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Phideaux - Snowtorch CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.21 | 892 ratings

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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.

Dapper~Blueberries | 5/5 |


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