PHIDEAUX - Number Seven
Ever since starting releasing albums in 2003, Phideaux has been one of the busiest artists in the progressive rock scene. Therefore it was more than unusual that it took him this time two entire years to come up with his already seventh CD called originally Number Seven. Although he started a trilogy that began with The Great Leap in 2006 and continued with Doomsday Afternoon one year later, the new album takes the band on a break and will even be followed by an appendix album called 7½ later this year, before we get the conclusion of the trilogy.
Number Seven is a concept album, something the prog world has always been fond of since the genre’s inception in the late Sixties. Instead of recording epic twenty minute works, we get sixteen tracks that range from one to seven minutes, although they are grouped into three acts that actually work as long-tracks. Number Seven is a surrealist metaphor about a dormouse that ventures out into the outside world, despite warnings that staying at home where all the rules are known would be safer. This libertarian fairytale comes with a fitting soundtrack, not that much unlike what we are familiar with from Phideaux’s past, but still trying new grounds. The fact that the tracks segue into one another makes it hard to pinpoint highlights, and just listening to excerpts won’t do this record any justice.
Phideaux have started playing as a live band only recently, but this band approach shows on their seventh longplayer. The ten musicians (more than half of them contribute vocals) concoct an unconventional art rock cocktail that takes inspiration from the most diverse places in prog history, and manages to come up with something which is their very own musical vision. Being still a self-released band after so many years probably helps to withstand the expectations of the music industry.
The first comparison that came to my mind are the later Camel albums that combine melodic prog with folk elements, but Phideaux go much further and have a great time of incorporating everything that they can think of. At times they sound very majestic and ponderous, very often the vocal parts carry the song, thanks mostly to the vocal excellencies from band leader Phideaux Xavier and Valerie Gracious, who duets are a trademark of the band’s identity. Storia Senti with its Italian lyrics is even an undisguised tribute to the great prog scene that Italy had in the Seventies.
Considering that Phideaux Xavier works as a TV director for television programs like General Hospital and others, it’s unusual that his musical output is so much less aimed at a broad audience, although Phideaux have managed to considerably widen their fanbase, proving that you don’t need a big money label to convince people of your qualities. In a world where progressive rock more often than not means rehashing the recipes of the past with a glossy production, it’s wonderful to have a self-reliant collective of artists like these that still do everything by themselves and even get the deserved success. I am already looking forward to the appendix album which should come out quite soon!