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(69:40 / 'Runaway Totem')
TRACK LIST: 1. De Cause Prime 21:12 2. Ombra Alata 8:14 3. Lux 16:28 4. 0 Infinito 1 23:46 LINEUP: Cahal De Betel - vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards Tipheret - drums; piano, keyboards
Prolusion. "Esameron", the fifth studio effort by Italy's RUNAWAY TOTEM, is the band's first release on their own newly established label of the same name, marking their divorce from Musea Records, through which they issued all four of their previous albums, "Zed" (1996), "Andromeda" (1999), "Tep Zepi" (2002) and "Plemora" (2004), the latter three forming the "Andromeda" trilogy. With "Esameron" the outfit opens a new series of concept creations, "4 Elementi 5", which is based on the ancient teaching of numerology.
Analysis. Just as on "Plemora", Runaway Totem are presented here as a duo, original members Roberto Gottardi and Germano Morghen, still hiding their names under the pseudonyms of Cahal De Betel and Tipheret respectively. Though the musicians spare no effort trying to explain the ABC of the doctrine in the supporting material, I am completely in the dark about it. In any event, I think "Esameron" should only be regarded as a semi-concept creation, due to the scarcity of lyrical content, the first two tracks, Ombra Alata and De Cause Prime, both featuring only wordless vocals. Generally, this album is noticeably less eventful than its predecessor, besides which the duo at times sounds overtly like a parody on themselves. With an average track length of about 18 minutes, there is potentially a lot of time to develop themes in ways that would take them through numerous transitions. As a matter of fact however, much of the instrumentation is almost hypnotically repetitious, resulting in quite a wide variance between the pieces' duration and their musical content. The characteristic stop-to-play movements are still present, but here they much more often conjoin with keyboard passages than with the guitar riffing, and being devoid of a strong energetic message this music loses a solid dose of its attractiveness, at least to my way of thinking. Besides being generally dominated by keyboards, the recording's four compositions are all abundant in "ooh" synthesizer pads imitating the singing of an operatic choir. It is certainly not for the first time now that Runaway Totem deploy the virtual choir, but it is really overused here, on each of the tracks, while on the opening one, De Cause Prime, it pursues the listener nearly everywhere, whether being urged to hide the piece's relative compositional inferiority or, quite the contrary, being the very factor that makes it sound both comparatively monotonous and far-fetched. Ombra Alata follows the opener, revealing much more promising moments on its instrumental angle. To be short, it would've been a really good piece of music if Roberto Gottardi (the possessor of an operatic voice, bass) had sung as adequately there as he does on the last two tracks, whilst in reality it's hard for me to regard his vocalizing buffoonery there otherwise than as a disappointment. On Lux everything goes off more or less smoothly until the duo sinks into lingering spacey prostration, as a result of which half of the composition appears to be destined for the cosmic dustbin. All in all, 0 Infinito 1 is the best track here, involving samples of various woodwind and brass instruments and generally standing out for its lush orchestral arrangements. Except for its (somewhat overextended) mid-section, there are many shifts of style throughout that epic, with the vocals sounding great everywhere they are.
Conclusion. A combination of complex meters and repetitiveness with occasional dissonances and counterpoint melodies, this music is often similar to Zeuhl or RIO, but I would beware of defining it in any other way but as singular Space Rock, since there are neither the improvisations nor properly multi-layered canvases typical of the first two genres. Nonetheless it is only as regards Runaway Totem's work that I find "Esameron" to be, well, a step backwards, while otherwise this is by no means a bad album overall, particularly compared to most of the contemporary neo-prog and related creations.
VM: October 14, 2007
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