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Universal Totem Orchestra - The Magus CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.14 | 119 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars RT's offshoot's Universal Totem Orchestra's sole album was starting to become a distant memory, and I had stopped hoping for a second tome of the offshoot cute and oddball adventures. And out of the blue, The Magus came almost unannounced (not even a couple of month's notice) halfway in 2008 and as soon as I heard the album was released I rushed out to, order it and now a short year later, the review comes. With a fairly different line-up - only the drummer Golin and the superb mistress of ceremony Torres-Fraile remain although saxman Fedeli and ex-bassist Buttiglione are present on both - but released on the same Black Widow label with the same striking artwork artiste, (this time forgetting skeletal fixation, but slightly more occult hence the title) on one of the best-looking digipak I've set my eyes upon. In terms of music formats, the tendency towards longer tracks is increased as all but two tracks are above 13 minutes (as opposed to two of them in RA) but I'm not sure this is a good thing. Indeed some song section appears to be standing on their own, and one looks up to see the tracks are not incrementing, so I'd say some collages should've been more careful.

Was this going to be something a bit similar as the incredible Rituale Alieno or was it going to be something totally different, venturing from its fire-bearer the way the latter has ventured away from the normal Zeuhl conventional boundaries. In a way The Magus is a bit of both, staying fairly similar to Rituale Alieno, but also foraying a bit farther out than you'd have expected them to, even after digesting RA. In other words, past the initial surprise, the traits that made RA so special, have probably been pushed a few yards ahead, and what was refreshingly unexpected has now becoming slightly over-exaggerated routine twists. Don't let this last remark deter you, though: The Magus is the proud son of Rituale Alieno and there is absolutely nowhere where it doesn't deserve your full attention, despite some more synthetic music than you're normally accustomed to in Zeuhl. The superbly juicy choir vocals of the first album are still in service, but again the Gregorian choirs are also leaving much room for gothic operatic vocals

With the effect of surprise gone (with the debut album), UTO had a very hard task to tackle with this second album, and I must reckon that they partly succeeded to make you forget of RA at places. It's fairly hard to say which album is objectively better , but one thing is sure, UTO is a stunning Zeuhl group, probably the most original, not afraid to foray in other genres than just jazz-rock. Much worth the detour. Rounded up to the upper fourth star

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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