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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Phideaux

Snowtorch

Review by Gary Hill

I’m going to make a bold statement here and say that Phideaux is arguably the best new progressive rock band on the planet. We just seem to get one masterpiece after another from Phideaux and it’s music that does a great job of combining classic progressive rock sounds with more modern elements. This should please fans of both traditional prog and the modern varieties. I’ll say that this will almost certainly make my list of best albums of 2011. The music on the disc is constantly evolving, which makes it not the easiest thing to do track by track reviews on, but suffice it to say this is incredible.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Snowtorch (Part One)

This starts rather subtly, a bit like Pink Floyd. As it grows this arrangement becomes more complicated and involved and hints of Genesis emerge, but it climaxes and drops back to the section that started it. After a bit like that a piano drives the cut into new territory. This becomes incredibly dramatic and powerful as it builds in more unique ways. It’s melodic and potent. Around the five and a half minute mark it shifts out to a powerhouse Yes-like movement. As it continues to evolve we’re taken into a jam that’s rather like Pentwater. The piece continues to change and evolve. After a time it becomes a balladic duet that’s rather theatrical in some ways. The musical evolution continues and we’re moved out into a melodic instrumental section that’s a bit like Yes or Genesis after a while. Around the eleven and a half minute mark, a bouncy, piano driven melody emerges and the cut builds out from there into a dramatic movement that’s definitely got some Genesis built into it. Overall, though, it’s probably closer to Spock’s Beard, but that’s only so relevant in terms of influences. A mellow and classically tinged balladic instrumental section takes over from there before it moves out into more Genesis-like instrumental sounds. Piano dominates after a time and creates a rather ELP-like motif. It continues in that kind of way for a time, but then a new melody emerges around the sixteen minute mark and a killer instrumental section that’s both bouncy and rather symphonic takes over. There’s a turn into almost world music territory with some jazz infused. As it makes another turn saxophone soars over in a killer jazz-like jam that’s almost King Crimson-like. The thing keeps getting reborn and re-imagined until twisting into a killer Yes-like jam that eventually takes it out a little before the twenty minute mark.

Helix
Coming in with a great keyboard dominated sound, this track gains vocals in a dramatic way a little past the thirty second mark. The female voice from the first piece is heard here and, in some ways this feels like a sequel to it. The cut builds from a balladic mode in dramatic and powerful ways. It stays more consistent than the crazed changes of the opener, basically feeling like a dramatic and symphonic progressive rock ballad. Most of the alterations here are based on the arrangement rather than the musical progressions. It’s an emotionally powerful number and gets a bit of a Beatles-kind of building in way later, if The Beatles were more purely progressive rock oriented, that is. There’s a final instrumental section that feels related, but new to end it.
Snowtorch (Part Two)
This comes in with a melodic progressive rock motif that calls to mind Genesis but also other bands. This section eventually peaks with keyboards providing a lot of drama and power on top of the arrangement. Then a new balladic motif takes it for a while until it explodes out in power with instrumental work creating power and fury over the top. It evolves into more of a bouncy kind of movement after a time and then drops back down for mellower instrumental work. Vocals join after a time and they build the cut out from there. Around the nine-minute mark it evolves to a swirling kind of movement that’s tasty and some horns bring a bit of jazz to the table. Eventually this gives way to another vocal segment. It turns to a harder rocking movement later that feels like one of themes from the first part of “Snowtorch.” It works out from there in a melodic progressive rock mode. It feels in many ways like the next vocal section is kind of a wrapping up of themes and elements heard previously. It is dramatic, energized and powerful. We get a harder rocking and more energized version of the musical themes from there as it continues. It takes it to the outro and the song ends around the sixteen and a half minute mark.
Unlisted Track
There is an un-listed bonus track that emerges very much like a melodic instrumental that’s a cross between Kansas and Emerson Lake and Palmer, although it also turns a bit odd at times. This is a great tune and a cool way to end things in style.
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