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PHI - Cycles

PHI
Cycles
by Katharine Hassett at 30 April 2018, 5:34 AM

Hailing from Austria, where "The Golden Ratio" that their name refers to is known as "der Goldene Schnitt," or "the Golden Cut," PHI is a progressive rock band that blends ambitiously heavy grooves and layered ambiance and aims to break the usual clichés of the genre. Founded in 2006, the four-piece strives to find this "Golden Ratio" in combining rock music and art. Well established in the European prog scene, the band has multiple LPs and EPs and a live film/album named "Waves Over Vienna." After a time of lineup changes and concerted efforts, PHI recorded a new studio album titled "Cycles," which promises "more focus, more detail, more polyrhythm and delicately woven complexity."

Clocking in at around 47 minutes, the six song epic opens with atmospheric ambiance with heavy emphasis on synth that gives off the imagery of the calm after a rainy day, fit for a song titled "Children of The Rain." The calm is short lived and in comes the storm with a chunky groove coupled with polyrhythmic drumming which calls to mind one of their influences, PORCUPINE TREE. The clean vocals match the style in this song quite well, and the layering of the backup vocalists add to the overall artistic quality the quartet strives for. After a beautiful harmony, the song comes to a close first with a rhythmic breakdown and then a chord progression with an odd time signature accompanied with choir-like vocals and heavy synth of an almost religious quality. "Dystopia" opens with a groovy polyrhythm of open palm mutes and in comes the cathartic vocals of Marcus Bratusa. The song goes into an emotional interlude, with bassy clean guitar and then quickly goes back into the heavy distortion this writer cannot get enough of. Their ability to add complex textures to their sound is something that cannot go unnoticed in this song.

Next up is "In the Name of Freedom," opening with a fast paced groove that reminds this reviewer of NEVERMORE. Sprinkling some synthesized brass and choir in between the punches, the song slowly comes to a close with an emotional guitar solo and mathy bass drumming merged with a 4/4 beat. "Amber" begins with spacey synth coupled with distant-sounding piano, and after a short groove, the song proves to be one of the most melancholic songs on the album. Towards the end, the song takes on a very dissonant tone combined with a skillful solo and ends with a groove and more dreamlike synth. "Blackened Rivers," the final track on the album slowly builds with more synth and a cymbal roll but wastes no time getting straight to business with a dissonant groove. With a backdrop of droney synth, the raw emotion of Marcus Bratusa sets the tone for another imaginative prog ditty. With heavily layered, harmonic vocals, the song slowly tones it down with a combination of more polyrhytmic drumming, piano, and even bongos.

PHI clearly found a ratio with this beautiful album, bursting with musicianship. I just would not describe it as a "Golden Ratio," as the elements of this album is nothing we have not seen before countless times in the progressive rock genre.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 9

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Children of the Rain
2. Dystopia
3. In the Name of Freedom
4. Amber
5. Existence
6. Blackened Rivers
Lineup:
Marcus Bratusa - Vocals, Guitars, Synth/Keys
Stefan Helige - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Nick Koch - Drums, Backing Vocals, Synth/Keys
David Loimer - Bass, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Gentle Art Of Music
     


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