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Karfagen - Magician's Theater CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 143 ratings

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4 stars For prog listeners that adore vintage symphonic prog, there's not many other artists working in progressive music today that so strongly capture that particular style in a modern setting as convincingly as main Karfagen composer Antony Kalugin. He delivered a career best work with the lush and lavish `Lost Symphony' back in 2011, and `Magician's Theater' offers more of the same, just with an increase in heavy guitars this time around. Predominantly an instrumental work, it's fifty seven minutes of the bombast and classical flare of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Triumvirat, the romantic guitar moods of Camel and even the quirky qualities of the early Steve Hackett solo albums, but with added Ayreon-styled heavy guitar bite. Anthony handles all the keyboards (and make no mistake, this is a very keyboard-dominated album!), with additional musical guests brought in to bring a more full and rich satisfying sound.

All of the ten tracks flow into each-other, creating a varied and continuous musical adventure. The title track overture opens the first Act of the album with booming and dramatic E.L.P synth fanfares full of regal pomp and crashing stomp, a nice plodding groove and roaring electric guitar powering it forwards. Dream Theater fans will like the driving guitar soloing over wavering synth caresses throughout `The Birth of Mankind', with plenty of dreamier relaxing moments to balance it out too. `Turret' is a pretty synth, flute and classical guitar interlude full of mystery, then `Yuletide' throws in everything from Jethro Tull-like flute over rambunctious folk guitar, an upbeat repeated synth theme and even brief Celtic flavours, really foot-tapping stuff! `Figment of the Imagination part 1' is a short regal synth theme, and the amusingly titled `The Fibber's Diary' lurches along as a heavy crashing fanfare that's actually almost comical in a few spots, before the wild heavy metal attack of `The Juggler's Boast' closes the first half.

The second Act begins with the stirring and gently melancholic `Figment of the Imagination part 2', with gorgeous flute and choir Mellotrons singing together over electric piano and acoustic guitar. Then what would a symphonic prog album be without a twenty one minute epic?! It's a tour de force for Kalugin, as he unleashes all manner of symphonic synths, creaking grand organ and whirring Moogs galore. It takes Karfagen's music to new levels of sophistication and daring, with fleeting sedate classical guitar tastefulness, brief electronic diversions, brooding moody guitars, maddening spoken word passages, reflective thoughtful breaks, triumphant medieval fanfares, and even some whimsical Steve Hackett child's toy-like percussion sound-collages. Be sure to listen out for the nice introduction where accordion duets with menacing gothic Mellotron, and the heartfelt then joyful saxophone solo in the climax over delicate piano and chiming guitar. The album then finishes on a gutsier heavy guitar reprise of the opening piece.

Sadly, the only particular element holding the music back here a little that stops it achieving constant greatness - the frequent heavy wailing electric guitars. If you're a listener who loves plenty of soloing hard-rock guitars, or are a fan of the above mention Ayreon project, then this won't be an issue. But for others, it can get a little draining in several spots.

But there's still no denying that Antony Kalugin is a musician of great talent and variety (fans of this project should also investigate his solo album `The Water' from 2002 and his project the `Anthony Kalugin Kinematic Orchestra' from 2013 for a different side of the artist), and each new Karfagen release hones his vision of fantastical and colourful progressive music even further. `Magician's Theater' is a true love letter to symphonic progressive music, jammed full of memorable themes, performed with so much confidence and conviction, and it's yet another Karfagen album well worth discovering. Antony and his musical associates here should be immensely proud of their efforts!

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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