Phalanx feat. The White Rabbit was formed in 2008, and this is their second full-lenght, and also their second release that's based on neoclassical music. The previous one was the quite recent EP "HerzSchlag", which was meant to serve as a teaser for this release. Even though the EP had it's flaws, it sure got me interested in acquiring this album.
Again, I shall perform a track-by-track "autopsy". The album starts with a more than four minutes long track that works as an intro for the album. It's based on some powerful percussion work, which is backed with a careful use of cellos and horns, and in the end there's a piano melody. It really succeeds in getting one's attention to the album. The next track starts with a really fragile (and good) piano melody, which is soon backed by cellos and powerful percussions. The tracks slowly gathers power, until the percussions and the piano drop off after one and a half minutes, being replaced by some horns. The horns create quite a vast melody, and they're backed by some cellos again. Soon, the track is again where it started from, calms down little by little and ends with just the piano melody. Whereas the first two tracks had quite a brooding atmosphere, the third track takes the listener to a happier place; quite pop-like drum programming, acoustic guitars and some piano create quite an uplifting listening experience with their entwined melodies. The drum sound might bother some people, as it sounds really plastic, which it also is. It creates a good beat to the track, but I think that a better sound could've been found. The track number four is again based on cellos and drums. The track's background is provided by fairly powerful, but not too space-taking drums, with some cellos creating a pleasant, fast and short melody as the main thing. Despite the track mostly being a quite simple loop, it manages to have a lot of power in it, and it's basic beat really gets to you and takes your focus. The track's percussions fade out oddly, though, when they have a pause when the track's lasted for less than a minute. The same thing happens in the end of the track, but then it's not as noticeable.
Track number five starts with something new: a low bass sound, creating a really slow beat which stays around in the background for the track's lenght. The track sounds really fraqile with it's high, music box-like piano patterns that form most of the track with (possibly) a triangle. The bass and the really short, harsh, droning sound that comes in frequently create a nice contrast, and the end result is beautiful and interesting. The next song has some powerful percussions, cellos in the back to create some soundscape and almost wild violin work as the main thing. With just a couple of pauses from the violins, the track manages to create an intense (battle-)soundscape that lasts it's almost six minutes of lenght well. The next track is three minutes of despair and sadness. It's created from some humming ambient, a few thought-out percussion hits, and a violin that really creates an atmosphere. Even though the track has a great atmosphere, the background ambience sounds a bit too mechanical at times, and that doesn't fit to the album's whole. The percussions could've also been executed in a different vein, as they stand out too much and don't seem to serve a purpose.
The rest of the album, meaning something like twelve minutes, consists of quite cheery tunes. "Slow Motion" lasts for five minutes, and it mostly consists of humming ambient-sounds with an occasional cheery, high synth-sound melody and a harp melody. The melodies are in the background for most of the time, leaving room for the ambient sounds to build the atmosphere. The next track lasts only for two minutes. It consists of a low, mid-pace bass-beat, and some high beats that serve as the percussions. The bass creates most of the soundscape, the beats keep it interesting, and the electric piano -melody in the back adds some content to the track. The last track is the only one that features any vocals - even though they're more close to spoken words, but still. The track is the most varying one on the album, and also of a quite different style than all the previous ones. It has a really varying beat, and it seems to have been be created solely on a synth of some sort; the background ambiences, the occasional triangle-sound, the electric bass sound... The track is really pleasing; it progresses in an interesting way as it doesn't really follow any traditional structure, and it's been made of pleasing, interesting, and varying sounds. It was a surprising choice to end the album with an electro-track, but it works well and gives the listener a pleasing descension from the album's world back to our earth.
One of the first things that come to my mind when I think of this album is the structure that about all the tracks share: they start and build up the same way, they have the same kind of middle-part, and they end to a similar fade-out. Sure, the structure works, but it's still very odd that it's used that much. It damages the release's listening value a bit, as the tracks have less to offer due to their similar basic structure, but more importantly it limits the band's expression. It's also odd that the brooding and heavy "Falling Down" is followed by the cheery track "Sunrise". The track just sounds really out of place, and it also does so when thinking about the whole of the album. There's also a few badly made fade-outs on the album, but we're luckily talking about a small number here.
The structure aside, the songs are really good. Even though they're composed using a very small variety of sounds, the tracks hold a really good amount of power, and are packed with feeling. The melodies, atmospheres and beats really get to you, both due to the good amount of repetition within the tracks and the good composing. Both the beautiful and powerful elements are present, but they are used so that they don't mix each other up; some tracks are based on powerful beats with simple and sparse melodies, whereas some tracks are really beautiful, melodic, and atmospheric with few or no beats; and of course there's tracks that are between these two extremities. When compared to the previous EP, it can safely be said that this record holds more variation, better tracks and is overall superior; so, if you liked the EP, you'll like this album even more. The sparse elements are overall used in a more effecient and impressing manner.
It can be safely said that the band knows what neoclassical music is about, have the talent to execute their ideas, and that they create really good atmospheres. Still, they haven't completely found their own style yet, they have work to do with figuring out how to mix the electo/industrial-elements with the neoclassical ones, and they need to think more about the release's whole. Also it could be a smart choice to let go of the basic structure of the tracks, as it's bound to limit their creativity. All in all, "Follow the White Rabbit" is a very promising effort, even with the flaws concidered. As the band evolved such an amount between this release and the previous EP, one can only wonder what the future will bring...