(All Album Reviews by Ivan_Melgar_M)
About two weeks ago I was offered a copy of the second album of the good Ukrainian band Karfagen after having listening recently to Continium, the solid debut. I was more than thrilled with the opportunity of listening and reviewing their second effort but after a first listen it was clear that The Space Between Us shows no evolution in the band, maybe a step back after a really strong first album.
Even when their debut was not a masterpiece it was very good, and the obvious skills of the members made me expect something even better for the following album. Sadly, this doesn’t happen. The Space Between Us presents us a band that seems still trying to find their definitive sound lost in a blend of symphonic, jazz, orchestral, ethnic sounds and even new age. Apparently they are more confused than a year ago.
The album is opened with “Entering the Gates”, a nice folksy instrumental performed completely by Antony Kalugin, a song that makes us believe in a better album. He nicely blends melodic symphonic with some moments of strong rock. Sadly it is only a 1 minute 54 second mirage.
“The Great Circus” is one of the weaker tracks. I don’t know if they try to play jazz or blues, but at the end all we get is a weak mixture that borders the limits of cheesiness at some moments. Very forgettable track that flows from start to end almost with no changes or surprises.
“Temple of Light” is an improvement from the previous song that starts stronger in the vein of Toto with a nice guitar and keyboard interplay, some good piano interruptions and a efficient drumming. Ends with a simple but decent jazzy section with some yodeling chorus. Not great but at least they seem to know where the music is pointing, some form of light prog.
“The Other Side” is another jazzy tune with some Yes influence, despite the efforts of the guitar and the folksy atmosphere provided by the flute. The track brings us no surprises, seems they are pointing towards some form of new age meets light prog.
“Sky of Couple-Colors” is more of the same, so I will avoid it but “Masks and Illusions” deserves a comment, a good folk prog track with an oriental side. At last we can find some experimental stuff. The vocals add some strength to the song. Reminds me of King Crimson in some moments, really a good track. The best at this point.
“The Dream Master” is a very good piano solo by Oleg Poyasksiy, consistent and imaginative even when clearly influenced by Keith Emerson’s “Piano Concerto N° 1” and a touch of Rachmaninoff. Most surely not a prog track but who cares? It’s really quality stuff.
Is the turn for “Labyrinth” and I must gladly say that they made three good tracks in a row. Starts mysterious with keyboards and a dark chorus in the background and suddenly changes radically proving this guys can rock when they want.
“Let Go” is a weaker track. Even when the piano is nice, the song seems to go over and over around one theme. About the second minute the guitars and synths add a bit of strength but there’s no change in the structure. The arrangements and the melody are nice and pleasant but the song takes us nowhere.
“Wonder Valleys” follows the path of the previous track but with a more ethnic approach. The CD is becoming predictable. You can’t base so many songs almost exclusively in the arrangements and a couple of native instruments if the structure is weak and repetitive.
What I can’t understand is why “Kingsisher and Dragonflies” is so short. It starts as an interesting prog track with some emotional explosions but it ends almost immediately. If you have a solid track, use more than 1:41 minutes.
After a good (even when too short) track, Karfagen hits the nail on the head with “Retrofall”. Sounds as if they found the perfect balance between prog folk and prog rock. The keyboard work is outstanding and goes from psych-oriented to a very solid rock. Nice complement by the guitars, another very solid track.
“Mind Games” is a good experimental track based in piano and narration. Again, when they have an excellent idea the song is too short and ends before completely being developed. It’s a shame.
The theme song starts dramatic with an interesting guitar job but they get lost in endless jamming and repetitive sections that sound like variations over a same theme. Don’t misunderstand me, the music sounds great but lacks of imagination because until the end they only keep adding instruments on the same structure.
“When the Night Falls” is IMO the weakest track. Sounds more like an attempt of making a world music track that ends being nothing more than new age. Thank God that it’s short but still I press the skip button.
The album ends with “The Big Outro”, another short but this time decent track, nothing special but at least is pompous enough to capture the attention of the listener, good way of ending a decent but uneven album.
A good buy if you’re a fan of soft Prog that borders New Age, not what I expected after their solid debut but still can be listened with interest.
I just hope they make a much better album in the third attempt, because Karfagen is a solid band and I'm sure they are able to release something close to the status of masterpiece.
Iván Melgar Morey