Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Universal Totem Orchestra - Rituale Alieno CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.09 | 86 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars MASTERPIECE. A single word is enough to describe this fantastic album. It's Zeuhl, true, but contains elements of classic RPI, symphonic prog and in some moments it really ROCKS!.

It starts with a melodic slow song, "Pane Astrale" (Astral Bread) features piano, the clean soprano voice of Ann Torres Fraile and the cello of Francesco Ciech. This instrumentation gives it teh Zeuhl flavor, but this is a melodic song in RPI style. A song like this is enough to pay back the whole album, but this is only the beginning.

The second track "Saturno" (Saturn) is a long suite, totally Zeuhl this time, but with the intrusion of other genres. After the first jazzy minutes in Kobaian mood there's a church organ solo. A classical piece with the last chord followed by acoustic guitar which introduces another Zeuhl section lead by alto sax supported by a strong bass line. When the guitar joins we are borderline with Fusion. A great rock solo to which the bass adds a Canterbury flavor. A sudden stop and a gregorian choir apparently in Latin (It may be a Kobaian dialect) leads to a heavy section in 5/4 which features another excellent guitar riff. And only 8 of the 21 minutes are passed. A change of signature...I'm not skilled enough to see which one...maybe 6/8, but I'm guessing. This part of the track has something of the most experimental moments of ELP but also bands like Soft Machine and Khan come to my mind. Another sudden change. The Choir is no longer Gregorian. Now it's very dark, electronics help in setting up the soundscape, so that the male choir can enter with lyrics that I don't understand but have a Latin sound. Probably it's the latin of Carmina Burana. When the soprano enters above the choir it's one of the greatest moments of the whole album. The choir leaves her alone and she now sings Italian. Choir back again, it's an orgy of sounds, a crescendo of emotions. At the level of the best Magma. Some drums and both choir and soprano run an interlude to come back to the previous theme. I can't imagine the effect that this could make in a live concert. A symphonic passage, just few seconds, and the choir is back but the rhythm slows down and becomes a dark bolero. The only bad thing of this track is the final: a fadeout. I hate when a 21 minutes track ends with a fadeout.

The third track is "Il Viaggio di Elric"(Elric's Journey). I don't know if it's Elric of Melinbone', the character created by the Hawkwind's collaborator and writer Micheal Moorcock. The first two minutes may be even Camel, but suddenly percussions, electronics, gongs, and soprano (I think the lyrics are in Spanish now) start a minute of avantgarde that's suddenly replaced by a Sinclair like bass on which the guitar performs another great riff. An excursion to Canterbury. A stop and the cello introduce a classical moment joined by cymbal classical guitar and soprano. It's a highly melodic moment. When the male choir enters it gives chills. This album contains so many things so good that could be an entry point even for neo- proggers. It's too good to be limited to a subgenre only. I think that this album will stay on my mp3 reader for a very long time. The lyrics are now in Italian, but I can't tell if it's about the Moorcock saga. However it proceeds with a fantastic piano solo, then guitar, then bass...what a track!. It's an epic. I think it's since Lady Fantasy that I didn't hear a track of this length so intense. In the last two minutes heavy percussions are the only accompanimet to the choir which reprises the main theme alternated with keyboards. Back to the classic Zeuhl for a stupenndous final.

Is it enough? No. What comes now is the highlight: "Ipernatura del Tempo" (Hypernature of Time) is opened by ethnic percussions and alto sax, a tribal opening that after one minute is a fantastic jazz. Only the vocals mantain the Zeuhl connotations, the music could even be Miles Davis with Petrucciani at the piano. Only one third of the song is passed when the guitar starts another "movement", more chaotic but still in the jazz land. Another stop and the bass is ready for another excellent jazz riff joined first by drums then by keyboards. Later the soprano adds operistic vocalisms. I can't describe it. I don't understand what the male choir sings in the interludes but it doesn't matter. This is quite a psychedelic moment.

"The stair of knowledge doesn't make you fly high. It makes you die on Earth". This is what the male voice says over electronic noises. We are already on the fifth track: "Antichi Occhi Ciechi"(Ancient Blind Eyes). It's undescribable. Choir and soprano alternated on a base of electronic noise and keyboard, then a gong introduces a classical Zeuhl section that later flows again into jazz with another fantastic piano riff. Zeuhl and Jazz come and go seamlessly. Not an easy track, but the guitar makes it lighter because of the use of riffs and more "familiar" sounds. at minute 5:30, more or less, the bass goes rock for a psychedelic section which reminds to bands like the Dutch 35007 or even to the Ozric Tentacles. It's incredible how this album doesn't have any weak moment. The drums double the tempo and the choir plus the soprano move the track back to cold Zeuhl. Another change for the coda. 30 seconds of choirs for a chaotic end.

"Meccanica Superiore" (Superior mechanical) may be a reminder to the famous Kommandoh. The latin choirs are effectively the part closer to Magma, but proceeding it has also symphonic moments. The choir is hypnotic and will remain fixed in your brain for hours after you listen to it. The chaotic moment which follows differs from Magma because of an excellent rocking guitar solo of a kind that is hard to find in Magma. At minute 3:45 there's another sudden change. Now the song is on major chords, the melody sung by the soprano is positive. There's no much darkness in this album, but the few is totally gone now. Cymbal and soprano now start another movement. The repentine changes between jazz, opera and even hard rock make it impossible to describe. There's also time for a bit of symphonic prog.

If a neo-progger decides to attempt something different, this is THE RIGHT ALBUM. Not an easy one, as almost all the Zeuhl production, but is approachable by everybody even without losing its intensity. One of the best albums that I have discovered only recently.

If a six stars rating was allowed I would have given it

octopus-4 | 5/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password


Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives