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Track List: 1. Aurea Carmina 4:52 2. Sacro Re 7:58 3. Pardes 6:44 4. Iperborea 11:40 5. Montsalvat 6:14 6. 14 Signori (in 3 parts): a) L'isola sacra 5:10 b) I guardiani 5:44 c) Akasha 6:20 All music: by Runaway Totem. All lyrics: by "Cahal De Betel". Line-up: "Cahal De Betel" - electric & acoustic guitars; vocals "Tipheret" - drums "Nezah" - basses "Virhur" - synthesizers, organ, & piano; sampling With (rather, thanks to): Susanna Villanova - (for) female voice (samples!) Produced by Runaway Totem. Engineered by "Cahal D B" at "Albula" studios, Italy.
Preamble. "Tep Zeti" is the fourth album by the Italian following of Magma's legacy, Runaway Totem. To read the review of their previous album, click here.
The Album. According to the press kit of this CD, the new music by Runaway Totem is in the vein of both of Magma and King Crimson with elements of Gothic Metal. Concerning the strange language that the band uses for lyrics and, in some ways, a general musical direction of Runaway Totem, the influences of Magma are quite evident. Whereas any references to King Crimson and such 'heavy' albums of the band as "Starless & Bible Black" & "Red" are, in my view, very doubtful, as well as those to Gothic Metal. Even though the heavy musical arrangements are mostly both slow and complex, as well as those on the said albums of King Crimson, they're definitely of a different origin, the name of which is Progressive Doom-Metal. Back to comparisons with Magma, a lead vocal on "Tep Zeti" (and this is a very operatic-like vocal) is certainly better than that of Christian Vander. On the other hand, all the parts of a mixed choir (see line-up above), which is ubiquitous on this album, represent nothing else but vocal samples sounding quite synthetic. Now, it's time to compare "Tep Zeti" to the previous Runaway Totem album, "Andromeda". In all, there are six tracks on the band's new album, two of which are instrumental pieces: Pardes and Montsalvat (3 & 5). On the whole, this album is much more diverse than "Andromeda" - both compositionally and stylistically, and there are only two tracks here containing many noticeable repetitions: I won't forget to return to them a bit later. I could define everything that is present on "Tep Zeti" as just a heavy and dark Zeuhl, but it would be correct only partly. While Zeuhl is a prevalent stylistic constituent of this music, those of both of Symphonic Art-Rock and Progressive Doom-Metal are almost always inseparable from it. There are two compositions on the album the stylistics of which isn't about a confluence of the aforementioned three genres, and both of them are those two tracks on the album that features many noticeable repetitions. These are Aurea Carmina (1) and Iperborea (4). The first of them contains only the dark, low-tone passages of synthesizers, varied effects and noises, and a few vocals. The contents of the second of them represent a blend of Zeuhl, Symphonic Space Rock, and Space Metal. The heavy and simultaneously complex arrangements are very interesting and are typical for any of the remaining four tracks: Sacro Re, Pardes, Montsalvat, and 14 Signori (2, 3, 5, & 6), the first and the latter of which are songs. (Even though the 17-minute epic 14 Signori is a monolithic piece, each of the three parts of it features vocals.) The first three of them are the brightest representatives of the album's predominant stylistics. However, while being on the whole as heavy as most of the compositions on the album in general, these three are filled with a very dark and tense atmosphere. In fact, though, only the last, third, part of 14 Signore (Akasha) has more or less a light feel to it, while overall, the thing called "Tep Zeti" is as black as thunder. And all of this is typical for Doom-Metal rather than any other genre or style of Prog. And by the way, the contemporary works of Doom-Metal are for the most part as progressive and complex as those of Classic Prog-Metal and, as you see, not only.
Summary. In comparison with the band's previous effort, "Andromeda", this album looks as a major step forward overall. If you're into music, which is not only heavy and dark, but also quite profound, "Tep Zepi" is definitely for you. If you're just an open-minded and adventurous Prog-lover, "Tep Zepi" is for you, too. In any case, I think that an audience of this album should be larger and broader than that of "Andromeda". On the other hand, being in the know of the current situation on the Prog market, I can't be sure in anything.
VM: January 27, 2003
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