Phideaux – Doomsday Afternoon

By Olav Björnsen 

US band Phideaux has been around for some time now. Although the first album released under the Phideaux moniker was released all the way back in 1992, it wasn’t until after the millennium that this band (or perhaps project is a better word) started out in earnest. Doomsday Afternoon is the sixth release under the moniker Phideaux since the 2003 release Fiendish, and this latest release has caused quite a buzz among fans of prog rock.

Musically Phideaux has a distinct 70’s tinge to their music. Unlike other bands they don’t have distinct sounds pointing towards a small number of artists being most probable influences. Instead, the sound on this release is like a melting pot of everything great in prog from the 70’s that had a dark side to the sound. There’s not one or three or five pointers to other bands, more like forty or fifty.

But all the influences have been mixed carefully together with a distinct personal sound here as well. The songs don’t jump from one obvious influence to the next; instead the band plays their music and adds familiar touches here and there. Small melodic hellos from one or more instruments, the way certain phrases are sung, how a song shifts from one mood to the next – slight touches within Phideaux’s own distinct sound brings forth memories of classic bands and songs from a bygone era, creating a familiarity that makes the album more accessible and easier to get into. Throughout the album (mostly) small melodic pieces are repeated, creating a red thread and further familiarity.

Movement is a keyword in describing the overall sound on this album. The songs ebb and flow from one mood to another, from melancholic calm and at times almost ambient moods to soaring epic heights the size of Mount Everest; instrumentation go from almost non-existent to full band with orchestra in a matter of seconds; all the time with a nice, natural flow to it.

Another keyword for this release is epic. Most songs here contain many parts that are truly epic and almost bloated sounding; where the soundscape is filled to the brim with supporting instruments underscoring or floating above whatever instrument or instruments having the main melody at the moment. But it’s all skillfully done and the band had been careful not to overdo these parts.

And the songs here…wow…they are just…wow.

The style and structure here probably won’t be to anyone’s taste; but if you like the style, chances are good that you’ll love this release. One masterpiece follows another, and it’s only on the last couple of tracks that the quality drops slightly. No particular highs or lows for me to point out here; just a recommendation for anyone into prog rock to check this one out. In my opinion, this release is one of the best albums made in the last few years, and among the best albums I’ve heard so far in my life.