It seems that the Ukrainian musician Antony Kalugin (keyboards, vocals, programming, percussion) hasn't got any problems to record a Sunchild album every year. Since the release of The Gnomon (2008), the first Sunchild album, Kalugin recorded The Invisible Line (2009), The Wrap (2010, see review) and As Far As The Eye Can See (2011, see review). Sunchild's latest album appeared recently and is called Isolation.
Antony Kalugin called the new album 'the dark chapter'; it was partly written at the time he recorded The Wrap in 2010. However, these songs are more song orientated and therefore he decided to use this material for this album. Yet the album tells a part of the story, that started with The Gnomon, about a boy and a girl who grew up together, but went their own separate ways later on. When you listen to the first part of the album you realize that they were right about the musical approach of the music on those tracks. The first four tracks are rather short; they don't last longer than six minutes, which means that you indeed hear more song orientated tracks. However, that doesn't mean that the progressive rock elements have vanished as well. Antony's synthesizers get enough room to shine throughout, just like they do on the longer, more epic pieces.
On Isolation you got the urge to sing along with the happy tunes. A good example is the second track Shall We Run, a real catchy tune! This time the strong Kate Bush-like vocals of Viktoria Osmachko have a smaller role. Her presence on As Far As The Eye Can See lifted the music to a higher level. On Isolation Antony Kalugin and Zhenya Lenkov take the lead most of the time. Zhenya's voice often sounds like that of Peter Gabriel. For a moment I thought Gabriel and Bush were singing together just like they did on Don't Give Up. This can be heard at the start of Berlin & Leningrad, which is the first epic piece on the album. Throughout wonderful guitar and synthesizer parts can be enjoyed.
The title track, which is divided into four parts, could be regarded to be the ultimate highlight. While listening to this marvellous piece of music I discovered that, to a certain extent, Kalugin had been influenced by the music of Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Especially The Roaring Silence (1976) could have been a major source of inspiration, which can be heard on the first part of Isolation. The strong close harmony vocals that last for a minute, reminded me of the intro of The Road To Babylon. Even the lyrics show some similarities. Many strong instrumental passages can be recognized as strongly related to the Earth Band on the other parts of the Isolation suite as well. This means amazing guitar and synthesizer solos. Well, who can ask for more if you're a real prog head? Occasionally these breathtaking guitar solos even tend to the beautiful music of Pink Floyd. When you've heard this amazing suite, you'll forget about the more song orientated material on the album, simply because Sunchild deliver the best prog rock music you can wish for.
I think the combination of both short and long tracks make Isolation a strong follow-up album to As Far As The Eye Can See. So once again I would like to compliment all the musicians involved. They again succeeded in producing a fine progressive rock album despite the full agenda of Antony Kalugin!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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