Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Runaway Totem - Multiversal Matter CD (album) cover


Runaway Totem


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
3 stars This is the 11th album by the ultimate Italian 'Zeuhl' group. I haven't listened to their other albums, the debut being already from 1993, but a few years back I was deeply charmed by the latest offering of Universal Totem Orchestra, which is said to be originally a spin-off act for Runaway Totem (although, after comparing the line-ups, the details of the bands' blood relations remain unclear to me). That said, I felt curious for this one, and I was prepared for a fascinating and very original listening experience. Well, original and unconventional it certainly is, but I'm not wholeheartedly impressed. My rating of three stars definitely doesn't imply a typical middle-of-the-road thing, an album which is "good, but non-essential". Instead it's a a compromise of giving four stars to the high degree of uniqueness and the music being bravely and sincerely what it is, and of giving only two and a half stars in a more subjective scale.

While many might call this one a grower, ie. an album too strange to be fully understood and enjoyed at the earliest listenings, I firmly believe that my own reception isn't going to be any better with time. Because first and foremost I find this 73-minute album way too extended and therefor rather boring, paradoxically. In my opinion, all its musical contents and ideas could be expressed -- much more effectively -- in half of the running length.

The opening track 'Dark Matter' goes on and on for 30 minutes. It has an interesting soundscape which is hard to describe. It has a meditative and other-wordly atmosphere, created mostly by electronics. If you're familiar with Todd Rundgren's instrumental epic 'Treatise on Cosmic Fire' (on the album Initiation, 1975), think of the more unstructured, prelude/interlude-like moments in it, add some Krautrock la Popol Vuh, and you get a faint idea of how 'Dark Matter' sounds in the beginning. The Italian-language male vocals enter around 3-4 minutes (as well as the hypnotic percussive pattern) and from that on, for the most of the time, the mammoth piece feels like an improvisational, experimental back-up jamming for the shamanistic moaning of lyrics, despite containing some vocal-free moments along the way. In the last quarter there luckily are less vocals and both the drumming and electric noises become more intense. The manic half-laughing-half-crying moment is also interesting. Surely this piece has lots of awesome uniqueness, but half an hour is simply too much.

'La Scale Oscure' is another kind of beast: fast-paced, short (2:55) and manic in both percussion-heavy playing and freaky vocals. 'Deoram Matter' has at first pretty nice guitar strumming, and it would have functioned very well as a brief instrumental. But it's a 9-minute song mostly repeating the lines "Terra, fuoco, acqua e aria" and later "voi per noi noi siete solo dei dei dei". The vocals are this time more normal singing, but musically there ins't enough ideas for the length. 'Korath Matter' centers around sinister Gothic soundscape with chorals and over-the-top main vocals reminiscent at times of Screaming Jay Hawkins. But it's 15 minutes, gosh. 'Paesazione Sonora' (5:44) is not necessarily too long at all, but it offers more of the same vocal-centred experimental jamming I'm getting rather tired of at this point. The female voice is a nice additonal feature.

The final piece 'Universo di Sfere' is my favourite. It's a near 11-minute instrumental refreshingly combining ambient soundscape and melody/rhythm -based approach. This one has lots to offer for the listener's inner visions. A pity that the whole album takes too much of your time without giving back in equal measures. Have a listen if you're fond of experimental soundscapes and meditative /freaky eclectism -- and if you have nothing against heavily extended track lengths.

Report this review (#2305273)
Posted Thursday, January 9, 2020 | Review Permalink

RUNAWAY TOTEM Multiversal Matter ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of RUNAWAY TOTEM Multiversal Matter

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


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

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

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.