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Phenix - 2004 - "Wings of Fire"
(74 min, Brennus)

TRACK LIST:                             
1.  The Pilgrimage 3:07
2.  Babylon 6:37
3.  Fire Wings 3:07
4.  Trial by Fire 3:23
5.  The Fifth Dimension 7:09
6.  Still of the Night 6:32
7.  Blood in the Arena 4:02
8.  Rebellion 4:45
9.  Still Believe 3:51
10. Time to Live 5:12
11. The Last Ride 5:23
12. Guardians of Metal 3:21
13. The Quest Goes Ever On 17:58

All tracks: by Garnier, Gramond, & Treve, except
6: Whitesnake '87 opening hit.
Produced by Phenix & R. Hebinger.
Engineered by O. Garnier.


Bertrand Gramond - vocals
Olivier Garnier - guitar
Sebastian Treve - guitar
Anthony Philippeau - bass
Eric Brezard - drums

Prolusion. "Wings of Fire" is the second album by the French quintet PHENIX. Their first album was released two years ago under the title of "Sacred Fire". It looks like the band got caught in an endless ring of fire, unless they are fire-worshippers:-).

Analysis. According to the CD press kit, Phenix performs a melodic Heavy Metal. While understanding that this is a generalized conception, I perceived it negatively anyway, which perhaps occurs on the subconscious level. Well, in reality the music is free of sugariness and isn't excessively melodic even in its quietest moments, such as those on the album's opening track. Pilgrimage begins and develops by the clever interaction between solos of bass and passages of acoustic guitar, later transforming into Techno Thrash with a unique opera-like three-voice choir. (Sadly, they rarely returned to this model of singing in the future.) The only track here that does not concern Metal is in many ways a remarkable composition, one of the best on the album. The further events unravel in the way that would be unpredictable even for experienced fans of the genre. From an original Cathedral Metal on Babylon, the band suddenly turned to the high-speed Iron Maiden-influenced NWBHM, bringing it throughout the next two tracks. Thankfully, The Fifth Dimension was entered by means of a classic Prog-Metal, original from top to toe and very impressive in general. Before reaching another peak: on The Quest Goes Ever On, the 18-minute epic presenting a truly progressive conjunction of Cathedral Metal and a harsh guitar Art-Rock, the band tried with Thrash, Doom / Black Metal (in music only), again NWBHM with machine-gun-like solos, etc and so on. In short, it wouldn't be too inappropriate to say that the album represents kind of a stylistic mess. Very good, sometimes really outstanding songs adjoin ordinary ones, and particularly those with the ideas borrowed from Iron Maiden sound especially trivial. Which, I believe, is just because it's always hard to rule the captured territories. Generally, the ability to play fast and virtuosi does not necessarily imply the quality of the performed music. However, the worst thing lies in the band's incapacity for holding a leash on their hidden passions. No less than half of the songs present Phenix as a group of the musicians whose musical worldview is completely shaped and does not depend on any outside factors. Yet, on the others they diligently formulate the traditions of NWBHM, sometimes appearing even as blind imitators of the movement's major acts. Just logically, I am asking myself the question: Why the hell such a gifted band plays games with originality? It would've been quite another matter if they weren't endowed with it. But this is the charisma that no one would rob from them apart from them themselves.

Conclusion. I am so critical just because I am certain that these guys are still able to make a solid contribution to the development of the genre they've chosen. They only must concentrate their efforts exclusively on their own ideas and avoid any temptations to be like someone. More than half of the contents the 74-minute "Wings of Fire" are worth listen. Overall, however, the album is too overextended, to say the least, to separate the grains off the tares.

VM: December 7, 2004

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