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Runaway Totem - 2011 - "Le Roi du Monde"

(68:21, Lizard Records)


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TRACK LIST:   

1.  Il Giardino del Nocciolo e del Melograno 32:12
2.  Le Mariage du Soleil et la Lune 6:43
3.  La Citta Azzurra del Sole 29:26

LINEUP:

Cahal De Betel – vocals; guitars; keyboards; electronics 
Tipheret – drums, gamelan, percussion
Giuseppe Buttiglione – bass 
Marco Zanfei – keyboards
Raffaello Regoli – vocals
Moira Dusatti – vocals 

& Modern Totem Orchestra: 

Mirko Pedrotti – vibraphones 
Giordano Geossi – contrabass 
Stefano Roveda – violin 
Francesco Ciech – cello 
Claudia Fedrizi – oboe 
Anna Boschi – flute 
Albino Zanoni – trombone 
Alessandro Leonardi – trumpet 

Prolusion. The tenth release of Italy’s RUNAWAY TOTEM, “Le Roi du Monde”, marks a continuation of the band’s thematic project called “4 Elementi 5”, following the other two albums of the series, “Esameron” and “Manu Menes”. Click here to enter the ensemble’s section on this site, see its complete discography along with ratings of the albums and links to reviews.

Analysis. That being said, Italy has always been one of the leading progressive rock countries in the world, while in Europe, it currently appears as the most non-conformist one, the richest in ‘serious’, profound artists of the genre, whose work does not depend on any spirits of the time (let alone tendencies of fashion), going far beyond any musical mainstreets, err., mainstream musical highways. Runaway Totem is in turn one of the most uncommon of the implying bands and performers – partly because their entire creative work, at least conceptually, is based on esoteric, mystic and metaphysical teachings, doctrines and dogmas. (By the way, guys, I share much of your Weltanschauung.) As to the music on their new album, combining the intense riffing of their own, the epic scope of ‘70s Univers Zero, Zao and Magma, the vocal sophistication of Universal Totem Orchestra, and incorporating some East-Asian folk motifs, it is in many ways reminiscent of that of its predecessor, “Manu Menes”, but has some distinct elements as well. The ‘explosive’ blend of classic Zeuhl and Gothic one (the band’s discovery for sure), RIO, Metal and quasi opera that forms the overall style of both of these outings is on the describing one much more lavishly flavored with elements of classical and electronic music, the last of those bringing me back to the initial (least successful IMHO) part of the project, “Esameron”. While there are only three tracks here, they notably-to-strongly differ between themselves, and so will be examined separately. Upon the first spin, disc opener Il Giardino del Nocciolo e del Melograno (32:12) may seem to be based totally around rock and chamber instruments. In fact, however, one of its segments, lasting for about 10 minutes, is nothing other than dark e-music, seasoned with piano chords and spacey effects. It never builds to a culmination, lacking the shadings that a dash of violins or at least a blast of the winds could have imparted. I believe its quasi cinematic, comparatively motionless nature didn’t allow the piece to develop as a full-blown epic, which is always a danger when using e-devices, especially when focusing on electronics. Thankfully, though, otherwise the ensemble is amazing for its ability to play diversely at low speed (most the music on the album is slow-paced): by juxtaposing rhythms with contrasting moods, by adding heaviness to the sound, and more – much more, in fact. The Modern Totem Orchestra has contributed heavily to the track, as well as both of the others, incorporating several string and wind instruments along with vibraphones. If the first epic begins and develops soft-and-slowly, reaching a climax only in one of its middle segments, another one, La Citta Azzurra del Sole (29:26), consists of intense arrangements almost throughout. Beginning like an eruption in a way, with a series of power chamber rock/RIO moves, it eventually evolves into a few zeuhl-ish vocal sections, then moves to a different RIO realm and beyond, at times incorporating elements of classical and Chinese folk music. This is a real suite, as it makes its way through a fascinating variety of themes, the electronics being used rather sparingly and always integrated into serious arrangements. Where the music is really based around chamber and – to a lesser degree – rock instruments is on the core track, Le Mariage du Soleil et la Lune (6:43), which is a piece of classical academic music with elements of opera, and is a masterwork. As hinted above, the vocals aren’t 100% classically-operatic anywhere on the album (though the male ones are very close to that mark), but anyhow, all of them are brilliant. Each of the tracks, in its various sections, features from one to three lead singers, albeit the vocals at times appear as being really multi-part (those probably have been multi-tracked), creating a highly powerful effect.

Conclusion. Although this album and “Manu Menes” are rated equally, the former is a bit inferior to the latter/its predecessor, due to the wider use of electronics. The stoic work doesn’t really open any new horizons the band hasn’t already firmly walked through in its 20-year career, but is very good and comes highly recommended to its fans and all connoisseurs of RIO/Zeuhl in general. Top-10-2011

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: February 13, 2012
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Lizard Records
Runaway Totem


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