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Karfagen - Spektra CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.02 | 126 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Ukranian multi-instrumentalist Antony Kalugin is one of the proud modern flagbearers of the symphonic prog sound, and his Karfagen project has delivered a string of eclectic and colourful works in that style that mix vocals and luxurious instrumentation for many years now. But every once in a while, Antony and his musical collaborators deliver a purely instrumental grand work, with 2011's `Lost Symphony' being particularly special, and 2014's `Magician's Theater' a heavier one, but here he returns to that initial approach for late 2016's `Spektra', and it is without question their most wondrous artistic achievement under the Karfagen banner to date.

`Spektra' is keyboard-dominated symphonic music often accompanied by exotic instruments such as accordion, flute and violin, and it calls to mind everything from The Enid, `Snow Goose'-era Camel, the early Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips solo albums, Gryphon and Pink Floyd, as well as modern influences like the Flower Kings and the Ayreon project in its occasional heavier bursts. Running just over an hour, the album is split into three multi-part suites each running between fourteen and twenty-four minutes, the whole resembling a continuous concept piece, although the sparse CD packaging doesn't state implicitly that it is (and there's no CD booklet either) in this instance.

The opening title track of `Phase 1' introduces the disc with a massive fanfare of alternating guitar and keyboard grand themes - some mysterious, some darker and dramatic, but all truly magical. It's peppered with David Gilmour-esque guitar strains, a touch of E.L.P-like vigour, sparkling piano and some drowsy guitar strums in the opening minutes that almost sound like they're right off Porcupine Tree's `Sky Moves Sideways'. The suite proceeds to dash through a series of shorter interludes, which finds `Troy' starting as a warmer acoustic reflection flecked with the lightest of unease before rising in power with some snarling bluster, and `Transaleatorica II' adds a touch of classical piano, spooky Mellotron choirs and Moog bubbliness that could have popped up on Bo Hansson's `Lord of the Rings' album alongside some dashing harpsichord. The closest the album comes to a vocal piece is the booming Latin choir around swooning violins of `Terra Incognita', `Celebration' is a victorious electric guitar and shimmering Hammond organ theme, `Homonymous (Part 1)' offers Genesis/Steve Hackett-like classical guitar prettiness, and `Angel Tears' closes the first set on a spooky Mellotron lament.

`Phase 2' encompasses the four part, twenty-one minute `Olympia' movement. `Zeus' is a brash, up-tempo and bombastic heavy symphonic blast frequently in the E.L.P tradition with plentiful aggressive keyboard soloing, while the quirky and gently dangerous `Dionis' lovingly recaptures that breezy and rollicking seafaring sound that permeated Roine Stolt's underappreciated water-themed `Hydrophonia' solo disc from 1998 in between bouts of electronic weirdness. `Poseidon' brings relentless guitar bursts, fluid bass leaps and bashing drums, `Aurora' offers plenty of reprising electric guitar themes, sighing female wordless harmonies and some Flower Kings-like unexpected psychedelic touches, and the section closes on a delicate Steve Hackett-like acoustic reprise of `Homonymous' from earlier in the disc.

`Dios Pyros' opens the third `Phase' as a whirring accordion and synth fanfare, then `Natural Charm' is a classy symphonic piece highlighted by lightly jazzy and beautifully romantic piano runs and gorgeous flute playing in the winning Camel tradition. `Eye Witness' is a wistful and ghostly interlude, and the contemplative and deeply moving album closer `Juggler And The Cloud' (which the CD proudly boasts as being recorded in the studio live!) casually comes to life with swooning prettiness yet great dignified restraint, and it might be one of the most truly beautiful moments to ever appear on a Karfagen disc - what a way to end such a wonderful disc!

So there you go, folks - modern symphonic prog works don't get much more exquisite, rich and impeccably performed than `Spektra', a disc that would make for the perfect introduction to Antony Kalugin's works for newcomers to look into. It sits alongside Monarch Trail's `Sand', Cellar Noise's `Alight' and Barock Project's `Detachment' as one of the finest symphonic works of the last twelve months, and also serves as one of the greatest discs under the Karfagen name to date.

Five stars - symphonic listeners are in for a real treat!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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