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Universal Totem Orchestra (Italy) - 1999 - "Rituale Alieno"
(66 min, Black Widow)


1.  Pane Astrale 4:33
2.  Saturno 21:38
3.  Il Viaggio del Elric 13:06
4.  Ipernatura del Tempo Centrale 9:16
5.  Antichi Occhi Cicci 8:53
6.  Meccamica Superiore 9:10

All tracks: by Universal Totem Orchestra.


Ann Torres Fraile - vocals
UTO Giorgio Golin - drums
Dauno Giuseppe Buttiglione - basses
Marco Zanfei - keyboards


Marco Mauro - lead guitar (2 to 5)
Marcello De Angelis - lead guitar (6)
Giuseppe Saiani - guitars (2 to 4, 6)
Giuliano Eccher - guitars; viola (3)
Francesco Ciech - violoncello (1)
Antonio Fedeli - saxophone (2 & 4)
Gianni Nicolini - tabla (3 & 4)
Giacomo Plotegher - keyboards (2 & 6)
+ 7 additional vocalists

Produced by BWR & UTO.
Engineered by M. Gadotti at "Mass Music", Lavis.
Prolusion. To my shame, I know almost nothing about the history and creation of Universal Totem Orchestra (UTO hereafter). Unlike >Runaway Totem, which, as I suppose, features the 'runaway' members of UTO, I haven't heard this Italian band before. (I am sorry if I am wrong in my supposition.)

Synopsis. In a few of the UTO-related reviews I've read "Rituale Alieno" is usually described as a classic Zeuhl production with obvious influences of Magma, with which I can't agree for following reasons. First: this music is too many-sided to be classified monosyllabically. Second: there is only one track on the album where the presence of elements of Zeuhl is unquestionable, whereas the others contain either the bits of that genre or are free of them entirely (like the album's opener, for instance). Third: apart from the male choral parts, there is nothing influenced by Magma on "Rituale Alieno". (In my view however, the choral arrangements on the album are inspired rather than influenced by Magma: they're much more inventive than those on any of the albums by Christian Vander's brainchild). In fact, UTO perform a highly original, complex, and very intriguing music, which, moreover, changes its 'face' on each of the album's six tracks. "Rituale Alieno" is incredibly diverse stylistically, and only elements of Opera, created by wonderful vocals of Ann Torres Fraile, remain unshakable throughout it. It's impossible to imagine all the versatility of the music on the album without hearing it, as all of the tracks here, without exception, are structurally polymorphous and, in addition, differ from each other by many stylistic aspects. Pane Astrale (1) is the only song on the album that doesn't include the entire band. It consists of constantly developing interplay between passages of acoustic piano and violoncello with Ann's vocals soaring over it and represents nothing else but a contemporary Classical Music with elements of Opera. Inasmuch as the latter elements are featured on all of the tracks here, I won't name them while describing the further contents of the album. The 21-minute Saturno is that only exception, which I mentioned at the beginning of the review. Being musically as complex and intriguing as all of the other compositions on the album, Saturno, however, is the most diverse of them stylistically and represents a composite conglomerate of Symphonic Art-Rock, Zeuhl, Classical Music, Jazz-Fusion, Space Rock, and music of the East. Il Viaggio del Elric is almost exclusively weaved from symphonic textures (think of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock, Classical Music, and acoustic medieval music), which, though, doesn't make it at least a bit less eventful and more predictable than the others. On the following two tracks, Ipernatura del Tempo Centrale and Antichi Occhi Cicci, the music turns more into 'jamming' realms, which is the department of Space Rock and Jazz-Fusion (or just Space Fusion, if you will), though elements of Symphonic Art-Rock are still here. Meccamica Superiore is the only track on the album containing some heaviness and is about a Classic Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Cathedral Metal and Classical Music. Finally, I think I should mention that tracks 2, 3, & 4 contain also some quantity of elements of music of the East.

Conclusion. UTO is the most astonishing music source I've tasted of this year, and their "Alien Ritual" became a revelation to me. This is just a magnificent masterpiece and is one of the most profound and interesting albums released at the end of the last millennium, not to mention 1999. Heartily recommended. The more contemporary Italian bands I hear the more I inclined to think that Italy is today in the vanguard of the Progressive Rock movement in Eurasia.

VM: September 22, 2003

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