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Sunchild - Exotic Creatures and a Stolen Dream CD (album) cover

EXOTIC CREATURES AND A STOLEN DREAM

Sunchild

 

Crossover Prog

4.19 | 88 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Yesterday was the official release date for the latest offering of Ukraine's No. 1 prog maestro Antony Kalugin. In the last few years he has operated productively under his own name and KARFAGEN. This is the first SUNCHILD album since 2018 when "Messages from Afar - The Division and Illusion of Time" was released as some sort of sequel to a 2017 Karfagen album.

It's not so easy to see any major differences between various Antony Kalugin projects, but perhaps one could claim Sunchild to be slightly more song-oriented. On previous albums there has often been a certain pop sensibility as well, and the soundscape is a bit more electrified and modern compared to Karfagen's tradition-friendly Symphonic Prog. This album doesn't show a strong attempt to emphasize the differences: I suppose in theory this could be a Karfagen album, and the compositional structure surely follows the tendency of recent albums. That is, two long pieces served with some bonuses that recycle the material of the main work. Can't say I'm thrilled by this habit of the bonuses (I do see the practical point of including the single edits and such), because naturally I'd prefer the CD to contain more than two equal pieces instead.

'Life Lines' (26:26) is a bold and ambitious multi-part modern symphonic prog epic. There's a catchy intensity right from the start, a feeling of grandiosity ' la The Flower Kings or Spock's Beard. Antony does the lead vocals which admittedly are more present than on his recent instrumentally oriented releases, backed beautifully by Maria Panasenko. The dynamics are well thought in the composition full of tempo changes and alterations between power and delicacy. Both the composer's array of keyboards and the electric guitar of Alexandr Pavlov build spectacular melodies, and of course all the other musicians are excellent, too. Accordion and soprano saxophone have their appearances. A detail I'm not fond of is the use of vocoder a couple of times, not a big deal though. To a middle-aged proghead there's hardly anything brand new in this fairly accessible epic, but it's very enjoyable, one of the finest and the most powerful Antony Kalugin has ever produced.

'Northern Skies' (14:14) has much more melancholy and sorrow -- just listen to the daily news, need I say more -- woven into it, but in the optimistic spirit, with a faith for a better tomorrow. Being notably shorter, 'Northern Skies' contains surprisingly plenty of wide dynamics, including also some rollercoaster instrumental sections. It's nevertheless the moodier vocal sections that make this piece so emotionally strong. The dual (male + female) vocals are used to a great effect, and Maria Panasenko even has her own portion of lead vocals.

'Timeless Motion Reprise' (1:24) recycles the first movement of 'Life Lines' in an instrumentally oriented way, giving a big role to Yan Vedaman's soprano sax. Rather esoteric 'Northern Lights' is also mostly instrumental. The single editions of the two main pieces (4:51 and 7:07 in length) function pretty well, but in the end they're insignificant to the album whole. With or without taking the bonuses into the equation, Exotic Creatures and a Stolen Dream is a strong and finely produced four-star prog album warmly recommended to everyone ever having enjoyed the works of Antony Kalugin. And if you haven't yet, why not give this one a chance!

Matti | 4/5 |

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