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Universal Totem Orchestra - Rituale Alieno CD (album) cover

RITUALE ALIENO

Universal Totem Orchestra

 

Zeuhl

4.04 | 80 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Who could've imagined that one of Zeuhl's most fun and inventive album would've come from one of the genre sorriest excuse of a group, Runaway Totem. If RT was little more than a third rate Magma wannabe whose best album was their second, Zed, its offshoot UTO is one of the most flamboyant and insane Zeuhl creation that has been given me to hear. But when thinking about it, it sort of makes sense: give a crazy and visionary French musician like Magma's Vander and hand him over the Italian citizenship and access to the typical Italian character traits, and you can only have a grandiloquent and baroque Christiano Vandera that would've probably written music that might have had Universalle Totem Orchestra's many quirks and twists.

Three members of RT invited a ton of guests (including a seven-person choir) to make Rituale Alieno an incredible and unexpected success by daring to escape to the generally-accepted and conventional boundaries of the genre. Indeed UTO's main difference not only relies on slightly different instrumentation, sometimes risking sacrilege with semi-metallic guitars, but mainly in the vocal department. UTO's vocals are baroque, goofy, enthralling, deviillish, operatic and extra-terrestrial, this, no matter whether in lead solo or in pure choir. There is not a single doubt that the musicians had great fun in recording these parts. And if you don't believe me, check out the choirs in the closing track Meccanica Superiore.

There are times where the music veers a bit synthetic (the last part of Elric's Voyage) and this is often while your mind is busy enjoying the oddball choirs, which means it is not immediately discernable and it might take a few listen to realize it. But we remain in Zeuhl territory and the bass remains the centre f the music and it is certainly the case in Ipernatura Del Tempo Centrale, where a piano and a searing Van Halen-like guitar solo soar, but the bass is driving you nuts below it and the closing choirs are another nail driven through your now-fried brains. This is where Magma never dared to go ver their long career, and it is all Vander's loss.

Armed with a bunch of macabre skeletal artworks gracing its booklet, RT was released on the ideally-suited Black Widow label, but it is too bad not more publicity about this album was made at the time of release, because Moroni has in his catalogue one of Zeuhl's top 5 albums, but I'm not sure he knows about it. But more important, you do now, right???

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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