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Triumvirat - Spartacus CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.87 | 411 ratings

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5 stars After success both financially and critically with their previous album 'Illusions on a Double Dimple', Triumverat began to work on the follow up album called 'Spartacus', an ambitious concept project that would be a retelling of the tale of the slave turned gladiator. The same trio that made up most of the previous album would be responsible for this album, though it would be the last time that they would be a cohesive band. After that, the band would be in constant flux.

However, 1975, things were looking very bright. Many people were becoming familiar with the Emerson, Lake & Palmer style of their music, which borrowed from ELP's basic sound with heavy reliance on the keyboards of Jurgen Fritz, the vocals (and bass) of Helmut Kollen (the newest member of the group since he was the only non-original member at the time), and lyricist and drummer Hans Bathelt. This is the line-up that would be the one to remember out of all of the band's line-ups. This album immediately landed high up on the Billboard chart, so the band was living the dream.

For a single disc album, it is definitely loaded with music. It has 9 tracks altogether, 3 of which have multiple parts. Beginning with 'The Capital of Power', we get an introductory, instrumental track that sounds more like ELP than anything. In fact, most anybody would easily mistake the sound with that of ELP's most ambitious tracks. It definitely has the pompous style of an introduction to a larger work. Coming up next is the first of the multi-movement tracks 'The School of Instant Pain' which begins with 'Proclamation', which begins with a nice, rhapsodic piano and then brings in the vocals. Kollen sounds nothing like Greg Lake in that his voice isn't quite so flourishing, but it is good enough for the music. 'The Gladiator's Song' moves into a full band sound as the vocals continue amid synths, bass and complex drumming. Things soon change as the tempo picks up with a new meter and some complex passages before returning to the main theme, but with a very dynamic accompaniment, never relying on the same background just like you would expect from ELP. The suite slips into 'Roman Entertainment' which features some fancy organ playing and Palmer-like percussion. The drums are definitely more like Palmer's percussion than the previous album thus making it even harder to distinguish between the two bands especially on the instrumental sections. Bathelt really gets to show off with a great drum solo known as the fourth section called 'The Battle'.

'The Walls of Doom' is another instrumental, this time with a more solid beat and melodic hook that will capture your attention. This eventually becomes more progressive and complex as the music builds up to a more promenade style. Things slow down a bit for 'The Deadly Dream of Freedom', a more ballad-like track with a lot of piano, acoustic guitar and vocals, later with symphonic elements brought in by synths. This has a nice melody, not very progressive, but it still fits in nicely for what could have been a single. 'The Hazy Shades of Dawn' ends the first side with another synth-led instrumental that is presented as a march-style track, another processional style that pulls in a recognizable theme several times throughout the track.

'The Burning Sword of Capua' opens up the 2nd half with a dramatic and cinematic beginning heralded by organ chords later joined by synth effects, rolling drums and thumping bass. 'The Sweetest Sound of Liberty' brings back Kollen's vocals and reminds the listener of a Lake-style ballad complete with a reliance more on the acoustic guitar. 'The March to the Eternal City' is a 3-part suite that continues to rely on vocals to further the story along. It begins with 'Dusty Road' fading in on a solid moderate beat with a darker atmosphere as danger seems to lurk. The music soon becomes reliant on piano and vocals, a lovely melody again with a lot of drama attached. The blues-based motif returns between verses and builds to the 2nd part 'Italian Improvisation'. The bass builds tension with a catchy riff that eventually brings in a synth solo based around the heavy riff, a great and exciting highlight for the album. The tension is released as the original blues-style returns bringing back the heaviness at the first of the track and making up the 3rd sub-section called 'First Success' with vocals coming back in towards the end.

Finally, the album closes with the last of the multi-movement suites, the title tracks 'Spartacus'. Starting with 'The Superior Force of Rome', you can feel the entire concept wrapping up with a variation of the themes that have appeared throughout. Starting with a vocal section, it soon gathers a lot of energy as the synths and a honky-tonk styled piano comes in. All of the themes come together creating the epilogue to the story and things get tied together. Synths and piano trade places as the vocal sections are tied together with some fast-paced interludes, soon the instrumental sections take over for 'A Broken Dream' and 'The Finale', these tracks showing off Fritz's keyboard talents as the keys get to show off.

The overall feeling of the album isn't quite as heavy as that of 'Tarkus' by ELP, but it still gives you all of the excitement of that album. It might not be quite as complex either, but you may not even notice that. But you will notice how the sound is very much like ELP, and those that love the more progressive and complex music of that band will definitely be impressed by this album (and the previous one for that matter) by Triumverat. Yes, they might be considered a clone band, but they were definitely capable of producing music that at times can be mistaken for ELP quite easily, the main difference being the vocalist.

Speaking of Kollen (the vocalist), this would be his last album with the band. He decided to go solo at this point. However, both Fritz and Bathelt would participate in his solo album in part to show that there were no hard feelings. Kollen returned to Triumverat at that time, but soon figured out that his voice couldn't handle the range in the new songs, so he decided to concentrate on his solo career. Barry Palmer was brought in to sing on the next album and original bassist Werner Frangerberg also came back. Sadly, Kollen would later be found in his car dead from carbon monoxide poisoning that he suffered while listening to his own demos. The band after this just couldn't get settled as the lineup continued to change and they also started to sound more commercial. But, at least, they carved their own niche in progressive music history and have been remembered quite fondly for this album and their previous one, albums that can easily stand up next to ELP's best works, thus also creating an alternative for those that can't get enough of that sound.

TCat | 5/5 |


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