Sunchild -
Exotic Creatures And A Stolen Dream

(CD 2023, 57:12, Caerllysi Music CM23030)

The tracks:
  1- Life Lines(26:26)
         - a) Timeless Motion
         - b) Wings Of The Storm
         - c) The New Day Dawning
         - d) In The Garden Of Hope
         - e) Beautiful Creatures
         - f) Crimson Queen
         - g) The Tide
  2- Northern Skies(14:14)
         - a) Only In Wildest Dreams
         - b) In The Valley Of A Stolen Dream
         - c) Haunted Visions
         - d) Under The Northern Skies
Bonus tracks:
  3- Timeless Motion (reprise)(1:24)
  4- Northern Lights(3:07)
  5- Northern Skies (single edition)(4:51)
  6- Life Lines (single edition)(7:07)

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The Sunchild project was founded in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 2008 by musical multi-talent Antony Kalugin whom we know from various other projects as Karfagen and Hoggwash. I don't exactly know what criteria Kalugin uses to attribute his music to the various projects. What I know of, they are all pretty symphonic in sound, but having reviewed recently the latest Karfagen and now Sunchild, I sense at least some nuances between them.

On this new album, titled Exotic Creatures And A Stolen Dream, Kalugin (taking care of most vocals, all keyboards and percussion) invited a selection of Ukrainian musicians to record the new album over a period of four years. There are no less than three guitar players: Alexandr Pavlov can be heard on Life lines (both versions) while Max Velychko plays on the other tracks, and Dmytro Ignatov adds some solos to Life Lines. The other musicians are Ivan Goritski (drums), Konstantin Ionenko (basses), Yan Vedaman (soprano saxophone), Sergii Kovalov (accordion), and female vocalists Olha Rostovska and Maria Panasenko.

Now, lets talk about the music. To summarize in just one word: Wonderful! This is how symphonic progressive rock is meant to be! There are a mere two pieces on the proper album, to which are added as 'bonus' two short pieces and short versions of the main tracks.
The 26 minutes opener Life Lines is divided in seven movements and brings just everything a symphonic prog lover longs for. There are clear references to Yes. Just listen to that guitar when it joins for full for the first time. Interestingly, I am reminded of Union-era Yes, but then perhaps a slightly more symphonic version. Now, Union is not the first album reference that comes to mind when speaking of Yes, but it feels like the right one because I detect traces of both Howe's quirkiness and Rabin's more straightforward work. Other reference might include some traces of The Flower Kings (which already dominated the new album from Karfagen, the other project of Kalugin's) and I even sense a tiny bit of Alan Parsons Project. Although Life Line lasts for 26 minutes, it doesn't feel at all that long which is a clear credit to its quality and the variation at offer here!
The second piece, Northern Skies, may remind some of Renaissance with its title, but musically I would say that there are many references/similarities to Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings with a female singer added. I am not sure which of the two ladies sings here, or perhaps even both... Any which way, she has a great soulful and powerful voice and really adds to the sound. And, in a way also adds a commercial touch (might I even say that there is a hint of some Disney movie songs?), but in a positive way.
And so, 14 minutes pass like nothing and the proper album is over with a length of just over 40 minutes. Old-fashioned LP length which is completely fine by me. The bonus tracks don't add to much for me and could just as well have been left off the CD. I would have been just as happy to just press “replay”. But then, not everyone is like me, and so the band offers us the freedom what to do with the extra material.

As said before: a wonderful album. Unless you hate symphonic progressive rock. But then, I wonder why did you read this far?

**** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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