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Universal Totem Orchestra - Rituale Alieno CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.09 | 86 ratings

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5 stars What a great surprise this was to hear. Universal Totem Orchestra are an offshoot of the Italian Zeuhl band Runaway Totem. This is their debut album, the next one not coming out until 2007; I still have yet to hear that album. I agree with those who think UTO are much better than RT. The music here is a mix of French Zeuhl, Japanese Zeuhl, RPI and Symphonic Prog. Like RT the songs are very long. Unlike RT there is not much of a metal influence here and the vocals seem to be more important. The lead female vocalist here is an important part of the group's sound.

"Pane Astrale" has some lovely piano and double-tracked female soprano vocals to begin the album. Cello joins in. A beautiful intro to a great album. "Saturno" opens with weird computerized vocals before it goes into some gothic symphonic rock. Church organ for a bit. Sax joins in as the organ dies out. Drums and bass enter again as some wind instrument solos. Then a guitar solo. Later some screaming samples which I swear I've heard before. Then Gregorian-style chanting. Later female vocals soar over male vocal chanting with some symphonic Zeuhl music backing it up. After 9 minutes goes into a very Japanese Zeuhl sounding part. In the middle the track becomes industrial Zeuhl. Afterwards goes into a part that sounds like Runaway Totem with alternating male and female vocals. Certain parts seem to get reprised throughout the piece. Martial drumming towards the end.

After an electronic, industrial opening with computer-altered vocal effects, "Il Viaggio di Elric" goes into some jazz-rock with what sounds like marimba or xylophone. Some symphonic guitar and keys play over top. Then percussion with spacey sounds and female vocals. Goes back to the symphonic jazz-rock part. Before 5 minutes is some beautiful cello, violin and harpsichord. Female vocals and acoustic guitar join in. Harmonized male vocals enter. Later gets jazzy with more harmonized male vocals which get more melodic and 'chorus' like. Great symphonic guitar solo gets joined by symphonic keys. Later gets more industrial and gothic sounding with more male harmony vocals.

"Ipernatura del Tempo Centrale" begins with Indian percussion and some spacey vocals with an overall industrial sound. Afterwards gets very trad jazz sounding with piano, bass and hi-hat. Some very Magmaesque vocals here. Drumming starts to get more important as it switches to a different section with a guitar solo. Almost metal sounding bass with spacey sounds for awhile. Male chanting later. "Antichi Occhi Ciechi" starts industrial sounding with a male voice speaking. Some computer-altered voices, then male chanting as female vocals sing over top. Later goes into another part that reminds me of Runaway Totem. Gets jazzier. More industrial and spacey sounding in the middle with a guitar solo. Later gets more symphonic rock sounding with another guitar solo and some quasi- soloing on synth. Gets jazzier again. Ends very Japanese Zeuhl sounding.

The beginning of "Meccanica Superiore" has a deep bass synth sound. After some male chanting and double-tracked female vocals first sing in counterpoint and then both chant in unison. Nice faux-vocal sound on keys at one point. Then gets French Zeuhl sounding with a metal style guitar solo. Gets very symphonic prog sounding in the middle. Later a jazzy piano oriented section with operatic female vocals. Guitar plays a riff before becoming more symphonic sounding with nice melodic 'chorus' like double-tracked female vocals. Male chanting joins in. Some funky slap bass style playing before harmony male vocals and some synth noodling. Gets more metal sounding briefly at the end.

Besides the Zeuhl, RPI and Symphonic influences, there is also a healthy dose of 1990's industrial rock as well. UTO aren't really doing anything truly original here, but the result is fantastic. There is not a dull moment here. My only complaint is that maybe the drums could have been mixed more upfront. Overall, this is one of the better prog albums I have heard from the 1990s. 5 stars.

zravkapt | 5/5 |


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