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




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 309 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Antony Kalugin from Ukraine is without a doubt among the best progband leaders and composers whose music I've found recently. Be it Hoggwash, Sunchild or Karfagen, I seem to enjoy them all. This album is the latest one by Karfagen that offers marvelous 24-carat symphonic prog. I'm having the 1-CD edition, which probably doesn't lose much compared to the limited (and now sold out) 2-disc version of 94 minutes in total. The disc consists of three 'Dragon Island Suites' between 16 and 19 minutes in length plus five shorter pieces. All the lyrics are drawn from a poetry work "Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of The Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These slightly naiive, narrative verses praising the children's flights of imagination form a charming entity together with the lively symphonic -- and, definitely in a good sense, romantic -- progressive rock.

The vast list of guesting musicians includes several vocalists as well, but if I'm not mistaken it's Anton Kalugin himself who handles most of the vocals. He has a pretty pleasant voice, something that would suit to CAMEL, and the softness of his voicing reminds me a bit of Roger Waters's half-spoken intimacy (think of e.g. the beginning of The Final Cut track 'Southampton Dock'). The album's music never gets very vocal-oriented: there are lengthy instrumental sections, and the vocals always function as a natural part of the music's emotional impact and the overall architecture. The other vocalists, both male and female, ensure the dynamic variety in the vocal department too. And the pure instrumental approach dominates the final quarter of the album.

The two suites that start the album are simply superb, as is the third one as well. Melodic and easily digested and yet highly adventurous in their full-blown symphonic approach. I love the way additional acoustic instruments such as violin, bassoon, flute, English horn and alto saxophone enrich the sound here and there. The production is faultless. In between the massive suites comes a charming little song 'My Bed Is a Boat' starring acoustic guitar and flute, joined by other reeds and tender vocals. A perfect way to balance things down in order to avoid being too pompous -- not that you'd get any ELP-like over-the-top carnivalism within the long pieces either.

The remaining tracks -- placed on the second disc of the 2-CD editions -- are instrumentals. On 'Flowing Brooks' the reed instruments (especially alto sax), synths and electric guitar carry the soaring melodies beautifully. Fully comparable to FOCUS on their prime time. 'Winter Rooks' is a more modest piece centered around acoustic guitar and delicately played synths. And finally the two 'Incantation' instrumentals combine spacey melodicism -- at times slightly PINK FLOYD-like -- and some dynamic changes. Excellent arrangements. Sonically this music is a bliss to me. No hesitations: five stars!

Matti | 5/5 |


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