Si alguien traspolara el progresivo clásico y lo llevara a nuestros días, mezclando además el "Thick as a Brick" Jethro Tull con el progresivo italiano de bandas como Le Orme, y con un nivel muy elevado de brillantez musical, obtendría un disco como este, otra joyita de Phideaux que no se pueden perder!
Género: Rock sinfónico
Género: Rock sinfónico
Lista de Temas:
1. Snowtorch - Part One
a) Star Of Light
c) Fox On The Rocks
3. Snowtorch - Part Two
a) Blowtorch Snowjob
b) Fox Rock 2
c) Coronal Mass Ejection
4. '' ... '''
1. Snowtorch - Part One
a) Star Of Light
c) Fox On The Rocks
3. Snowtorch - Part Two
a) Blowtorch Snowjob
b) Fox Rock 2
c) Coronal Mass Ejection
4. '' ... '''
- Phideaux Xavier / acoustic guitar, piano, vocals
- Ariel Farber / vocals, violin
- Valerie Gracious / vocals
- 'Bloody' Rich Hutchins / drums
- Mathew Kennedy / bass guitar
- Gabriel Moffat / electric guitar
- Linda Ruttan Moldawsky / vocals, metal percussion
- Molly Ruttan / vocals
- Mark Sherkus / keyboards, piano
- Johnn Unicorn / keyboards, saxophone, vocals
- Phideaux Xavier / acoustic guitar, piano, vocals
- Ariel Farber / vocals, violin
- Valerie Gracious / vocals
- 'Bloody' Rich Hutchins / drums
- Mathew Kennedy / bass guitar
- Gabriel Moffat / electric guitar
- Linda Ruttan Moldawsky / vocals, metal percussion
- Molly Ruttan / vocals
- Mark Sherkus / keyboards, piano
- Johnn Unicorn / keyboards, saxophone, vocals
Otro gran disco de Phideaux que dedicamos a Carlos el menduco que ha caído rendido ante la belleza de los trabajos de una banda que ha demostrado ser uno de los pilares del progresivo actual con su gran sentido del "disco conceptual" y de la melodía. Sus últimos tres álbumes: "Doomsday Afternoon", "Number Seven" y ahora el "Snowtorch", todos presentados en nuestro blog cabezón, demuestran el gran momento compositivo e interpretativo de este autor y su grupo de músicos. Una línea de continuidad entre estos tres con la temática del fin del mundo y, ahora, las razones del surgimiento de la vida.
Escuchen atentamente, como consta en los comentarios que paso a traer, el disco tiene similitudes con la musicalidad y la estructura de "Thick as a Brick" de Jethro Tull (por si fuera poco) y mucha influencia del progresivo italiano a lo Le Orme.
En "Snowtorch" predominan los teclados, flautas y cellos en detrimento de la guitarra, que aparece menos en comparación con trabajos anteriores, pero formando una paleta de sonidos que traen a la mente la escena italiana. Incluye, por supuesto, gran cantidad de detalles vocales y atmósferas musicales ya que nuevamente Phideaux nos trae lo que considero una obra maestra llena de instrumentales sumadas a los hermosos coros femeninos.
Tanto se ha escrito sobre estos discos que me da pena embarrarlo con mi comentario, acá vana algunas textos de gente que escribe bien:
Hace bastante tiempo que no sacábamos del fondo del armario la sección Quatermass Rock para recomendar discos de actualidad sin reservas, lo recomendado aquí es canela fina, punto. Ya sabéis que por estos lares uno de los estilos preferidos es el rock progresivo, y mucha gente se cree que desde los 70 ya no se hace esa música cuando en realidad existe todo un mundo underground de grupos progresivos algunos de ellos de un nivel comparable al de los grandes clásicos, pero mucho menos conocidos que los Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Transatlantic, etc. Ah! ¿Que tampoco conoces a éstos últimos?... entonces lo tuyo si es grave....Dr. Quatermass
Dentro de este underground progresivo que tantas satisfacciones nos da a algunos, Phideaux es para mi uno de los grupos destacados del momento. Encadenan ya tres álbumes de un nivel sublime, donde por encima de una gran producción y una rica instrumentación, hay unas composiciones a prueba de bomba, de aquellas que te tienen enganchado al álbum durante semanas. Además el señor Phideaux Xavier que es su líder y alma mater, tiene una voz muy cálida y personal que ayuda a mantener el nivel musical a gran altura, acompañado en este caso por vocalistas invitados. Es curioso éste señor Xavier, ya que su profesión es director y productor de series de TV, y en sus ratos libres se dedica con pasión a esto de realizar álbumes de rock progresivo, ya sabéis, una cosa le da la pasta y la otra la realización artística, y nosotros que lo agradecemos.
Aunque su mejor álbum seguirá siempre el impresionante y nunca suficientemente reivindicado "Doomsday Afternoon" (2007), en éste "Snowtorch" dan si cabe un giro más claro hacia el rock progresivo clásico, realizado con tal calidad y eficacia que no extraña que vengan a la mente comparaciones con los álbumes ícono del género como el "Thick as a brick" de Jethro Tull por ejemplo, tal es la calidad de sus partes vocales y la magia de sus momentos instrumentales. Os recomiendo fervientemente a ésta banda mientras os dejo con las dos partes de "Snowtorch" (ya sabéis, los obligatorios 20 minutos por tema). En primer vídeo destacan las partes vocales mientras que en el segundo lo hacen las instrumentales (los minutos finales son...... ¡¡¡¡ÉPICOS!!!!!), o sea que os dejo una muestra bastante completita de lo que es una de las bandas imprescindibles del rock progresivo contemporáneo.
Seguimos con el review de nuestro eterno columnista involuntario de siempre:
Manteniendo viva la llama de la antorcha progresivaCésar Inca
Phideaux, grupo estadounidense que una vez más causa revuelo en los corazones y espíritus de buena parte del público progresivo contemporáneo, siendo el motivo de ello la reciente edición de su nuevo disco ‘Snowtorch’. Una cosa que se resalta fácilmente desde la primera escucha ante los oídos de quienes están familiarizados con entregas fonográficas previas de Phideaux Xavier y sus colaboradores es que las ideas compositivas suelen ser más osadas en este nuevo repertorio… y no solo eso, el bloque sonoro de la banda tiende a ser más agresivo y más explosivo, no perdiendo sino reformulando su perpetuo olfato por la musicalidad bien definida.
Hay varios pasajes donde se nota el realce de la participación de la guitarra eléctrica, así como otros varios pasajes donde el rol de los teclados se sitúa bajo coordenadas de robustez y polenta (como si Kerry Minnear y Peter Bardens ensayaran un dueto con teclados preparados y programados para que Rick Wakeman y Keith Emerson más tarde se engarcen en una competición de teclistas). La espina dorsal de este nuevo disco es la suite homónima de casi 36 minutos de duración, dividida en dos bloques: el primero de estos bloques me resulta la pieza más destacada del disco, pero el mérito artístico de ‘Snowtorch’ se debe asignar justamente al modo en que todo el repertorio integral del disco funciona como un congregador bien hilado de melodías, arreglos y ornamentos sonoros.
La primera entrega de la suite homónima, que a su vez consta de cuatro partes con un título autónomo para cada una [‘Star Of Light’, ‘Retrograde’. ‘Fox On The Rocks’ y ‘Celestine’], ocupa los casi 20 minutos primeros del álbum, con la clara intención de revelar frontalmente las nuevas ideas cocinadas en la mente de Phideaux Xavier. Una intimista sección inicial nos pone frente a frente con un ambiente introspectivo, aunque no siempre suave, pues hay ciertos arreglos controladamente dramáticos, bien dispuestos en algunos momentos clave que culminan en el inicio de un primer momento fastuoso a partir de la frontera del segundo minuto, un momento muy a lo YES-con-HAPPY THE MAN-con-GENTLE GIANT. Este pasaje se sostiene sobre un motivo recurrente que nunca se desgasta, pues el esquema armónico y los adornos ocasionales generan una arquitectura muy sólida y una musicalidad innegablemente magnética. Una vez pasada la barrera de los 7 minutos, pasamos a una sección de abierta nostalgia sinfónica que nos puede hacer evocar un híbrido entre el WAKEMAN 70ero y THE ENID, con una hermosa combinación de aires renacentistas, florituras manieristas y pasajes baladísticos dirigidos por el piano (con alternados cantos femeninos y masculinos).
Más adelante tenemos un breve interludio cósmico marcado por la etérea dupla de piano y sintetizador, el cual tiende un puente hacia el explosivo viaje progresivo que tiene lugar en los últimos cinco minutos de ‘Snowtorch – Part One’, un cierre que incluye reducidas revisiones de un par de motivos precedentes. Las herencias de Yes y Genesis se fusionan fluidamente con las confluencias con referentes más contemporáneos del retro-prog como SPOCK’S BEARD, THE TANGENT (los dos primeros discos) y BEARDFISH, siendo así que los teclados ocupan un protagonismo absorbente. Con un espacio de desarrollo más conciso de casi 6 minutos, ‘Helix’ aporta una modalidad de grandilocuencia un poco más Phideaux - Snowtorchconcentrada. La canción en cuestión se concentra mayormente en la estructura típica de power-ballad, donde la voz líder femenina y las intervenciones de la guitarra despliegan energía sólida, y también se puede constatar un unos inteligente de leves variables rítmicas que permiten mantener una consistencia compacta a la composición básica. La coda es un breve viaje musical de 55 segundos basado en atmósferas juguetonas semejantes a algunas que tuvieron lugar en ‘Snowtorch – Part 1’. A continuación sigue la segunda entrega de la suite ‘Snowtorch’, que instaura una nueva oportunidad para que el ensamble de Phideaux dé rienda suelta a sus ambiciones sónicas, poco más de 16 minutos de puro derroche musical repartidos en tres sub-secciones consecutivas [‘Blowtorch Snowjob’, ‘Fox Rock’ y ‘Coronal Mass Ejection’].
Esta maratón comienza con lo que parece un preludio pastoral guiado por coquetos rasgueos de guitarra y un contagioso groove de batería, pero pronto interfieren en la escena unos adornos muy extraños que aportan una inesperada instancia de psicodelia agresiva y oscura, una atmósfera caótica que nos invita a pasar la página directamente hacia la nueva sección, la cual revela una poco común faceta agresiva y oscura de Phideaux. Hay un hibridismo emersoniano-crimsoniano en este asunto que hace que la experiencia de escucha resulte intrigante y motivadora. Con el ingreso del canto (otra vez femenino) se normaliza un poco el ambiente por medio del retorno de un sinfonismo sanamente nostálgico, aplicadamente retro. Alrededor del minuto 10’30′, el canto masculino asume el protagonismo sobre un motivo ceremonioso de fuertes cargas genesianas: el motivo en sí no es muy largo, pero sí ejerce un impacto suficiente en el esquema melódico global como para asentar las bases para el siguiente motivo sinfónico, el cual desarrolla y asienta un estupendo ejercicio de pomposidad que nunca se sale de control. ‘.‘, así se titula la conclusión del disco, la cual es básicamente la retoma del motivo que cerró ‘Helix’ aunque con una acentuación en arreglos célticos.
No son pocos los comentaristas internautas que prestamente han otorgado a ‘Snowtorch‘ el galardón de ‘mejor disco de Phideaux hasta la fecha’, y de hecho, quien esto escribe se suma prestamente a este coro elogioso. También es verdad que hay muchos seguidores y fans de la banda que siguen dando prioridad a ‘Doomsday Afternoon‘ o ‘Number Seven‘ en base a la legítima idea que cualquiera de estos discos ha asentado las bases de la genuina voz musical de Phideaux. En todo caso, más allá de estos debates sobre ideas tan imprecisas como las que involucran la apreciación estética y los gustos personales, queda claro con ‘Snowtorch‘ que Phideaux se mantiene fuerte como una referencia vital para el retro-prog de los últimos años, sobre todo por su capacidad de remodelar y revitalizar su creatividad enraizada en una propuesta artística bien definida.
Puntuación: Calificación: 8,5 8,5/10
Y ya a esta altura es imposible, para cualquiera que haya escuchado al grupo, darse cuenta que estamos en presencia de uno de los grandes desconocidos de la música actual, no hablo de la música progresiva sino de la buena MUSICA, así en mayúsculas. Pero al menos en nuestro pequeño espacio vivimos reivindicando trabajos casi desconocidos por muchos y excelentes y fuera del mercado musical, como el actual disco.
Hablar de Phideaux Xavier es referirnos a una de las figuras más representativas del Crossover Prog. Aunque en USA el Rock Progresivo no es el predomínate y del gusto de las grandes mayorías, el tecladista se las ha ingeniado para mantenerse vigente gracias a la realización de excelentes trabajos y constante estudio y actualización dentro del ámbito del Progresivo. Si bien sus 2 anteriores trabajos, “Doomsday afternoon” y “Number seven”, lo colocaron en un lugar de alto reconocimiento dentro del género ( principalmente el primero), con su nuevo disco, el músico no se queda atrás ya que nos presenta una obra magnificente. “Snowtorch”, nos presenta una música, que si está determinada por un patrón específico o esteriotipado, se encuentra con gran fluidez, muy armoniosa, bien ejecutada e interpretada, con la presencia de soberbios cambios y variaciones, de predominio en la suite primera, cuyo “responsable” es el tecladista el cual nos obsequia una multifacética interpretación de sus instrumentos, amén de unas influencias bien asimiladas tanto de Génesis y Gentle Giant y uno que otro movimiento de Emerson. Lo interesante de éste trabajo es la conjunción de todos los instrumentos constituyéndose en una sólida máquina de hacer música. Como todo líder, Phideaux sabe cuando y como los teclados deben entrar en el momento oportuno, desde la interpretación blusera hasta la discreta evocación renacentista, también en forma de una nítida cascada. Hay alegría, fluidez, optimismo en la mayor parte del trabajo lo que lo hace muy interesante.ralp58
´Snowtorch Part 1´, es una suite dividida en 4 partes, de casi 20´de duración, caracterizada por una magnífica secuencia musical la cual fluye magistralmente cual arroyo en inicios de primavera, el piano de Phideaux traza líneas de marcado parecido a las de Tony Banks, en una suave balada la cual se va haciendo más intensa y dinámica acompañada de un excelente fondo de cuerdas y la pirotecnia discreta del sintetizador y órgano, respectivamente, a los 2:03, escuchamos un marcado cambio dado por el piano acústico, el sintetizador y la voz de Ruttan, que adopta una mayor expresividad. Los coros no se hacen esperar así como el clavecín y demás teclados en general. Casi a los 7 minutos, arpegios eléctricos de Moffat que junto con los teclados nos recuerda por momentos a ELP, a los 8:30, un breve puente de piano acústico acompañado por la voz de Linda, sonido de aves trinando y conjunción de piano acústico, órgano y coros para seguir con arpegios de eléctrica y sintetizador. Continuación con teclados, bello sonido de violin y cello en una suave textura, ulular del sintetizador en el fondo y pasaje a la ELP (“Trilogy”), excelente ajuste de la batería por Hutchings, acordes de cello, nuevo cambio a la Emerson con gran lucimiento de Phideaux al que acompañan al final de su participación coros, interesantemente, se escucha un marcada influencia arabesca a la que se le incorpora el sax en un excelente quehacer interpretativo. Al final del track, un marcado pasaje Jazz-Rock.´Helix´, se ve marcado una discreta melancolía entre el sonido de la eléctrica distante y el órgano, la bella voz de Ruttan hace acto de presencia en un marcado acento Blues, sostenido por el juego de arpegios de sintetizador y eléctrica, a los 5 minutos, cambio dado por acordes de piano. Una pieza muy bien conjuntada.´Snowtorch Part 2´, inicia con juego de acordes de acústica acompañada por la sección rítmica, casi al minuto, discreta entrada del sintetizador, el cual se incorpora a la melodía principal junto con coros, todo esto va decreciendo en intensidad para que se manifieste un silencio, seguido por modestos arpegios de eléctrica y sintetizador. A los 4:59, un interludios entre el segundo y la sección rítmica, magnífico el trabajo de Hutchings en la batería, posteriormente, nuevo cambio de tendencia Blues-Rock y entrada vocal en un soberbio pasaje, hay un juego entre el piano y las voces de Valerie y Linda, ajustándose el sonido del sintetizador, continúan los excelentes juegos vocales, para que a los 10:24, Farber entre justo con sus acordes y arpegios de violín, se incorpore el piano, la eléctrica y sobrevenga un cambio de ritmo. Al final de la pieza, conjunción melódica entre el piano y sintetizador para que se agreguen las voces. ´4´, es la culminación del disco en forma de acordes de piano, que da entrada al todo el grupo, aparece nuevamente el sintetizador y arpegios de Farber con su violín. Al fondo, voces de personas conviviendo, alegres, felices, en gran camaradería.
Evidentemente, estamos ante un trabajo realizado por y para Phideaux Xavier. Un excelente recuadro de teclados de diversos tipos los cuales se constituyen en una particular obra de excelente valor, orientada especialmente a los admiradores de éste excepcional tecladista (entre lo que se encuentra el que esto escribe).
Composición: Phideaux continúa con la exploración de sonidos ricos iniciados en Doomsday Afternoon (2007). La pieza central y maestra, y quizás una pieza universal del rock progresivo sinfónico, espacial y psicodélico es la que le da nombre al título (Snowtorch pt. I), esta sola pieza va a ser escuchada, digerida, entendida, estudiada en décadas por venir por cualquier músico con aspiraciones en el rock progresivo. La pieza se divide en cuatro movimientos claramente definidos (“Star of Light", "Retrograde", "Fox on the Rocks", "Celestine”) que se desenvuelven una tras la otra de forma natural y hermosa. La voz de Phideaux entra en diálogo con la de Ariel Farber (Violin, voz) sobre una base musical magistral que presta atención al mínimo detalle, con arreglos tan destacados que, en contraste, ponen en evidencia todo lo que está mal en la música popular y su mega producción. Continua la pieza con un diálogo (más una discusión alturada) entre la guitarra y el teclado, hasta que se “entromete” el saxofón para poner fin a la discusión, finalmente en un último movimiento durante el último minuto el órgano y la guitarra vuelven a conversar para dejarse dicho que aun tienen cosas que conversar más adelante. Snowtorch pt. I es algo cercano a lo que la musicalización de un orgasmo prolongado puede llegar a sonar. El disco continúa con Helix, una melódica y destacada canción corta bellamente vocalizada por Ariel Farber. El lado débil empieza en la segunda mitad del disco. Si bien la exploración de sonidos y la creación de diálogos entre los instrumentos continua, parece que las composiciones de Phideaux se hubieran quedado sin ideas, y Snowtorch pt. II parece más bien un reprise de la pt I. Consta de 3 movimientos (“Blowtorch Snowjob", "Fox Rock 2", "Coronal Mass Ejection”), que inician con guitarra acústica para adentrarse en un sonido más denso que la primera mitad del disco, donde la guitarra y el órgano discuten ahora con mayor intensidad y se le da mayor cabida al sonido de la batería. Farber cumple en entregar las primeras vocales con la misma melodía del segundo movimiento de la primera parte de Snowtorch, para continuar luego explorando otros sonidos. El diálogo vocal ahora es dado entre Farber y un coro; Phideaux retorna a escena para entregar un canto bucólico sobre una guitarra que asemeja más bien a un llanto melancólico que es una sombra de lo que la primera parte de esta pieza representa. En el movimiento final el diálogo entre Farber y el coro se intensifica y termina por ser la parte más destacada de la segunda mitad del disco. La placa tiene un cierre con “.”, un himno optimista y minimalista necesario después de tanta intensidad. Cabe aclarar que el hecho que la segunda mitad sea débil en relación a la primera no significa que sea mala, es débil en comparación a una obra maestra, por otra parte la brevedad del disco, que básicamente es una pieza musical larga con un intermedio (Helix), me hace pensar que Phideaux se adelantó en sacar un disco entero, cuando pudo esperar, pulir y añadirle una pieza musical más para concretar el trato y convertir esto en la pieza maestra de todos los tiempos que pudo llegar a ser. Snowtorch pt. I merece 9.5 en composición, pero el disco total no.Alexandros Demos
Ejecución: Todos y cada uno de los músicos que participan en esta placa, empezando por Xavier Phideaux (compositor principal, vocales, guitarra, piano), son destacados en sus áreas, y logran, además, una armonía entre ellos pocas veces oída. Esto es aun más destacable teniendo en cuenta que estos son músicos amigos, que iniciaron el proyecto gracias a su amistad, y no son músicos reclutados por su versificación en los instrumentos.
Originalidad: Phideaux se yergue en la tradición del rock progresivo sinfónico (Yes, Genesis) y las piezas atmosféricas psicodélicas de Pink Floyd y Camel, con toques de folk progresivo consiguiendo una mezcla personalizada de esta receta. En muchos casos supera a Pink Floyd, y en todos los casos es superior a Genesis.
Líricas: Snowtorch es un disco concepto que trabaja sobre el diálogo que sostienen un meteorito con un planeta que va a ser destruido (podría ser el nuestro). Esta es una interpretación personal y bien pueden hallarse diversas interpretaciones para las líricas surrealistas contenidas; en cualquier caso las líricas están bien construidas en lo que se asemeja a un poema épico que esconde su significado con imágenes interesantes. Al final la destrucción es no requerida y violenta (I need you to know you will die /And not very nicely — surprise! /I know what you need /I promise you, when we get through /You might not believe but I tried /Your head will scream: divide with me /Emerge like a new butterfly (Snowtorch pt. I)), pero necesaria y sabia (Every god is a letdown /All heroes are false /So there ends the lesson /It’s a hell of a course (Helix)).
Valoración personal: Phideaux es uno de los artistas de música progresivas favoritos míos, destaca de sobremanera en este disco la composición, pero lo que frena un poco el total logro de la placa es la voz del propio Phideaux que puede resultar afectiva pero no necesariamente en un sentido positivo. De cualquier manera un disco imprescindible.
Puntaje general: 8.4/10
Señoras, señores, hemos dejado tres discazos de Phideaux, los últimos tres discos y los tres mejores de su carrera artística. No los dejen pasar, son tres joyitas de la música, imprescindibles sin importar el estilo de música que escuches y te guste.
Vamos con algunos comentarios en inglés, como para que no digan que yo y Carlos el Menduco inflamos a la banda:
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.Olav Martin Bjørnsen
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.
Album of the Year (so far).Jonathan Payeur
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.
Ode to progressive rockAtanas Dimov
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!
Phideaux have created a cacophony of eargasmic soundscapes, designed for a captivating headphone experience.Scott Tuffnell
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.
Phideaux has yet to disappoint his ever-growing audience.Tanner
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 5/5 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.Alec V.
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 originally written for TheRocktologist.comGuillermo H. Urdapilleta
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/five stars.
All the hallmarks of a modern classic...Starhammer
For me, consistency and endurance are the most important attributes of a first class album. I always regard lopsided releases with one or two stand-out tracks as on par with those which lack mind melting moments, but are enjoyable from start to finish. I have lost count of the number of albums which have missed out on achieving masterpiece status, simply by feeling the need to pack a CD with as much music as it can physically hold. And it's perhaps somewhat ironic that before 'Snowtorch' I considered much of Phideaux's other work to be prime examples of this aforementioned 'crime'.
At just over 44 minutes 'Snowtorch' is fairly short by modern standards, but all this does it prove that concentrations of incredibly well written material will usurp longer, drawn-out works, almost without exception. From start to finish it just oozes class. It is, of course abundant with intricate textures and all the magical moments you would associate with any Phideaux release, but where it really excels is the arrangement of the compositions. I've always enjoyed listening to Phideaux's music, but in terms of game changing musical statements I consider his so called magnum opus 'Doomsday Afternoon' to achieve just under four stars, and its successor, 'Number Seven' to be somewhere in the region of three. I would never have dreamed that any album of his would reach the dizzying heights of five stars, so this is praise indeed.
Phideaux's 2011 release was supposed to be a successor to the concept album 'Number Seven', namely '7½' but that was put on the back burner and 'Snowtorch' was released instead. I remember listening to it quite early in the year and loving it, but decided to let it simmer for a while before reviewing it. After all, there was a whole host of albums scheduled for release later in the year, some from my very favourite bands. Those albums have since come and gone, but 'Snowtorch' remains. It has stood the test of time and remains my favourite record of the year so far. It really is an absolute feast that I would recommend to just about everyone who has any real interest in music.
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.W. Arthur
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 tried to see what was all the fuzz about on progarchives.com. The thing is, I felt the same when I first listened to Yes' "Close to the Edge". In my case, that means I didn't really get it. There were shiny melodies and good progression, but I didn't know that I really needed to listen to the album several times to start appreciating it.Talha Kaya
It's easier for me to talk about the full thing than to bring you track by track analysis. It's overall a tender journey, proving that beautiful melodies harvested in clever compositions and the progressive transitions between beautiful sections and intellectually and artisticly wonderfully written lyrics and wonderful production can bring a result of one of the best modern progressive albums that I've ever listened to. What an argument. The compositional skills of Phideaux Xavier is, for me, heart-whelmingly solid. I'm talking about composing about the level of mighty Ian Anderson on "Thich as a Brick". This will be heard as a talk of ignorance, since you can't compare something from 70's with an album that is out on 2011 from a band that the band leader's favourite LP of all times is Thick as a Brick itself. Yet this fact can't stop me to like this album more than Thick as a Brick, because of the upcoming reasons. Phideaux are a band that uses a variety of instruments nicely, with wonderful vocal ladies accompanying Phideaux Xavier himself as a vocalist. The tones of keyboards(which vary greatly, making me fall in love with every other tone used), guitars, drums, the overall experience is presented with modern production technics. While "modern production" is a term that makes some prog fans irritated with the fact that 70's production brought us the very best of prog music; I believe that some prog artists use the modern production technics to bring something original. Copycatting the 70's era of symphonic prog and alikes doesn't work on bringing a masterpiece of prog rock anyway. In this case, Snowtorch is one of the nice examples of modern production. Today's music needs modern production anyway. Just listen to Steven Wilson, if you're looking for a perfect modern prog production. Creativity, melodic and compositional skills are a much bigger reason that makes 70's so special. The thing that I was trying to say, the original elements and the overall journey presented by the production, brings us a much more polished journey than Thick as a Brick.
Since I've begun comparing "Thick as a Brick" with "Snowtorch" without any need or serviceableness of doing it; I'll continue my unreasonable and unsenseful journey. I love Snowtorch's lyrical themes and presentation. Each time I hear "These words, these beautiful vowels..." on part 2, I get in a mood that only very special music can make me. And for my taste, it's more musically precious than humourous approach that Thick as a Brick brings. Yet I'm aware the two albums can't be compared in this way. Lastly, Snowtorch's most special way of bringing the special moods depend on the wonderful female vocalists, Ariel Farber, Valerie Gracious, Molly Ruttan. (I depend on the credits on progarchives for these names, hope I don't miss anyone.) I should add that I love Phideaux Xavier's vocals as well. Overall, Phideaux Xavier is showing his skills as a musical composer on vocal melodies, and his skills on creating great prog rock epics on the other melodies. The wonderful instrumentation from all the players, rhythmic changes, wonderful compositions will be appreciated by any listener. Without disrespecting Jethro Tull and Phideaux as a "Thick as a Brick" fan, only meaning it as a compliment to the artistic success of "Snowtorch", I find "Snowtorch" much more "fun" than the legendary groundbreaking masterpiece of Jethro Tull.
"Snowtorch" is a masterpiece of modern progressive rock. I never got tired of it, and it never reduced the intensity of feelings it brought to me. I'll be digging into Phideaux's discography, since I hear that all of the band's albums are as special as this. Yet it's easy to believe that Snowtorch is presented better than the other albums of the band, since it's appreciated by prog fans all over the world. Phideaux are one of the best (if not the best) progressive rock acts of today. I'm grateful for the work they've done and they're doing. I want to thank the band as a listener, for proving me that the more melodic approach of prog rock is not dead, and will not be.
PS: That concern is because of my thoughts on the most popular prog rock artist of today, Steven Wilson. I'm a huge fan of his work and personality, but again, I'm concerned about the lack of shiny melodies that can be heard all over "Snowtorch". I think he reflects the new generation with the love of dark moods and dark music. The biggest example is prog metal itself being the most popular prog thing out there. I think it's obvious now that where the rock scene is located and headed, and that creates a bigger need of bands like Phideaux. With "Snowtorch" being a dark album in its own terms, it will never make anyone think worst of his/her life. But "dark music" is something bigger than presenting dark moods anyway, since it's art and I believe almost any kind of art makes people appreciate the life and its joys better.
Phideaux is a band very close to my heart. Fronted by multi-instrumentalist/musical genius, Phideaux Xavier, they have crafted some of the greatest progressive rock of the modern era. In particular, I find Doomsday Afternoon and Number Seven to be masterpieces of progressive music that have a very important place in my music collection. So, I was thrilled to be amongst the first people to hear the newest Phideaux release, entitled Snowtorch. The man himself, Phideaux Xavier, sent out early copies of his album to several close friends, fans and reviewers, and I was privileged to be amongst this group. Along with the copy of the album, Phideaux wrote a note that said that this version of the album is about 99% finished, so there might be a few differences between this and the finalized product that comes out in just a couple weeks. So, just keep that in mind as you read this review.Nathan Waitman
I am pleased to say that Snowtorch is a monster of an album. It hits all the right chords for me musically, and I place it amongst his trilogy of excellence along with Doomsday Afternoon and Number Seven. All the trademarks of the Phideaux sound are present here: the great vocal combination of Phideaux's unique tone along with the gorgeous female vocals, the beautiful piano melodies, the acoustic guitar passages, a very strong influence from the early prog pioneers but with a modern edge, the quirky yet highly intelligent lyrics, weaving through several different musical passages with ease, and the list goes on and on. It is all here, and all done to perfection.
Just take the first track, the epic "Snowtorch (Part One)" that is almost 20 minutes long and features just about everything I love about Phideaux. It starts off rather slowly, but builds up in intensity throughout the track in a magnificent fashion. The whole band is playing fantastically with one another. I certainly love the instrumental section about six and a half minutes in that seems to nod in the direction of Gentle Giant with some great vintage keyboard sounds and guitar playing. Then there is a great section where wind instruments get the chance to shine amongst the symphonic mix. What follows are some truly majestic sections with a great keyboard melody at the forefront. Then comes a Beatles' inspired section that includes some clever lyrics sung by Mr. Phideaux himself.
But, at about the 13 minute mark, my favorite section of the album (and perhaps all of Phideaux's catalog) begins with a wonderful piano medley accompanied by violin and some great vocalizations. The piano begins playing a majestic melody, perhaps in the style of Neal Morse, that really brings to mind the wonder of being out in the middle of space. Then the piano morphs into a quirky, quick section that brings to mind ELP at their most technically furious. This instrumental section is phenomenal and builds fantastically towards an almost funky section that even includes saxophone. The keyboards, violin and saxophone along a solid drum and bass backdrop really make this a magical piece of music. I just could not keep the smile of pure joy off my face when I first heard this section. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Things slow down considerably for "Helix", which could perhaps be considered the ballad of the album. Truly it is a little breather between the two epic parts of Snowtorch that bookend it. The best part about this track to me is the feel that it conveys. I feel as I'm listening to it as if I am floating through space listening to the beautiful female vocals and beautiful violin, keyboard and guitar that surrounds those vocals. I almost get a dreamy Yes vibe from this track. Part Two of Snowtorch begins with an interesting instrumental section that really features the acoustic guitar. It is a great way to build-up into the second half of the album, with a wonderfully quirky stop-and-start style rhythm.
After a bit of a fade out from that section, the acoustic guitar remains a major presence into the next instrumental section which starts slowly, but then kicks in with some intense keyboards and fast drumming. What I love about this whole opening section is that it is really a fantastic introduction into the second half of the record, before themes from part one are re- introduced. I love when the familiar keyboard line from part one comes out from the somewhat chaotic instrumental section, taking us back into familiar Snowtorch territory. For some reason, this whole second part (and perhaps the album as a whole) really brings to mind "A Passion Play" from Jethro Tull--an album that I truly love.
The album concludes in spectacular fashion, bringing back the themes from the first part of the album. There is even a little epilogue of a track that is a lot of fun and ends the album on an upbeat note, leaving the listener wanting more. And, with that, the only criticism I can give towards this album is that it feels a little short. But, perhaps at the same time that is one of its greatest strengths. It is very compact, devoid of any weak spots, and leaves the listener wanting more. A piece of music should never be extended just to fill the length of a CD, and Phideaux seems to have a good sense of how long this piece should be. There is not a wasted moment--every second of this album is top-notch.
I feel that Phideaux has very much succeeded in creating a modern progressive masterpiece with Snowtorch. I find myself debating if I prefer it or Doomsday Afternoon as my favorite Phideaux album. They are both incredible in their own way. I love how Phideaux manages to pay homage to the progressive rock artists that influence him (Genesis, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, etc.) but crafts a sound all his own that is unique to him. When I hear Phideaux, I instantly recognize it, and that to me is a quality only the best bands possess. I love the playing on this album and I love the spacey feel that fits perfectly with the unique lyrics. Phideaux has created something truly special here and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. It is exciting when a band is at their creative peak and continues to put out high quality music year after year. I recommend this album to all. Those who already love Phideaux, will love this album, and I imagine those that don't could become new converts to the world of Phideaux. I strongly suggest you give it a chance. A perfect album.
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.Phillihp
I can start to comment and decorticate each song and then talk about the excellent production, musicianship and so on but I think beyond that, there's a clear sign that evokes the masterpiece tag. You become addicted to this music after very few listens and it sticks in your mind for weeks. In other words, it's accessible enough to be appreciated early on but at the same time complex enough to hold its ground and keep you captivated for a long time. Even after more than a month, the album keeps evolving and I keep signing parts in my head. It's rare and I can't ask for more. Masterpiece.
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 a collection of songs.) With "Snowtorch" he proves his mastery and makes it clear that sometimes less is more. This album moves along so fast, with so many beautiful melodies, and with powerful lyrics that are so perfectly delivered, that I have listened to it more often in a short period of time than any album ever. He seems to be at his creative peak, and is confident in his art. Beethoven referred to his much maligned 8th symphony lovingly as "My little symphony". I hope this album won't need the author's defense, but my guess is that Phideaux will hold his "eighth" as dearly in his heart. We often try to compare an artist, or portions of their work, to those who have gone before, but this album stands on its own. This is no "A Passion Play"; this is "Snowtorch". This is a new standard; this is the album to which critics too young to know those "classic progressive rock classics" will compare the next wave of "Prog". I know this sounds overblown, but I cannot get over how much I love this thing. My wife is also listening to this a lot, and she only likes only a few of the cd's I buy. I won't try to break down each song, because I know many others will, but I would be remiss not to express my joy in some of the highlights in one of my very favorite albums. (I can say that already.) 1. I love Phideaux's lyrics, even though they usually are just a little (or a lot) over my head. 2. Valerie has an "angelic" voice, as close to perfect as any to my ears, and she is again beautiful here, but her emotive and powerful delivery in "Helix" really smokes. 3. The interplay between Ariel's violin and Johnny's/Mark's? keyboards near the end of "(Part One") is perfect.Joe McK
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 the course, Phideaux make use of a large cast of musicians all of whom have now been present since 2007. The outcome of this collaboration is a tightly played, but also very intricate album.Ian Pitman
As time has gone on, Phideaux have drifted further and further away from their eccentric gothic pop roots deeper into symphonic prog territory. Their songs have become longer and their structures increasingly more complex. I have to say their themes have become increasingly obtuse as well. The end result of all this is a serious musical progression for the band and a regression of their sound towards the heyday of extravagant progressive rock in the 1970s.
While keeping largely to their own character, the band has also drawn from the giants of the era. The most distinctive influence on the band, as I touched on in my review for Tempest of Mutiny, is Jethero Tull. In addition, certain passages easily evoke Supertramp, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and even Tangerine Dream. Phideaux have for the most part borrowed rather than stolen though. They've augmented their already rich sound with ornate organ and synthesizer passages. There is also a degree of complexity in their structures which has few precedents in their own discography. Furthermore, the band has adopted a style a lot like Yes at their progressive peak. The band has always had excellent lyrics, but I've also found them slight on meaning. Vocals have now more or less simply become part of the music. Trying to decipher them is about as productive as counting the number of angels which could fit on the head of a pin. It isn't a bad thing, it is however a new thing for Phideaux.
Before I conclude I want to jump back to Jethro Tull for a moment. I listed them as the main influence without backing up my position. Snowtorch is very reminiscent of Thick as a Brick. While it lacks any of Ian Anderson's poignantly snarling wit, there is a laundry list of other similarities between them. The most obvious connection is musically. Rolling heavy organ lines make up the core of both works. The fusion of acoustic and electric is also an integral feature. Both also go through a number of movements yet always seem to settle back to the organ. Again from a lyrical perspective, Thick as a Brick is always powerful but only manages to stay comprehensible for about the first quarter. After that the words sound interesting, but lack substance: e.g. "where the hell was Biggles?" etc. The same can be said for the basically entirety of Snowtorch: e.g. "When is a fox not a fox?" etc. It is a concept album, but I don't even begin to grasp the concept. And finally from a structural perspective, both albums are comprised by a suite of two large mostly instrumental tracks. Snowtorch incorporates a smaller intermediary track, but it is pretty much perfunctory. I will stress that each of these works are their own beast. There is however a discernable relationship between the two. I was able to pick up on it during my first listen.
To summarize Snowtorch is a grand and complex album. Phideaux have pushed themselves into new and interesting territory. Here, more so than ever before, they've chosen wear their influences on their sleeves. The result is a throwback to prog's glory days. I joined Prog Archives to find albums like this. I also trust that a number of you out there have the same motivation. This album is essential. I think old fans of Phideaux will love it as I do. I also think it will broaden then band's appeal on this site. Lastly, I'd like to say I still like Doomsday Afternoon and the epic from Chupacabras better, but Snowtorch is easily among their best work. Five stars out of five
Creo que no hay nada más para agregar, solamente decirles que los tres discos entran dentro del selecto grupo de discos super recomendados por el blog cabezón, tres maravillas sonoras que les van a hacer pasar mágicos y sublimes momentos, y que nos incitan a seguir buscando maravillas musicales para endulzar sus oídos.
Que lo disfruten!!!!