Band Website: www.bloodfish.com
Label: Bloodfish Music
Release Date: 2011
It was with much anticipation that I opened the packaging of the new Phideaux CD that had unexpectedly just arrived in my mailbox. After raving about his previous effort entitled Number Seven, I wondered over what to expect of this new disc entitled Snowtorch. And let me say it not a disappointment. Performing on the disc are; Phideaux Xavier (acoustic guitar, piano, vocals), Ariel Farber (vocals, violin), Valerie Gracious (vocals), Rich Hutchins (drums), Mathew Kennedy (bass), Gabriel Moffat (guitar), Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (vocals, metal percussion), Molly Ruttan (vocals), Mark Sherkus (keyboards, piano) and Johnny Unicorn (keyboards, saxophone, vocals). It’s a large cast of characters but it all comes together nicely as they execute the symphonic compositions on Snowtorch.
Snowtorch consists of three pieces, two of which are longer multi-part productions and then to top it off there is a short coda. As I say, this is symphonic prog at its finest infused with a pronounced jaunty medieval musicality. The first track “Snowtorch” Part One [19:42] is made up of four distinct segments but each of these is further divided into shorter segments that are constantly changing time, tempo and structure. Then skipping the shorter middle track “Helix” [5:54] which itself is a wonderful Yes-inspired track, we have “Snowtorch” Part Two, a three-part piece that subtly repeats some of the first part’s themes and adds new ones. There is a tremendous amount of musicality here without being overly complex or showy. In a way I kept hearing parts of Yes mixed with parts of Gentle Giant and that was all played over some Genesis sounding organ chords. While all manner of keyboards are very prominent, so is Phideaux’s acoustic guitar creating a softer delicate musical landscape which offers plenty of room for the more dramatic electric accents. Phideaux’s music is first and foremost melodic with great hummable lines running throughout the disc and the mixture of male and female vocals adds a warm and inviting tone to the music. It’s changing all the time and yet you don’t get a sense of busyness, it simply flows from one musical section to the next.
I have to say, this is a spectacular disc! From start to finish there is something captivating and emotionally engaging every moment of the playing time. For my money this is Phideaux’s best set of music yet. The music represents everything a symphonic prog CD is supposed to be. And just like Number Seven was one of my favorites of 2009, Snowtorch is easily one of my favorites of 2011. Highly recommended to fans of symphonic prog.