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Karfagen Messages from Afar: First Contact album cover
3.99 | 191 ratings | 12 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2017

Songs / Tracks Listing

- Message I:
1. First Contact (7:14)
2. Foreign Land (7:23)
3. Curious Talk (3:30)
- Message II:
4. Volcano Rabbit & the Frog (5:33)
5. Faces in the Clouds (3:08)
6. Vale of Dreams (8:34)
7. Golden Fields of Rye (2:15)
8. Riding on a Rainbow (2:53)
- Message III:
9. Constant Flow (15:45)

Total Time 56:15

Line-up / Musicians

- Antony Kalugin / keyboards, percussion, vocals

- Olha Rostovska / vocals, keyboards
- Max Velychko / electric & acoustic guitars
- Michail Sidorenko / alto saxophone
- Oleg Prokhorov / bass
- Kostya Shepelenko / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Igor Sokolskiy

CD Caerllysi Music ‎- CM17018 (2017, UK)

Digital album

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Prog Network & projeKct for the last updates
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KARFAGEN Messages from Afar: First Contact ratings distribution

(191 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

KARFAGEN Messages from Afar: First Contact reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of Antony Kalugin's 2017 releases. Apparently it's a companion to a soon-to-be-released SUNCHILD album.

1. "First Contact" (7:14) a trip-hoppy David Gilmour song?! That's exactly what the opening music and vocal sound like. After the vocals have played out and the vast instrumental mid-section takes over, it sounds a little more original with some nice non-Gilmourian guitar work from Max Velychko. The chunky fretless-sounding bass throughout is nice. (8.5/10)

2. "Foreign Land" (7:23) bass and sax are the featured instruments over the first ninety seconds of this one as the rest of the band supports by helping to create a kind of spacey, jazzy PINK FLOYD sound. This is even more strongly developed as the song goes on, as the electric guitar solo screams and wails. At the end of the fourth minute things quiet down so that a flute can solo. But then the guitar takes over again and everybody amps up their volumes in support. Unfortunately, nothing very special happens here--save for the Pink Floyd reminders. (7.5/10)

3. "Curious Talk" (3:30) nice easy listening lounge adult contemporary jazz music; nothing very proggy or barely even NeoProggy here. (7/10)

4. "Volcano Rabbit & The Frog" (5:33) some cool IQ-like keyboard sounds and synth work here but that's really what the song feels like: a straightforward set up for supporting showy guitar and keyboard solos. (8/10)

5. "Faces In The Clouds (3:08) spacious slow music that helps support some nice synthesizer and guitar work--probably my favorite sounds and feels, both in the solo instrumentation as well as the support tapestry. I haven't heard this wonderful guitar sound since PAUL SPEER was using it in the 1990s. Piano opening with synth "violins" joining in for the intro before drums and bass jump in and the music falls into line like an good World Music/soft jazz/New Age song from the 1990s. The overall weave and sound palette here is actually quite nice, quite workable. (9/10)

6. "Vale Of Dreams (8:34) virtually a continuation of the previous song with synth-created orchestral and vocal instruments joining into the weave. Again, the Paul Speer guitar sound is used--which I can't seem to help enjoying. Max actually does some really nice soloing here in that second minute. Tempo shift and disco bass at the 2:30 mark should derail my enjoyment but it doesn't. The FIXX-like work in the fourth minute is a bit odd but they make it work okay. Frequent returns to the guitar-led, synth-choral supported melody helps keep me engaged, to be sure. Definitely a brain worm of a melody. The sax in the final two minutes is tolerable. (Not a sax fan.) (9/10)

7. "Golden Fields Of Rye (2:15) bleeds over from the previous song, carrying the main melody, but using a piano and more sparsely instrumented base for support. Pretty enough. (8/10)

8. "Riding On A Rainbow (2:53) the same melody of the previous two songs shifted over to a different group of instruments and woven in with harmonizing second and third instrumental tracks. I'm glad Antony realized that he had, in fact, created quite a nice melody--enough so to try it in a variety of settings and soundscapes. I suppose the listener should have been notified of the "suite" nature of the past four songs. (8/10)

9. "Constant Flow (15:45) multiple tracks weaving together variations on a nice melody. At times in the first few minutes there is a very familiar feeling and sound here--like it's from Todd Rundgren's UTOPIA's "The Ikon," but then it switches to more GENESIS territory (despite the heavy use of "horns" sounds). Again, I wish these compositions weren't so familiar sounding, that they had more fresh, innovative energy to them. Pure Neo Prog if only because of the use and imitation of old sounds and styles. Nothing very special here. (7.5/10)

Antony's projects are always pleasant and sophisticated. My biggest complaint is the use of what feels and sounds like 1990s equipment and sound standards and rarely creating songs that sound innovative or boundary-pushing.

3.5 stars; an album that lovers of old sounds and Neo Prog will probably really enjoy.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ukranian keyboardist Antony Kalugin and his Karfagen project have been delivering superb retro-flavoured progressive rock music for well over a decade now, and through the sheer quality of both his vocal and purely instrumental works, it has seen the band step up to become one of the most consistently strong and notable modern Symphonic-Progressive acts currently going. Their latest, 2017's `Messages from Afar: First Contact', a (mostly) instrumental concept tale, is an interesting one - it's proudly in the symphonic mould, but surprisingly very far removed from Seventies sounds this time around. Instead, it more frequently calls to mind the late Eighties/early Nineties `A Momentary Lapse of Reason/The Division Bell' era of Pink Floyd and `The Masquerade Overture/Not of this Earth' period of British Neo-Proggers Pendragon, even down to the icy cool production. For `Messages...', plentiful prominence is given to longtime Karfagen contributor Max Velychko's majestic and fluid electric guitar soloing that effortlessly invokes those two above-mention groups, as well as other recognisable acts such as Camel, Steve Hackett and the Flower Kings. So if any combination of those bands sounds enticing, read on (or better yet, skip this long-winded ramble and just buy the disc!)...

Oddly for a primarily instrumental disc, things start off with a sole vocal piece, and the laid-back and easy-to-enjoy title track `First Contact' instantly calls to mind Pink Floyd's 1987 song `Learning to Fly' (some of the melodies drift awfully close too), with both Antony's smooth lead voice capturing David Gilmour's dulcet tone with uncanny precision, and his leading lady, keyboardist Olha Rostovska's sighing harmonies also reminding of the female backing singers from that stage of the band. Programmed beats also clip through the track, bubbling washes of Antony's keyboards coat the background, Oleg Prokhorov's bass grumbles sweetly, and Velychko offers the first signs of his tastefully chiming and searing heroic guitar runs.

Then it's onto the instrumental home-run of the rest of the disc. The sophisticated `Foreign Land's slinking synths, sweetly murmuring bass and Michail Sidorenko's hazy polished saxophone float together, and Max's guitars effortlessly glide between mellow strums and fiery histrionic wailing. `Curious Talk's dreamy jangling guitars, sparkling electric piano and wispy Mellotrons are spiced with a light eastern flavoured mystery (and it's a little bit funky too!), `Volcano Rabbit & the Frog' is a brash and delirious up-tempo sprint of reprising heavy blasting guitar, Kostya Shepelenko's bashing drums and whirring keyboard themes, and `Faces in the Clouds' is a blissful dreamy Floydian come-down of ringing guitar shimmers with some restrained soaring bursts.

The almost nine-minute `Vale of Dreams' is especially given flight by lengthy, crisp and joyful guitar heroics and uplifting sax, the piece home to so much momentum and positivity, and it's easy to imagine the band with big smiles on their faces dashing through this one! `Golden Fields of Rye's creaky Mellotron flutes and sparkling piano bring a touch of New Age prettiness, and `Riding on a Rainbow' is a synth n' guitar-heavy reinterpretation of the same musical themes that compares nicely to the music found on those older romantic Pendragon albums. But then it's all down to the sixteen minute closer, and `Constant Flow' achieves a near orchestral grandness through diverse range of sounds and styles, some heavier bursts and a welcome balance of differing tempos. It frequently reminds of the eclecticism of Steve Hackett's solo works, and there's no shortage of a smorgasbord of tasty soloing from all the band.

Some will perhaps find the album too guitar heavy, and admittedly it's happy to invoke comfortable memories of some well-loved prog bands of old as opposed to really standing out like many of the best Karfagen albums such as `Lost Symphony' and perhaps `Spektra', meaning some will instantly dismiss it as mere imitation or simple `hero worship'. But if lavish arrangements, impeccable technical ability (and it's admirable that, despite Karfagen being his baby, Antony refuses to hog the attention and is happy for his fellow band-members to take plenty of the spotlight), skilfully reprising musical motifs and colourful grandiosity that isn't afraid to labelled `Prog' with a giant capital P is your thing, then `Messages from Afar: First Contact' is a cracking modern Symphonic disc and a standout instrumental prog-rock album of 2017.

Four and a half stars - and watch out for a second part/continuation of the concepts of this disc in Antony's song-based crossover prog band Sunchild in the coming months.

PS - Just look at Igor Sokolskiy's sublime fantasy art...nice of the band to include it as a smaller fold out poster in the CD booklet, but how about some full-sized posters Antony?! ;)

Review by kev rowland
4 stars The work ethic of Ukrainian keyboard player Antony Kalugin puts us all to shame, as here he is back with the ninth album under the Karfagen name. This time there are no additional musicians, just Antony joined by Olha Rostovska (vocals, keyboards), Max Velychko (electric and acoustic guitars), Michail Sidorenko (alto sax), Oleg Prokhorov (bass) and Kostya Shepelenko (drums). Given there were three drummers and two bassists on 2016's 'Spektra', this has far more focus. Something which is somewhat unusual here, is this album ties in with an album by another band, namely Sunchild's 'Messages From Afar: The Division and Illusion of Time' (which I will be reviewing soon). Okay, so it's not that unusual when one realises that is another of Antony's projects, albeit with most of the same personnel, basically with the addition of two lead singers. This album is primarily instrumental, as although there are lyrics on the first number, vocals are normally only used here as an additional instrument.

Even before putting it into the player one is impressed, as the artwork is superb, and the band obviously think so as well as the booklet is actually a fold-out poster with the artwork on one side and band information and photos on the other. Released as a digipak, this screams quality even before listening to the music. Somehow I have managed to miss most of their career, having heard the debut album from 2006, then only re-discovering them after their last album, and again I find myself making a resolution to listen to more of their music as this is quite superb.

Modern, symphonic, very guitar-oriented progressive rock, the arrangements are highly structure and highly complex, interweaving between the different instruments yet somehow there is enough space for each to shine. Although the two keyboard players and guitars are generally the ones driving the melody, both drums and bass also take the lead. This is really clear on songs such as "Volcano Rabbit & Frog" where there are times where Kostya is very much the one in control and others where Oleg is providing some wonderful counterpoint to the main melody.

When it comes to instrumental progressive rock which manages to be both incredibly modern while looking back to the neo prog heyday of the Nineties, then it is hard to look past this, which is simply quite superb. Strong guitar, which sometimes sounds like Latimer, Gilmour or Chandler, it can also push far more into the metal arena and shreds than some may like. It is always backed up with a superb rhythm section while the keyboards continue to weave their magic. Superb.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I heard about this band from Ukraine, but never listened to them. Apparently, they are not newbies in the world of prog music. They sell their latest opus on Bandcamp, and I really liked samples and art work of their CD, so I ordered it. I wan't disappointed! If you are missing Camel (Moonmad ... (read more)

Report this review (#1941056) | Posted by Booba Kastorsky | Sunday, June 24, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What a great suprise. I stumbled upon this release because it was on the frontpage of this website and the albumcover looked great. To me, this mostly symphonic space prog is exactly what I adore. Adventurous, upbeat, and mostly instrumental. The band combines heavy prog with spacerock and olds ... (read more)

Report this review (#1869033) | Posted by Kingsnake | Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is my first time to write a review on here as I have just joined, so for my first ever review it has to be this exciting new album by KARFAGEN. And what a wonderful album this is! I first heard this band 2 years ago. I was watching EUROVISION (someone has to!) when Ukraine won it and I g ... (read more)

Report this review (#1868847) | Posted by Yeshead58 | Tuesday, January 23, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I knew this band (and the other project named "Sunchild" by the mastermind Antony Kalugin) only recently at a festival in Italy. So I cannot say I have followed their evolution so far. Anyway I listened to almost all their music now and I must say that what strikes most is their eclecticism: eve ... (read more)

Report this review (#1865071) | Posted by ale73 | Monday, January 8, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars To begin with: amazing, fantastic, absolutely superb musicianship of the guitarist. This is the first impression from the album. The music bears a faint resemblance to Space Circus and maybe also another Japanese prog fusion band, Kennedy. Unfortunately, when they sing (what occurs, let's say, n ... (read more)

Report this review (#1842815) | Posted by proghaven | Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The musicly masterbrain Anthony Kalugin has done it again! His child Karfagen grew and grew and reached the point of being adolescent. What a fine album this has become. Ive seen Anthony play live wirh Kargagen/Sunchild at the Progdreams V festival at culuurpodium Boerderij Zoetermeer, Netherlands. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1841274) | Posted by Han | Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I continue to be deeply amazed at this release and its counterpart as realized by Sunchild As it turns out, I have a real affinity for the music of Antony Kalugin, and these projects really have cemented him in the upper echelon of prog musicians in my universe. There is a wonderful sense of j ... (read more)

Report this review (#1840643) | Posted by Cylli Kat (0fficial) | Monday, December 11, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Our world is quite wonderful in oh so many different varieties: feelings and smells, colors and emotions - all that are in our daily life can also appear in music. All these emotions and feelings you can "taste" when listening to Karfagen's album "Messages from Afar: First Contact". This opus ... (read more)

Report this review (#1840588) | Posted by MalenaRoss | Monday, December 11, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The territory of good progressive rock can be easy described as the country of "unspeackable intelligence". The number of albums that might be described this way growes faster and faster last years. There is a few among them that can satisfy me completely. Because the obvious lack of long-term pr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1827390) | Posted by GarfunkelSi | Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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