect, in that this sounds more like a band than a solo artist with a crew of interesting guests. The vocal performance by Valerie Gracious, and the other female vocal harmonies, are stunning, and all vocal harmonies combine effectively throughout the suite with the grandiose music to create, mostly, a grand sense of orchestration and atmosphere.

There are two other tracks on the album. Helix is actually my favourite piece of music in its own right, with a delicious female vocal performance set against a dark and foreboding mood that reminds one at times of Celtic acts such as Enya & Clannad.

The album closer, the unnamed track number four, is a fun, celtic folk rock tinged oddity, as compared to the main title track, but no less enjoyable for that. It's actually a good way to come down after the intensity of much of what preceded it.

So, how to rate it? Personally, I see nothing wrong with rating modern symphonic works as a masterpiece. Each album, and act, should be judged on its merits, rather than a futile comparison.

To these ears, though, it just falls short of that. Whilst an excellent album, with some stunning arrangements, vocals, harmonies, and performances all round, there are some (admittedly few) moments, especially during Snowtorch Part One, where the attention wonders, and the music fails to completely captivate. For sure, when, as in the exceptional flute led passage, it reasserts itself, I personally feel that perhaps the suite is overextended.

These are, though, at the end of the day, pretty minor quibbles.

A very strong four stars, but 4.5 if we had such a rating. Another excellent release from an artist who is deservedly one of the favourites on this site.

Review by Negoba
4 stars Another Yummy Prog Dish from Chef X

Among the artists creating what I'd call "retro-prog" these days, many either water down the prog with modern trappings or are too derivative. Phideaux seems to be one of the few artists who actually has something to say other than "these sounds are really cool." His high-water mark was DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON which not only indulged the prog fan with all the favorite flavors of the genre, but also had a good sense of coherent theme both musically and lyrically. Two albums later on SNOWTORCH, all those musical flavors are all here in all their delicious glory, with a few extra spices as bonus. But the sense of musical purpose, though present, isn't as strong as on DOOMSDAY. With a few exceptions that I'll mention, this album is good retro-prog but doesn't push the artist's sound any further into exploratory territory.

So the delicious stuff: there is a dark keyboard part at about 5:00 of Part 2 that is reminscent of RPI, KC, or the awesome French one-off Arachnoid. The nastiness is a welcome suprise, a much needed aggression that is not a usual Phideaux trait. There are multiple odd time instrumental lines that are further into "deep prog" than I remember from DOOMSDAY. My favorite occurs at 14:30 of the first track. These passages (including an earlier, particularly Yes-y section in Part 1 which is quickly followed by some Gabrielish flute) makes this record seem much more like a symphonic prog record than a Floydish psychedelic or crossover affair. As a piece of nostalgia music, this record is superb.

But I'm usually looking for a little more than that. And frankly, Phideaux gave me more on DOOMSDAY. Some of the sections are a little taped together, and a few of the dreamier sections lack any bite or danger. My biggest beef with record, however, is the increased use of the female lead vocal. Though prettier than Xavier's voice, the female lead lacks the unique character of the bandleader's and isn't as emotionally expressive. The voices work well together, but I preferred when Xavier's voice was the primary lead with a few passages of female lead for contrast. Here's it's more a 50-50 affair, so neither feels like a break in the action.

Phideaux has always had some fun wordplay ("Blowtorch Snowjob?" - watch it there mister) and the "Fox Rock" section of Part 1 most feels like an actual song rather than simple a section in a Phideaux composition. Certainly, like all music writers, XP has his own favorite / signature melodic moves and some of these reappear from earlier albums. While their are particular lyric themes for this album, I don't feel like SNOWTORCH has many signature melodic lines.

As a listen to the final minutes of Part 1, I am reminded that this is some mighty tasty prog. It beats virtually all neo-prog I've heard even though it shares alot of spirit with that genre. So I'm rounding a 3.75/5 feel up to 4. I have no problem recommending this to any prog fan - after they've gotten DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON first.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One might wonder why I even bother commenting on another album by Phideaux after already acknowledging that Doomsday Afternoon was clearly not intended for the likes of me. I guess that I just couldn't believe the unanimous cheer that has spread all throughout the Internet with the release of Snowtorch.

I've decided to spread my listening experience over the course of the last few weeks in order to make the music gradually grow on me. This has unfortunately not happened since all I hear is an empty shell of an album filled with many references to the golden days of prog. There is literally not a single moment where the music would go out of the comfort zone of an old school progressive rock fan. Let's be clear about this, there is no such thing as retro prog since it pretty much defeats the entire existence of the progressive rock genre to begin with!

I do like the fact that Phideaux keeps things brief and to the point with Snowtorch. The two-part epic is definitely the highlight that deserves an album of its own without any unnecessary filler material added in-between the two parts. It's a pity that I can't hear past all the references to the original masters since this music can easily be classified as prog candy to most of the fans. Personally, I prefer to indulge in the main course before getting to desert, which ultimately would result in me indulging in the classics of the '70s and ultimately leaving Phideaux albums for later.

There is really no point of me shouting from the roofs about this music being completely unoriginal and shallow since it won't stop people from experiencing it first hand. The only thing that I ask of is that you have at least heard most of the essential classics before you start praising Snowtorch for its creativity. There is nothing wrong with the music itself and so an average rating is clearly in place here.

**** star songs: Snowtorch - Part One (19:43) Snowtorch - Part Two (16:29)

*** star songs; Helix (5:54) . (2:40)

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Phideaux has yet to disappoint his ever-growing audience.

The album is basically one long piece that could keep my attention from start to finish on the first listen, but maybe that was the anticipation I had. Regardless, this was even greater than I anticipated, a downright beautiful piece of music.

This album further expands the beauty Phideaux Xavier created with his previous two albums rather gracefully, by adding more violin and piano parts. These two elements are things that really made me love the band and obviously made me fall in love with this album. Piano soothingly glides the piece of music along it's long course and Phideaux's vocals although not perfect have a ton of emotion in them that make up for it. The female singing by Valerie Gracious is once again top notch and she really adds alot of win to the album. The only weak spot I can see is the lyrics which falter at times but have at least some strong points.

Snowtorch is everything I love about the Phideaux project, emotional playing, emotional singing and simply complex music. This album is right on par with Doomsday Afternoon and Number Seven (if not better) and is definitely a contender for album of 2011.

4.5 rounded up to 5 stars.

Review by m2thek
4 stars When I first heard about Phideaux's newest album, Snowtorch, I started to get really excited. I had recently reviewed his previous albums, Number 7, and Doomsday Afternoon, and though I liked them a lot, they both had the same issues that kept me from absolutely loving them. The first thing I noticed about Snowtorch is that it would be shorter than these two, which was positive point number one. Upon hearing the album, I was not disappointed, as more items on my Phideaux wish list were checked off, as I took in the music of this great work.

The majority of Snowtorch is made up of the two long movements of the title track, taking up about 35 of the 45 minutes altogether. Helix, the second track, is a shorter bridge between the two parts, and the untitled closer is a nice addendum to close everything out. The album is structured very well, with Helix providing a nice breather in between the fast and complex parts of Snowtorch, while the closer wraps things up by reprising Helix in a very peaceful and satisfying manner.

The actual music within these pieces is characteristically Phideaux, and if you've heard either of their last 2 albums, Snowtorch will feel very familiar. Like always, there is a good amount of piano and acoustic guitar, and other instruments thrown in such as electric guitars, synthesizers, saxophones and others to mix things up. The use of all of the instruments is pretty varied, with the different keyboards taking on the majority of the leads. The composition is, of course, excellent, with both parts of Snowtorch flowing very naturally from beginning to end as they introduce and reprise the many themes. Snowtorch sees Phideaux sticking more to the acoustic, rather than spacey, side of their music, and there are more complex and loud sections than there are quiet ones.

While Snowtorch may initially seem like Phideaux are simply applying the same formula to different notes, there are some key differences here that make a big difference. In contrast to previous albums where the piano was the lead instrument of choice, here it is used more to set the mood and mostly provides backing chords. While it does get a couple solo moments, these are made more special because there are so few. Rising to the challenge, the organ really shines through, and becomes a prominent instrument all the way through. I personally enjoy the change a lot, and it gives Snowtorch a unique feel in Phideaux's catalogue. Also important to note, the synthesizer sounds used are very nice, and never approach the annoying tones they have in the past. Finally, it seems that the two pieces are much closer to being through composed, with only a few, though very satisfying, reprises of earlier material.

The theme that ties the Snowtorch together, if you hadn't guessed from the cover, is fertilization. It's an interesting subject to base an album on, but it provides a lot of interesting wordplay for the vocalists to work with. While the lyrics are only slightly less cryptic than before, the lines are really fun to listen to; I've caught myself smirking a lot, as I hear a new reference to the biological process every time I listen. The two singers, Phideaux Xavier and Valerie Gracious remain unchanged, though the album finds Phideaux giving his singing a little extra, making him all the more enjoyable to listen to. Gracious, like always, gives a great performance, and the interplay between the two is as well used as ever. The interplay between the vocalists and the instruments is also well done, with just the right amount of each.

My only negative point about the album is a peculiar one. Although Snowtorch is extremely consistent, with a couple absolutely stunning moments, I don't think either part of the title track are as strong as say, Formaldehyde or Waiting for the Axe to Fall. It's an interesting trade off in quality though, because given the choice to listen to a single song, I would probably pick one of the two I mentioned. However, if I had to listen to a whole album, Snowtorch would definitely be my pick. This is more important in my mind and the distribution of quality to all of the pieces of the album instead of just one or two is what makes this such a success.

And what a success it is. Even though I don't think it has the absolute strongest material from the band, they've crafted an overall great album, and to my great content, one that I enjoy all the way through. If you're a fan of Phideaux, there's no question that you should already own this, but even if you're just interested in 2011 releases, Snowtorch is as good as any for an early contender for best of the year.

Review by VanVanVan
5 stars There are some albums that draw you in immediately; that even after a first listen you can tell are something special. Phideaux's latest album Snowtorch is one such album. I listened to it six times the day it came out and I haven't stopped listening since.

There won't be too much here that's new or surprising for established Phideaux fans, but that doesn't detract from the album's quality in any way. The music, as per the norm for Phideaux, is both hooky and deeply rooted in the traditions of progressive rock. Catchy melodies meld together perfectly, without seeming forced, making the two lengthy compositions feel like no time at all.

"Helix" is nothing to sneeze at either. I had heard previous to the album's release that it was to be one long song; and I must admit that when I first saw the track listing and times I was disappointed. I worried that it might just be a little "filler" piece stuck in among epics. However, my fears were quickly allayed as I listened through the album. "Helix," a bit more spacey and atmospheric than the two parts of "Snowtorch," fits in perfectly and makes the album feel even more cohesive, as it provides a bit of a break from the frenetic feel of the two long pieces.

The vocals are excellent as well. There are no acrobatics here, but the voices fit the music very well. Additionally, it seems to me that the female vocals are used a bit more here than on the past two releases, which I think is a good decision.

Overall, a wonderful album and, in my opinion, the third in a series of near-perfect albums from Phideaux. If you're just starting to get into the band I would still recommend "Doomsday Afternoon," but this album is, in my opinion, a necessary part of any modern prog fan's collection.


Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Review originally written for

And Phideaux Xavier did it again! Nowadays it is very common to see the name of Phideaux in everyone's charts, reviews and comments, I dare say Xavier and his band have deserved it, because with time they have been working hard and creating original, exquisite and challenging music that can please the strictest prog fan. Some years ago with his "Doomsday Afternoon" he caught our attention and hearts with such a great album, and since then (in my point of view) he has received a boost that led him to continue creating first-class music. And that can be appreciated in "Snowtorch". This 2011 release has already been mentioned as the album of the year by some reviewers. Of course, there are six months to come until the end of the year, but some people have gotten too excited with this particular album. "Snowtorch" features just four songs, two long epics and two shorter ones, all together a strong 44-minute album of excellent progressive rock. "Snowtorch Part 1" is the longest composition, reaching almost twenty minutes. It is divided into four parts, however, they all work together as one. There is a vast amount of sounds, textures, colors, rhythms and even feelings that can be appreciated here. There are no weak moments, the whole track is incredibly strong, well-crafted and ambitious, no matter in which minute you are, the music is beautiful, no matter if the moment is soft or intense or calm or faster, every single note and word transmits and provokes something wonderful. Sublime may be a good adjective to describe the track. The use of vintage keyboard sounds, along with a more "actual" sound, produces an extraordinary mixture, whose only job is to please the listener's ears. They have succeeded, at least with me. It is amazing how the changes are perfectly placed. I mean, there are no discontinuities or disarticulations, after all, pure beauty and top-nocht music is what you will find here. "Helix" is a much shorter composition, however, it is also beautiful. I love the keyboard sound and how it is creating a gentle atmosphere until female vocals appear. The sound is charming and comfortable, but then the voice turns disarming and the feeling changes a little bit, which is actually an extra point for this composition, due to its audacity and talent to touch the listener's nerves. I honestly do not think this is the best track of Phideaux discography, but it is a very good one that can be easily loved. "Snowtorch Part 2" is divided into three sections that together make sixteen minutes. This is the second and last part of the title track. Acoustic guitar, drums and haunting keyboards are everywhere in this song. There are several instrumental passages that create lots of images in your mind, so you can compose your own story by only listening to this. I love how the changes do not harm the composition, though some of them may confuse you for a moment, but you will realize a new sequence (as in a film) is beginning, so put together the pieces and complete the puzzle. The string sound is also wonderful during the whole album, and with string I don't only refer to guitars or bass (let's say, the basics) but to violin and I believe there is a cello there, because they add a special sound, creating wonderful nuances and atmospheres. The parts with vocals are also great, and that is another plus on this album, I mean, the structure of the songs was meticulously designed, so there are vocals (male and female) only when they have to be, and instrumental passages when they have to be as well - perfect. The band decided to finish the album with the shortest track, just a two-minute composition that works as the epilogue of this fantastic journey. This "?" (untitled?) track is a great closing track, a joyful symphonic and folkish composition that will make you smile and feel happy. As you can imagine, this is an instrumental song. What a wonderful album, now I can understand once again why people talk about Phideaux nowadays. He has really managed to put his name in the highest places. This is a clear example of Phideaux capacities and qualities, and also a true example of how good progressive rock acts and albums are these days. My final grade, five stars.

Enjoy it!

Review by TheGazzardian
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!)

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars In the beginning of 2011, a few albums garnered a massive amount of praise very quickly, sending the albums high into the numerous charts that float around the site while some said they really shouldn't have been. Whether these albums, at the time only a few days old, had truly become masterpieces rivaling the likes of In the Court of the Crimson King or Animals is a laughable prospect, but nonetheless these albums piqued the interest of many, and with good reason. This album, Snowtorch by American crossover artist Phideaux, was one of those albums, and at one point that album peaked at #11 on the top 100 list of all time. Impressive, huh? While it may not by the 11th greatest prog record to hit this side of the universe, Snowtorch is an inventive and exciting release from well-known progger Phideuax.

Most people know Phideaux, and while he's been kicking around since the early 90s it wasn't really until the mid-2000s that he started pumping out his well-known "psychedelic progressive gothic" formula of music that strikes such a chord with the progressive rock community. Since 2004 the man and his band have been making roving bands of concept albums, with intertwining trilogies and spin off projects and musical experiments and a whole host of tasty and creative music to boot.

Snowtorch is set up like an extremely stereotypical prog rock album. It's four tracks, two of which are parts of the lengthy title track spanning in the excess of a half-hour. The remaining two are more or less filler, although each "Helix" and the oddly titled "." contain enough "umph" to stand up on their own as individual tracks. In typical Phideaux style, the compositions are complex and multifaceted with numerous instrumental textures coming from various directions, including a heavy piano and synth section, dual guitars, a near choir of five vocalists, strings, saxophone, and more. Each member adds a unique flavor to the dynamic music, making an overall very tasty dish of jazzy, symphonic, psychedelic, accessible, and progressive music. Some may call it "retro prog," but despite its 70s prog leanings, Phideaux has really made a home run with this album.

Any prog fan with an aptitude for interesting, creative, and generally fun music will definitely find something of interest on this great album. The music keeps a beat consistently throughout the album, despite changing thematically and staying consistently complex the whole way through; Phideaux has done a great job with keeping the music continuous and exciting throughout the 44 minute long album. The production, as always, is crystal clear, not "slippery," and gives the music perfect justice as it deserves. The musicians are, as always, great at their instruments, contributing the perfect amount of each tone and style to the overall picture of the album. The actual music is well crafted with lighthearted and accessibly melodies while not seeming "bubbly" or cheesy. The lyrics are complex without seeming cliché, and tell a story without being too ambiguous. Overall, Snowtorch is easily one of the better albums of the year, and while it's not on par with Fragile or Per un Amico, it's a classic for our day in prog. 4+ stars.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Another fine concept album from Phideaux, Snowtorch tells a story ranging from the formation of the Earth from cosmic dust and barrels onwards from there. Part of the joy of being a Phideaux listener is seeing which bands he'll draw from next; here, the keyboard work on some parts of the album puts me in mind of a mishmash of Keith Emerson's work in ELP and some of the use of organ on Anglagard's first two albums. For a prog fan, the album is sure to be a sheer joy, building on the successes of Number 7 and Doomsday Afternoon to an admirable extent.
Review by Prog Leviathan
5 stars Snowtorch is another impeccable feather in Phideaux's prog-rock cap, filled with artistry, lyricism, and a rousing energy that entertains from start to finish.

If you've never heard Xavier Phideaux's work, it's sort of a retro take on prog-rock blended with darkly moody folk, electronic, rock, and symphonic sounds. The end result is something that is both old and new and wonderful. It's genuinely engaging stuff, and Snowtorch continues this legacy excellently.

In general, this album is slightly heavier, darker, and more intense than the previous two (outstanding) albums. There's more edge to the guitar and less of the ambient moments that I so enjoyed on Doomsday Afternoon; however, this doesn't detract from the effect. In fact, the more intense guitars and raw vocals simply give us a new side of the same Phideaux.

The extended opening work begins mysteriously, moving in to an upbeat and tension-filled series dramatic melodies. Kennedy's bass guitar lines are smooth and powerful, while the keyboardists are upfront and dynamic. As usual, Xavier is joined by the feminine vocals of Gracious and Ruttan, who add a fantastic level of depth to grace to the music, which is ambitiously written. While not filled with standout instrumental solos or "wow" moments, the composition is complex and exciting. The song transitions into its second movement, which has exceptionally powerful guitar work, and then into a creative instrumental closing. What more could you ask for?

"Helix," the only short tune on the album, shows off more of Phideaux's outstanding writing; Snowtorch has some of his best lyrics yet. Crypitc, evocative, and yet somehow deeply resonant, the ladies' delivery is outstanding. The final half of the Snowtorch suite continues the combination of rousing, post-psychedelic-folk-symphonic-art- prog-rock (a new category here on the Archives?). There are countless moments to grab hold of and remember from this album.

Another tour-de-force by Phideaux, one leaving me simultaneously satisfied yet eagerly waiting for he and his band's next work. First rate prog-rock and highly recommended.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 5 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Those of us who didn't learn about prog from our parents have probably given some thought to the music we would like to have played at our funeral, and may even have firm choices in this regard. But what of the apocalypse? What would we like to hear as we are disintegrating? I'll go a step further and say that I would like to be around the whole PHIDEAUX entourage at the end of days. Their ability to produce dramatic vaguely self deprecating prog tributes to planetary cataclysms is without peer. And it's that innate sense of humour which would come in handy when we can no longer laugh at ourselves. "Snowtorch" is another in a series of such paeans. As usual, the exact meanings are somewhat subjugated, but the culprit here might be global warming.

The album boasts an appealing and accessible structure. The two lengthy epics are more or less mirror images of each other, progressing from one well developed theme to another, with an appealing blend of symphonic keyboards, violin, lead guitars, and male and female vocals in the service of enjoyable melodies of moderate complexity. The delivery walks a tongue in cheek tightrope between classic prog gravitas and Broadway bombast. My favourite line among many is when one of the female singers gleefully warbles "I'm only here to spread some fear, I need you to know you will die, and not very nicely, surprise". Please take me now!

The remaining 2 tracks revisit themes on the suites. "Helix" belts out one of the better vocal parts in a slightly more drawn out fashion that accentuates, or perhaps fabricates, a bluesy lineage. The finale returns to one of the instrumental themes and re-brands it as something you might hear under the celestial "big top".

Another winner from PHIDEAUX, "Snowtorch" doesn't quite have enough ideas for a musical tsunami but its blend of the sublime and the ridiculous is easy to warm up to.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars 2011 saw Phideaux return with his eighth album, consisting of two epics and a couple of smaller numbers. This 45-minute-long album has taken everything that was in 'Number Seven' and has somehow then improved on it, providing music that has a stronger density, power and edge than what was there before. The dynamics and contrast between different elements are even stronger than before, the use of piano is inspired (and you can also never go wrong with a nice Mellotron), and his own vocals are perfect against the female foils. Yet again this is an album that is very dated in many ways, and totally up to date in others. I smiled when I saw that one of the subsections of the epic "Snowtorch ? Part One" was called "Fox on the Rocks", guaranteed to get interest from any classic proghead before they even listen to the music!

Themes come and go, repeated or extended, and there are times when the music moves into the realms of film scores, as is often the case with Karda Estra, and others where it is far more direct. There is a great deal of atmosphere within the music, and he resists the urge to provide punch guitar while long-term musical partner Richard Hutchins (drums) has long passages where his contribution is by not playing anything at all! I would surmise that "Snowtorch" the song was originally created and devised on piano, such is the prevalence of that instrument throughout, with other arrangements and instruments then added on top. I have noticed when reading reviews that somehow this album has polarised a few people who can't see what all the fuss is about, while many others rave about its being one of the best album of that year. I have never been one to fall in with the crowd, and have had my share of comments where people have been diametrically opposed to my opinions, but this time I am actually going to fall in with the consensus as this truly is a wonderful album, one that will be enjoyed the very first time it is played, and only grows in stature the more time that can be spent with it. "Number Seven" is a great album, but somehow this takes Phideaux and his band to a different level. It has stacks of Seventies influences, but this is a modern sounding album which is a sheer delight from beginning to end.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars I think if there is an artist I can name off the top of my head that is style over substance, I have to pick Phideaux Xavier, or just Phideaux. In Phideaux's run of albums, I never heard a miss from this man. Not every album is a masterpiece mind you, but Phideaux definitely has a strong knack for creating really great experiences. What I do think are masterpieces is his 5 album run of The Great Leap through Infernal. This amazing string of albums he released showcases all the amazing facets Phideaux has a hand in when creating some amazing contemporary prog rock music. I am actually quite surprised, though, that in his catalog of big epics such as Doomsday Afternoon and Number Seven that Snowtorch, this little 44 minute romp ended up being my favorite, more specifically my favorite album of 2011 (as I am writing this).

I like to think every Phideaux album is an experiment to try and refine his craft. Here, in Snowtorch, this experiment was to create something similar to, say, Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull, or Night by Gazpacho, being practically this one song, but due elements like vinyl or accessibility had to be cut down into smaller chunks, for portion sizes. Do not let this discourage you, because as I found out this album is this tightly knit package that delivers on so much. For starters, the two big epics of Snowtorch part 1 and 2 just deliver this immensely satisfying experience from beginning to end. The work put into these songs are not only spectacular, but I feel like as epics they get the job nicely done. How Phideaux and his crew formed this and pinpointed a certain mood of loneliness, but also expansion and exploration is quite a marvel in itself. I think the strongest part of these two songs is keyboard work, which feel quite similar to the workings of Keith Emerson, but instead of just copying his style, Phideaux managed to give off his own flair to it, only merely giving a nod and wink to the legendary keyboardist. Really, I feel like not making these two songs into big epics would hurt the album immensely, but since they are I feel like it all works out in the end.

The two smaller tracks of Helix and the hidden track on side two are also really superb. They aren't as big and grand as the two part epic, but they serve very nicely as side-closures that showcase Phideaux's expertise in packing stuff in a small package, with the hidden track being one of my personal guilty pleasures in Phideaux's discography. I think what really makes these special in my opinion is how they fit nicely within those two big epics, but Phideaux made them separate entities in the bigger picture, which I think worked out nicely. Again, this is not a big and grand album like Doomsday Afternoon, or Number Seven, rather it is a nicely packed little romp through two big epics and two bite sized workings that play with one another. I think that makes this album very special in my mind.

I also have to point out the lyrics, since I feel like it is Phideaux's best aspect in this record. How he ties in the formation of the Earth with a very powerful breakup story is so interesting, and very unique that I feel like it doesn't get enough credit. I have a few theories to what Snowtorch ultimately is, and one of them is it is a ballad between life and death, and they are trying their best distancing away from each other, but yet can never separate, like how, for example, the Earth's plates seem to separate, but inevitably they come back together in a supercontinent. The Earth is merely a tool for this type of ballad, and how Phideaux manages to successfully craft this unique experience is really telling how brilliant of a musician and songwriter he is.

Truly a beautiful and unique experience in terms of progressive rock musicality. I think this is an essential listen, not only for the beautiful musical workings found here, but also for the novel lyricism Phideaux manages to spread on this record that combines science with heartache. Absolutely go listen to this record, as it is a phenomenal experience front to back, to front again.

Latest members reviews

5 stars 1. Snowtorch - Part One with 4 drawers for a progressive, varied and intense piece; rock, prog, prog folk, colorful musical climates that span many genres; the emphasis on piano, keyboards, melodies; a sound on the GENESIS of yesteryear, on the FLOWER KINGS, on a Neal MORSE; flute, tambourine, squir ... (read more)

Report this review (#2932840) | Posted by alainPP | Monday, June 12, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have a bone to pick with Phideaux, the Los Angeles-based band helmed by guitarist/vocalist/composer Phideaux Xavier. Almost everything they've released since 2006 are conceptual pieces that promise to be ongoing. Yet, rather than provide part three of the trilogy started with The Great Leap, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1453707) | Posted by RaelWV | Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars In my opinion a bit overrated First of all I must say that 'Snowtorch' is a good album of prog rock, recommended if you are a big fan of the music of Phideaux. Unfortunately, this is not exactly my cup of tea. After the brilliant 'Doomsday Afternoon' and 'Number 7' my expectation for this ... (read more)

Report this review (#786365) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think it's a great decision to put up your albums on sites like Bandcamp. I guess almost every record company is against that, and that is another good reason to be an independent musician or a band. In this case, over a year ago, I gave Snowtorch a listen on Phideaux's bandcamp site, and tr ... (read more)

Report this review (#643708) | Posted by talha | Thursday, March 1, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Snowtorch comes to solidify career Phideaux Xavier and confirm him as one of the leading artists of the new generation of progressive rock. This album confirms that seems inexhaustible creativity, with a distinctive style but without becoming boring or repetitive. As Anglagard, he explores all ... (read more)

Report this review (#607733) | Posted by nandprogger | Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I personally don't mind Progressive Rock bands wearing their influences on their sleeves. We all know the old saying "It's all been done before", but there are some bands out there, like The Tangent for instance, who mix old and new styles with added twists and turns that make for enjoyable re ... (read more)

Report this review (#589520) | Posted by Prog Panda | Friday, December 16, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album had me hooked immediately. The beautiful lyrical opening of Snowtorch Pt 1 lubricates the ears for the epicness ;) to come. Then the piano and male/female harmonies start. Bliss. I love it when an artist is confident enough to write songs that reach the 20 min mark. Phideaux does it ... (read more)

Report this review (#565323) | Posted by fullofprog | Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Having been hailed as one of the best albums of 2011 (and possibly going to take this classification for a long time), "Snowtorch" caught my attention as I had heard many positive comments about Phideaux. I do not like it.I loved the beginning, but now I think that record pales next to the ... (read more)

Report this review (#465975) | Posted by voliveira | Monday, June 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An excellent effort, but undoubtedly a step away from his best. This is a slightly difficult album for me to review because I have been long anticipating it's release and as such had placed great expectations upon it before I even heard it. Like so many others, I fell in love with Phideaux's mus ... (read more)

Report this review (#459603) | Posted by Eapo_q42 | Monday, June 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Usually I don't take the time to write a review for something that many others have talked about. I prefer to focus on albums that aren't under the spotlight. I'll make an exception in this case because for me it's clear; this album is a total masterpiece from start to finish. I can start to ... (read more)

Report this review (#457979) | Posted by phillihp | Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Like The Watch and a few other bands, Phideaux are the prog equivalent of dad rock, safe comfort food for the nostalgic and unadventurous. A pleasing and inoffensive affair, Snowtorch is also vanilla and middle-aged in its sensibilities. I do not mind Phideaux's Floyd influenced vocals, thoug ... (read more)

Report this review (#432921) | Posted by Textbook | Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In my opinion, the title track of Chupacabras was a transformative work, arguably the best 20 minutes of progressive rock in decades. Doomsday Afternoon solidified PX as the most creative force out there at this point in time. Number Seven was two-thirds of the way to being an even greater wo ... (read more)

Report this review (#432840) | Posted by DrZom | Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars When I saw this album being the top for this year, I listened to it right away and it was pretty good to me. Incredible instrumentals, good sense of melodies and patterns. The vocal parts were pretty deceiving though when they became to intense. A bit Yes-ish, Gentle Giant-ish, Genesis-ish, Renaissa ... (read more)

Report this review (#427572) | Posted by The_Jester | Monday, April 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars -Well-made -compositionally intelligent It has parts that sound really epic, but it does not move me to the point that I'm just like, "Oh my God" this is amazing. It cannot move me emotionally. The song Snowtorch follows a recurring rhythm that is pretty catchy, but it can get a little re ... (read more)

Report this review (#422471) | Posted by dubovsky | Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars OK guys, I think I also have to say something about this album which is so high-rated. I listended to it a few times and I have to say that "Snowtorch" is an brilliant album with a powerful, atmospheric sound which I love on the other Phideaux-albums too. There are no weak moments and it's of c ... (read more)

Report this review (#422417) | Posted by Elveeye | Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I do not see any reason well appreciated of the given album. Not an interesting vocal, boring, tiresome arrangements of music, absolutely melancholy melodics. If your desire in prog-rock grandiosity even it isn't present on this album, no doubt this is so. Really the album deserves estimations, comp ... (read more)

Report this review (#422359) | Posted by Tuskarilla | Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Snowtorch was a long-awaited album for me since I am a strict follower of the glorius Phideaux. Firstly I have to say something about the album and actually generally about Phideaux: You can hear lots of influences which are a true success in catching the real gem of 70's progressive rock music but ... (read more)

Report this review (#422239) | Posted by omardiyejon | Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Phideaux has outdone himself with "Snowtorch", and that after having set the bar very high. His past two albums have demonstrated a man who is skilled in his craft. (His fifth, "The Great Leap" is a lot stronger than some have given credit. I'm hoping he is able to gain the same respect with ... (read more)

Report this review (#421700) | Posted by JoeMcK | Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Yuck ! This is the worst kind of pseudo-prog ,absolutely nothing original here, the vocals are very irritating, I feel I am listening to a Pink Floyd cover band. I wanted to like this album, and this artist. With all the Bloated reviews touting this as some sort of masterpiece. Of course, I wasn't a ... (read more)

Report this review (#421433) | Posted by darkprinceofjazz | Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Snowtorch is another exceptional album from Phideaux. Especially since Doomsday Afternoon, they have maintained a high level of creativity without losing the particular elements which define their sound. The band still makes dark elaborate rock music with lots of acoustic touches. Also par for th ... (read more)

Report this review (#420171) | Posted by R-A-N-M-A | Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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