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Sunchild - Messages From Afar - The Division And Illusion Of Time CD (album) cover

MESSAGES FROM AFAR - THE DIVISION AND ILLUSION OF TIME

Sunchild

 

Crossover Prog

3.89 | 132 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This album starts strong, but begins to repeat itself after the fourth song.

The first six songs on Messages from Afar: The Division and Illusion of Time seem to constitute an album of their own: at about thirty-four minutes, this series of songs is the same length as most albums were in the 1970s. "Searching Diamonds" and "Grail and Time" are both nice art-rock pieces with overt prog-rock references. The lead vocals on these two, by Sunchild mastermind Antony Kalugin, Viktoria Osmachko, and Nikita Osmachko, are very good. After a divergence into more progressive territory ("60 Degrees to the 70s"), the jazzy instrumental "Mystery Train" strengthens my suspicion that Kalugin has absorbed a wide variety of popular music from the 1980s. Although guitarist Max Velychko was prominent on the first three songs, "mystery Train" is where he really starts to stand out. The "Dreams from a Lonely Town/Division and Illusion of Time" medley closes the first half of the album in a logical way, revisiting many of the moods and themes of the foregoing music with a sense of closure. However, by this time, a monotony has set in. The soaring chorus of "Division and Illusion of Time" is duly majestic, but tedious at the same time; the eight-minute "Grail and Time," has already trodden much of the same earth.

The twenty-minute "Victory Voyager" follows. Like most of the first half of the album, it's made up of well-performed art-pop passages bridged by proggier sections. The female singers return to the forefront of the mix, and Velychko gets to display his skills as the piece moves from section to section. It all hangs together, but I'm left with the sneaking suspicion that it's a clever assembly of slices of the first half of the album.

Given that it's an instrumental coda to the album, you might think the ten-minute "Father" must be too long. But remember that this album is a 65-minute affair. "Father" is long, but it makes sense, both as a distinct musical piece and as the album's closure. Like "Victory Voyager," "Father" shifts from style to style, and again, Velychko gets much of the spotlight.

Messages from Afar: The Division and Illusion of Time has some very strong aspects; to begin with, instrumentalists Kalugin and Velychko are great throughout. The lead vocals and lead guitars tend to be just a little forward and isolated in the mix for my taste, but this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the album, and other than that minor quibble, the album is well-produced. There is some very good songwriting, especially on the first two songs. The first times I listened to this album, it was on in the background as I was driving or doing other things. It sounded pretty good under those conditions, but a closer inspection revealed the shortcomings I cited above.

I think my criticisms can be summarized as follows: In the vinyl era, this album would have either been pared down to fit on two sides, or another ten minutes would have been added to justify a double album. The first four songs - - "Searching Diamonds," "Grail and Time," "60 Degrees," and "Mystery Train" - - already account for more than one side of vinyl. If the remaining 42 minutes were to be reimagined as a suite half that long, I might be trying to decide whether this was a three- or four-star album.

Instead, I had to decide between two and three stars. I think I've given Messages from Afar: The Division and Illusion of Time enough listens to be able to write a review, but my opinion as to the rating is still up in the air; I'll revisit this review someday and see if I still agree.

___

Update (6/26/2020): fifteen months later, a three star-rating still seems about right.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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