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Runaway Totem


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5 stars Runaway Totem returns with their 8th album. An album that has raised some eyebrows among prog rock fans (thank you, Progstreaming).

Listed as a zeuhl band, Runaway Totem has really never followed the script. Music wise, they have been everywhere and that includes a dip into the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre on Andromeda, their best album so far. That is, until this album was unleashed.

The cover art work is brilliant, btw. Something fit for a wall. I just wanted to mention this before I open the CD and goes to the music.

The album starts with the half an hour long epic Il Giardino del Nocciolo e del Melograno. A very slow start on this epic before a staight zeuhl piece with chanting like Magma vocals takes over. But the best piece here kicks in after twenty minutes after the chanting is over. A truly great symphonic prog piece which ends this epic. Il Giardino del Nocciolo e del Melograno is a truly brilliant epic and worthy the whole purchase price. Can it be bettered ? That is just what the Rock Progressivo Italiano and Avant Garde six minutes long song Le Mariage du Soleil et la Lune does. This song is like a meeting between Univers Zero and Premiata Forneria Marconi. The album ends with the half an hour long La Cittą azzurra del Sole. A piece of music which combines a bit fusion and avant garde. I am not entirely into this piece yet, but I still think it is great.

I seriously suspect that Runaway Totem has released a classic album in this genre. It is strictly speaking not a zeuhl album though if Magma is the standard here. I would rather label it a neo-zeuhl album where the envelope is pushed in all direction. In this respect, this is a zeuhl album and one of the best one you can find.

A modern classic and probably a genre defining album is what Le Roi du Monde will turn out to be, I believe. And it is an album those of you sniffing around the zeuhl genre could pick up without any fear of wasting your money. A new standard has been set.

5 stars

Report this review (#562815)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The latest album from Italian Zeuhl outfit Runaway Totem. I've so far heard all their releases except their last album from 2009 and their 2010 live album. I listened to this album on the progstreaming site where it has the two big epics divided; my description of the tracks will be based on that division. This group is similar to the offshoot group Universal Totem Orchestra, but generally has more RPI and Prog Metal influences and less operatic singing. Without having heard the last studio album, Le Roi du Monde (French for 'king of the moon'?) is more avant-garde sounding than previous albums. It doesn't get off to a great start but gets better as it goes along.

"Il Giardino del Nocciolo e del Melograno" features what I believe to be narration done in Arabic. Musically not much is going on until about over 7 minutes in. A strong chamber prog influence in the first half. The second half starts out sounding a lot like Japanese Zeuhl (especially the vocals). Very intense and powerful stuff. Both male and female voices here. Later everything mellows out and gets more atmospheric with more barely audible Arabic narration. About 3/4 of the way through this 32 minute piece the music builds up Univers Zero style with some organ and militaristic drumming. Keeps building up with some metal-like guitar. Near the end goes into some great symphonic prog with horns.

At under 7 minutes "Le Mariage du Soleil et la Lune" (French again!) is obviously the shortest track. But it's also the least interesting of the three main songs. Features a flute or other wind instrument. Piano is the main instrument with some guitar as well. First a female vocalist, then a male vocalist sing. "La Citta azzura del Sole" is the almost 30 minute last track. This starts out as symphonic metal with horns and some piano. Next gets chamber-proggy and very random sounding. I like the female singing during the first half, slightly catchy and melodic. Some nice mallet percussion along with a rockin' guitar solo, then a violin solo.

The second half of "La Citta..." starts out in typical Runaway Totem style, militaristic Italian Zeuhl. About halfway through the second half you hear some vocals that remind me of Area singer Demetrio Stratos and his vocalisations. At this point everything is very spacey. Later gets into blues-metal with female vocals. Some violin joins in as well. Symphonic metal with horns to end it. This album might be of more interest to RIO/Avant fans than Zeuhl ones. RT tries some new things here and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Not their worst album but not their best either. 3 stars.

Report this review (#571028)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Italy goes Zeuhl"

This unique Italian musical project is rooted in 1988, their goal was to use music as an universal language. In 1993 Runaway Totem released its first album entitled Trimegisto, during the years followed by a serie of albums. In 2007 the band released the CD Esameron on their own label Runaway Totem Records, as a part of a trilogy about the four elements. The second part is named Manu Menes from 2009 and the third effort Le Roi Du Monde (from 2011), this review is about that final part of the trilogy.

Listening to Runaway Totem is entering the realm of the Zeuhl, first the suite entitled Il Giardino Del Nocciolo E Del Melograno, more than 30 minutes. It is divided in many parts featuring a huge variety, but without a theme or other elements that blend the many different moods. First a bombastic atmosphere with choirs, moving guitar runs and a wonderful blend of Grand piano and synthesizers. Then spoken words in an Arab-like language, mixed with brass instruments and again choirs. Next a long and very atmospheric and experimental interlude, again that brass and the choirs, followed by an accellaration featuring powerful vocals, propulsive guitar and a dynamic rhythm-section. This culminates in a fiery and bombastic part, but suddenly the climate changes in dreamy with beautiful Grand piano and sound effects, finally biting guitar runs and tight drum beats, evoking avant-garde King Crimson. I needed a short break to breath, so many experimental ideas for an 'Old School 70-77 Genesis die-hard'!

The second composition is the mellow Le Marriage Du Soleil E La Lune, it sounds melodic with the focus on hobo and flute, along warm male and female vocals. The fiery electric guitar delivers the musical contrast, pretty unique music.

The final track La Citta Azurra Del Sole (around 30 minures) contains the most adventurous music, a kind of avant- garde version of Seventies FrankZappa, featuring a huge array of instruments, from brass, harder-edged guitar and vibraphone to violin, flute and synthesizers. The atmospheres change from dreamy and slow rhythms to fiery and sumptuous, to me it sounds very experimental, but if you like this kind of music (from Zeuhl to avant-garde King Crimson), this album is a real musical adventure!

My rating: 3,5 star.

Report this review (#2054043)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | Review Permalink

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