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Karfagen - Echoes from within Dragon Island CD (album) cover

ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND

Karfagen

 

Symphonic Prog

4.18 | 121 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars Kharkiv, Ukraine based Antony Kalugin can be described as nothing less than prolific with scores of albums released with the bands Hoggwash, Sunchild, Antony Kalugin's Kinematics Orchestra and his most productive of all KARFAGEN (which means Karthagoa symbol of glory and wisdom and also it is a never-ending journey into the world of the forgotten past and un-predictable future) which after only having formed in 2006 has just released its tenth album ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND on 11 Febr 2019. Returning with his unique mix of art rock and symphonic prog that evokes the majesty of bands like Camel, Genesis, UK, Pink Floyd and most of all The Flower Kings, KARFAGEN continues to ratchet up the intensity and ambitiousness as if the end of the world was near and cranking out one bloated prog project after another is of the utmost urgency.

ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND is perhaps the most ambitious project yet that tackles a grand concept albums based on the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson and graced by the stunning fantasy cover art of Konstantin Kanskiy. KARFAGEN went the extra mile to craft a pompous slice of modern symphonic prog that finds mainman Antony Kalugin conducting a massive army of 17 musicians with Kalugin himself playing keyboards, percussion, penny flute and handling all arrangements and programming. The album comes in two versions. The single CD which clocks in just under an hour's playing time and a limited deluxe edition that contains an extra CD that contains an extra eight tracks and slightly over 38 minutes playing time. Some are new tracks and others reworked versions of disc one.

Lush and flowing with melodies the primary disc of ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND contains three lengthy 'Dragon Island Suites' each which tells the tale of fairies and thoughtful little creatures in magical forests in a Tolkien-like setting. While the music plays out mostly in wending and winding instrumental technicalities, there are moments where the various vocalists have a turn to both sing and recite the poetic prose but overall the musical constructs are much more geared to a series of progressively delivered jaunts through the medievally tinged universe that seems to be more based on folk than any classic symphonic prog such as Yes, but it's not exactly the Slavic prog one would expect from a band from Eastern Europe and rather a Middle Ages type of folk that's somewhat Mediterranean and perhaps a little Celtic.

Plaudits to the superb production job on this one as every little sound is mixed perfectly in the greater scheme of things and despite the largess of instrumental representation it never feels like there are too many chefs in the kitchen. In fact the overall soundscape is rather sparse with instruments taking their turns in a rather civilized manner. This is dreamy prog, the very kind initiated by Flower Kings and happy bands like Moon Safari but most of all i get a Neal Morse vibe from this album as KARFAGEN take a similar approach of taking melodies to their utmost logical conclusion with plenty of proggy curve balls thrown around in the sprawling breadth of the 16 minute plus trilogy of suites. For the most part this is symphonic overload with more atmospheric counterpoints than actual rock instrumentation. Despite the heavy load of players on board, this one remains rather nonchalant and cruises by like a feather floating in the air.

For such a long album this one seldom really picks up steam as far as dynamics and tempos are concerned as the diversity is expressed through the timbres and tones of the various instruments as well as the time signatures and ambient backdrops. The harder rock segments that do occur are basically power chord moments and truthfully sound a little like progressive AOR even when the radio friendly guitar solos emerge. If you have the desire to go all the way with this one and find yourself with the two disc version then the second installment will bring you a few shorter instrumental pieces such as 'Flowing Brooks' which showcases the nylon guitar in tandem with lush keyboards as well as the single version of 'Dragon Island' and live and alternative versions of tracks from disc one.

If dreamy and airy fairy prog is what you crave then you can't go wrong with ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND as it delivers a crisp clean modern sounding prog sound that evokes the reverberating echoes of the past but clearly brings into context that of the modern era. As much as i try to love this, the album escapes my complete admiration for two main reasons. First is the lack of dynamism displayed throughout the album's run. For a near hour experience that are too few points of contrast as the entire shebang seems to take place in the clouds on a low energy chilled vibe sorta way. The album clearly lacks enough key moments of a energetic crescendoes. Secondly this is the sort of music that demands a talented vocalist or more to really step up to the plate and match the divine wizardry of the music itself and i find the vocalists on display to be a tad limited in their abilities to really weave their vocal magic around the tapestry of instrumentation. There is much to like about ECHOES FROM WITHIN DRAGON ISLAND as it captures the vibe of another distant reality but certain elements keep me from being reeled in completely and in the end derails my embracing fully its attempted magnificence.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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