Phideaux - Number Seven
Bloodfish Music
Progressive Rock
10 songs (62:39)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Bar
Archive review

Note: The version of the album reviewed was released shortly after the original, during the same year. It contains exactly the same music but several tracks have been joined together resulting in fewer tracks overall and the sound has been remixed. The artist considers it the quintessential version.

I was not the only Progressive Rock fan who was shocked and amazed by the arrival of Phideaux Xavier’s extraordinary 2007 prog creation Doomsday Afternoon. At the time most people - myself included - assumed that it would be his ultimate masterpiece, impossible for him to approach in quality, let alone surpass. With that in mind, it’s difficult to express just how it made me feel when, in 2009, I received my copy of Number Seven in the mail and listened to it from beginning to end. I was exuberant to say the least. Against all odds, Phideaux had struck gold once again and in my opinion, yes, even surpassed himself.

Number Seven is a very different album to its much loved predecessor. It begins unassumingly with the sounds of an acoustic guitar being plucked ever so gently, as the main melodic theme of the album is delicately introduced. What a stunning and simple theme it is too, calling to mind the most memorable of prog openings, and giving the impression of a very warm and intimate album to follow. This turns out to be entirely true, and it’s no surprise to learn that Phideaux has not utilised any of the many guest musicians that appeared last time. Only his touring band performs on this studio recording and the result is a slightly more simplified, personal approach that still manages to achieve a stunning level of depth and sonic exploration. What was previously accomplished with a myriad of instruments and walls of sound is here accomplished with a much heavier emphasis on elegant piano and subtle synthesizer soundscapes. Layers of inventive guitar work - acoustic, electric & bass - help to pad out the sound but always serve as support for the sumptuous keys and lush vocals, rather than becoming the main focus. A range of horn and stringed instruments also appear throughout the album, but are used sparingly to great effect.

This approach is clearly evident on the first track proper, the 20 minute behemoth Waiting for the Axe to Fall. It’s the sort of prog that hits all the right buttons for fans of this genre, featuring multiple waves of build-up and crescendo as the composition ebbs and flows across its mammoth running time. The lead and back-up vocals, as always, are shared between Phideaux himself and his wonderful assortment of female singers. As they each put their personal mark on the composition, the voices seem to coalesce perfectly resulting in a deeply rich harmonic resonance. The atmosphere is palpable. The time signature stutters and shifts in places, but as with every Phideaux arrangement there is a distinct sense of accessibility.

From this point forward, the album becomes stronger still. The Pink Floyd influence is strong, much as it was on Doomsday Afternoon, but I would argue Phideaux takes further steps towards enveloping this influence within his own unique sound. There are so many moments that will surprise and astonish you with their ingenuity and my personal favourite occurs towards the end of Love Theme from Number Seven. Suddenly the song breaks out into a light-hearted piano riff, accompanied by a simple 4/4 beat. At first this seems more like pop music than Progressive Rock, but as it unfolds it reveals itself to be one of the most layered pieces on the album. After a couple of bars and a bridge, Phideaux adds a layer of guitar. Another bridge, and then female vocals are added. Then he adds his own voice in harmony. It continues progressing in this way until eventually the finished arrangement washes over you, complete with piano, guitar and a resplendent 6 part vocal harmony. Completely spell binding.

If it hasn’t already been made clear by the countless superlatives I’ve used in describing this album, this really is essential listening for anyone with an interest in contemporary Progressive Rock. In my opinion, it is the finest prog release of the last two decades, or perhaps even longer still. It comes with my highest recommendation.

Killing Songs :
Not a single dull moment to be found
Bar quoted 97 / 100
Other albums by Phideaux that we have reviewed:
Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon reviewed by Bar and quoted 96 / 100
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