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the artwork of 'Fiendish'

the artwork of 'Ghost Story'

the artwork of 'Chupacabras'

the artwork of '313'

the artwork of 'The Great Leap'

the artwork of 'doomsday Afternoon'

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Phideaux: Fiendish
(Bloodfish - 2003)
Category : none
3,33 stars

Phideaux: Ghost Story
(Bloodfish - 2004)
Category : none
4 stars

Phideaux: Chupacabras
(Bloodfish - 2005)
Category : oops!
1,5 stars

Phideaux: 313
(Bloodfish - 2006)
Category : none
3 stars

Phideaux: The great leap
(Bloodfish - 2006)
Category : none
3,33 stars

Phideaux: Doomsday afternoon
(Bloodfish - 2007)
Category : none
4 stars

If artists like David Bowie (seventies period), Pink Floyd, (early) Moody Blues and Donovan are your thing, then I have a name for you: Phideaux. This band was originally started by a man called Xavier Phideaux (vocals, piano, guitar) and by Rich hutchins (drums), but in the meantime at least ten musicians are involved in recording new songs. Their brand of slightly Psychedelic, Progressive tinged Rock is firmly rooted in the seventies. But while it's inspired by what's undoubtfully one of the most interesting periods in Rock's history, the music does not sound dated. It's Retro in the best meaning of the word.

Phideaux is an acquired taste, not something with a simple and instant appeal. I think it's the kind of band that'll have some people raving about it, while others will never get what the fuss is all about. I'm somewhere in between these two extremes. I can see Phideaux is searching for an own style, which is more than can be said of most bands. They're artistic, restless souls and dare to go into uncharted territory.

But the results aren't always succesful. What might be a first small stumbling block for some listeners, is the fact that there isn't much variation in the general feel of their CD's. It's the same atmosphere of mild angst and melancholy all the time. This is enhanced by the fact that the vocalist nearly always uses the same sharp and slightly "whining" tone of voice. But I think what will keep this band most from reaching a wider audience at the moment is the simple fact that the contrast of the vocal melodies between the verses and the choruses often isn't big enough. Sometimes I catch myself wondering if there even is a chorus, as most melodies in a song come from the same mould and feel like they're at the same level of importance. But of course I may simply not be "getting it".

Their strong points on the other hand are the adventurous nature of the songs, their ear for detail, strong musicianship and their increasing ability for creating a layered sound without making a noisy mess of things.

Let's quickly go over all of their CD's now, but without going into much detail, as most of what I can say is already present in the text above.

Fiendish is a promising debut, not equally strong throughout, but with more hits than misses. The best track is '100 Coda', a slow and atmospheric instrumental that feels like an updated companion piece to 'Dramatic theme' from Pink Floyd's 'More' album, with cello's and flutes thrown in for added flavour. The rest of the CD are typical Phideaux songs, a mixture of Rock, Psychedelia, Prog, Folk and Pop with melodic vocals sung in a rather sharp and nasal tone. Xavier's voice is specific and takes a while to get used to, especially since the vocals are sometimes mixed a bit too much in the front. But the most important aspect about the music is not the vocals, and not even the way in which the songs are performed, but the typical atmosphere of angst and melancholy they manage to weave through each of the songs. Once you're into the right mood, songs like 'Animal Games' and 'Vultures and Mosquitoes' reveal themselves as both wonderful and trippy.

Ghost Story
A CD that's varied and quite simply beautiful. The melodies. The emotions. Everything about it sounds honest. And it's engaging. About every minute of it. I'd not only advise fans of 70's Psychedelia à la Pink Floyd and Tractor, but even of more recent British and Belgian Alternative and semi-alternative Rock bands like Muse, Oasis and Novastar to pay attention to this Phideaux release especially. Up until now it's still their most "poppy" in the sense that on average it has the most memorable choruses and probably the least complicated sounding songs as well. While Phideaux is nowhere near as mainstream as any of the aformentioned contemporary bands, songs like 'Wily Creilly', 'A curse of Miracles' and especially 'Feel the radiation', edge close to radio-friendliness, despite the rather "filthy" guitar distortion.

Ah, yes. Chupacabras. Boy, did they miss the ball on this one. It sounds like they aimed to create an arty masterpiece, but they forgot to write the songs to fulfill their ambition. It's fragmented, doesn't really seem to go anywhere, lacks anything vaguely resembling a chorus and is quite hard to sit through. The only real song is 'Party', which could just as easily have been on 'Ghost Story'.

313 & The great Leap
After the egotrip of Chupacabras, these two CD's are a return to form. They don't really have clear standout tracks, but they're pretty decent throughout. You are advised to discover them both if you thought the other ones were great.

Doomsday Afternoon
This is the album 'Chupacabras' tried to be, so I'll be comparing the two CD's quite a lot here. 'Doomsday Afternoon' is their most Progressive effort to date. The compositions are ambitious and complex. The songs are also more engaging and better balanced and the vocals too sound better in general. Even the female vocals (these used to be one of the weak points on 'Chupacabras') have been integrated better, in part also because the overall production is at their highest level ever. The Symphonic sounding opener 'Micro Softdeathstar' starts off gently and builds up slowly until somewhere halfway the different themes start to follow each other in a fast tempo. Nevertheless the result doesn't feel nearly as fragmented as anything that's on 'Chupacabras'. 'The doctrine of eternal ice (part one)' is quite impressive. Merging Symphonic music and Rock in this fashion easily leads to pompous kitch, but they pulled it off in a graceful and pleasing manner. 'Candybrain', with its synths and hand claps, has a very 70's feel. Bands like Gentle Giant come to mind. 'Thank you for the Evil' is another standout track. It's a synth driven, atmospheric song that sounds like Pink Floyd. The vocals are treated differently here as well. They aren't as sharp and and integrate better into the mix (especially from minute 5:50 to 6:40 and 8:15 to the end). The CD closes with the 15 minutes long 'Microdeath Softstar', another example of Symphonic Rock at its best. Especially when the violins and the horns kick in, the effect is impressive. The 4 minutes long intro is so beautiful (a word I seldom use) that when the vocals finally begin, they simply feel unnecessary, almost a nuisance even. It's a good thing most of this song is instrumental. It's a bit too long though. Some of the weaker parts (many of them involving vocals again) could've easily been left out. Another ghost that was omnipresent on 'Chupacabras', namely the feeling that there are no easily recognisable, recurring themes and choruses to bind the song together, is threatening again as well. But on the other hand 'Microdeath Softstar' also shows how skilled Phideaux has become at adding orchestral arrangements to their sound.

I think 'Doomsday Afternoon' and 'Ghost Story' are the best CD's to start dicovering Phideaux's sound. 'Doomsday Afternoon' if you're into Progressive music and Symphonic Rock. 'Ghost Story' if you're into Psychedelic Pop and Alternative Rock. on their website there's a selection of each of their CD's in MP3-format, so finding out if Phideaux is something for you, doesn't even have to cost you anything.


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