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Archive for May 30th, 2011

TRACKLISTING:
1. Day Of Destiny (4:06)
2. The Wrap (Intro) (5:16)
3. Under The Wrap (38:19)
4. An Angel (5:42)
5. Ilusionist (1:16)
6. The Wrap (Outro) (4:59)

 LINEUP:
Antony Kalugin – keyboards, vocals, percussion
Maxim Velichko – electric guitars
Sergey Balalaev – drums
Kostya Ionenko – bass
Sergey Kovalev – bayan, vocals
Roman Gorielov – acoustic guitar, backing vocals

With:
Helen Bour – oboe (1, 2)
Alexandr Pastukhov – bassoon (1, 2, 3)
Oksana Podmaryova – cello (3, 6)
Max Morozov – viola (3, 6)
Daria Maiourova – violin (3, 6)

One of the projects by talented and prolific Ukrainian musician Antony Kalugin (also involved with Karfagen and Hoggwash), Sunchild released their debut album, The Gnomon, in 2008, followed by The Invisible Line in 2009. The Wrap, the band’s third album, was recorded over a two-year period, and released in September 2010. An accomplished artists in spite of his young age, Kalugin has picked a group of gifted Ukrainian musicians for his projects, including string and woodwind players that give his bands’ musical output a well-rounded symphonic dimension.

Like a number of other bands from the Russian Federation, Sunchild’s approach to progressive rock is more traditional than innovative, though carried through with panache and impressive technical skill. While the band’s sound is not as openly influenced by classical music as the likes of Little Tragedies, Kalugin’s use of keyboards favouring piano and synthesizers rather than organ, quite a few diverse influences are detectable in Sunchild’s music other than the expected symphonic/Neo-prog strain. Alongside the intense melodic content, enhanced by pleasing vocal harmonies and lovely piano and flute passages, a distinct progressive metal feel surfaces in some of the compositions, which is in line with the trend followed by many contemporary bands that might be gathered under the Neo umbrella.

Like its two predecessors, The Wrap is based around an elaborate, rather esoteric philosophical concept, in this case the conflict between the self and its shadow – something that is likely to send some people running for the exits, and cause great delight in others. Although Kalugin was assisted by a native speaker of English, Will Mackie, in penning the lyrics, they are somewhat hit and miss – which anyway is not a particularly important factor, as I am first and foremost interested in the music. Unless lyrics contain something highly offensive (which is not the case here), I tend to be quite indifferent to them, unlike other critics that are often quick to point out any lyrical shortcomings. In any case, Kalugin is a more than adequate vocalist, capably assisted by his bandmates in the harmony parts, and even his slight accent does not detract from his delivery as is the case of other non-English-speaking musicians

Running at slightly below 60 minutes, The Wrap is dominated by the almost 40-minute epic “Under the Wrap”, which is strategically placed in the middle of the album (a good move, in my view). As I have pointed out on several occasions, I believe that it is extremely difficult for any given band or artist to sustain a composition of such length when it is conceived as a single block, and “Under the Wrap” is no exception. In spite of the undeniable quality of the music, the epic is more of a collection of disparate passages following one another without a common thread than an organic whole, which would have probably benefited from being presented in separate sections. As things are, the composition comes across as quite patchy, its first half starting out in subdued fashion, with subtle references to the great Russian composers of the Romantic era (reinforced by the presence of a bassoon and a string section), and then heading in a strongly metal-flavoured direction suggestive of Dream Theater circa Images and Words. The second half, instead, is strongly reminiscent of Genesis, with a couple of vocal passages in which Kalugin sounds very much like Peter Gabriel, a definitely classical-sounding, string-led section, and then a beautifully melodic guitar solo fading out at the end. Though the musicianship is consistently top notch, there are simply too many ideas left somehow underdeveloped, and not enough cohesion.

The remaining five tracks on the album are noticeably shorter the epic, and certainly much more successful in sheer compositional terms. Three of them feature vocals, and are generally mid-paced, melodic pieces with lush keyboard and guitar textures and excellent vocal parts. Opener “Day of Destiny” borders on AOR, with a very catchy chorus and flawless instrumental interplay; while closing track “The Wrap (Outro)” briefly reprises the opener’s main theme, with a brief metal-tinged section leading to an atmospheric, string-led conclusion. On the other hand, “An Angel”, followed by the short, soothing acoustic interlude “Illusionist”, as the title implies is a lovely, rarefied ballad featuring a gorgeous guitar solo backed by piano and percussion. The other instrumental track, “The Wrap (Intro)”, seems to reproduce the structure of the epic, though in a more cohesive way, blending prog-metal suggestions with pastoral moments in the vein of vintage Genesis or Camel.

As the previous paragraphs illustrate quite clearly, The Wrap is quite likely to appeal to fans of classic symphonic and Neo-prog, even if the occasional prog metal overtones may put off some of the more traditionally-oriented listeners. In any case, even if decidedly retro in tone, it is a finely-crafted album brimming with enjoyable melodies, and executed with undisputable skill and professionalism. The very thorough booklet, with its stylish artwork and photography, is also deserving of a mention. In spite of the somewhat patchy nature of the epic, the album would be a worthy addition to the music collection of any melodic prog lover.

Links:
http://www.antonykalugin.net/

 

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