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Triumvirat - Pompeii CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.07 | 145 ratings

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2 stars Triumvirat was a band so besotted with ELP that they followed their role models into "Love Beach"-style perdition at the end of the 1970s. The German quartet would record far worse albums (see the aptly-titled career nadir of "Russian Roulette"), but the cracks that had appeared in their previous "Old Loves Die Hard" widened a little further on this 1977 LP, the band's last half-way progressive effort before Jürgen Fritz surrendered to commercial pressures and creative rigor mortis.

The cinemascope cover art and breathless PR hyperbole ("New" Triumvirat, indeed) promised a return to form, perhaps even another Roman Legion epic à la "Spartacus". But most of it was strictly sales talk, despite a few isolated thrills ("Viva Pompeii"; parts of "Vesuvius 79 AD"), and unlike "Spartacus" there wasn't a firm narrative to hold it all together.

The reconfigured line-up enlisted some veteran players, but left them stranded without much to do. It was certainly discouraging to hear an old pro like PASSPORT's ace drummer Curt Cress sleepwalking through ersatz Broadway showstoppers like "Hymn" (even worse, the song is repeated as a bonus radio edit on the '02 CD re-issue). Try to imagine Bill Bruford joining Toto after leaving King Crimson, just to put the letdown in perspective.

Ringleader Jürgen Fritz had already proved himself a gifted keyboard player, with an obvious schoolboy crush on Keith Emerson. The ELP cloning heard in earlier albums was diluted here by a less colorful symphonic palette, and yet still showed a few lingering traces of copycat mimicry: the instrumental "Dance on the Volcano", for example, was a blatant rip-off of "Abaddon's Bolero". Like Emerson (and every other synth wizard at the time) Fritz found himself in 1977 surrounded by a decadent array of technology, but to his credit he was at least favoring the more natural sound of his Steinway grand piano.

You could accuse him of opportunism and not be too far wrong: Herr Fritz was changing hats with every shift in the prevailing musical winds. But I'm prepared to cut him some retrospective slack, at least for this album: the talent was there, even after his well of inspiration had gone dry. "Pompeii" was hardly a catastrophe on the same scale as the historic event it supposedly depicts, but the mild tremor of excitement it provided never builds to a full-scale Prog Rock eruption.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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