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Universal Totem Orchestra - The Magus CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.14 | 118 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Zeuhl From the Boot

Sub-genre: Zeuhl (Classic yet uniquely spiced)
For Fans of: Runaway Totem, Magma
Vocal Style: Beautiful female operatic with male oddness thrown in.
Guitar Style: Distorted rock/metal style solos.
Keyboard Style: Piano, various vintage moog sounds, string patches, etc.
Percussion Style: Standard rock kit, other percussion, tabla.
Bass Style: Picked electric, less overdriven than typical Zeuhl.
Other Instruments: Saxophone
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: you expect little variation in your Zeuhl.

Summary: A very unexpected oddity in the Zeuhl sub-genre. Universal Totem Orchestra's The Magus is firmly rooted in traditional Zeuhl sound, but is consistently more complex and rounded compositionally. At times the passages are very eclectic and The major differences in instrumentation are the more modern rock/metal guitar style. In some sense it runs along the lines of Zeuhl meeting Northern European armor clad female voiced power metal, but without the cheese (well, some cheese, but I'll get back to that later). The other major instrumental differences are a far more subdued bass and more adventurous use of keyboards and a lot of straight piano. As a matter of fact, I can think of only twice I heard the Zeuhl staple Rhodes keyboard, and only one time was it overdriven. The saxophone, not unheard of in earlier Zeuhl, is used with a more night club like feel. The true highlight of the album is Ana Torres Fraile's angelic vocals. Long passages of her backed by piano or synth set a very mystic tone throughout the album. Where the oddity comes in, the bit of cheese, is when male vocals come in. They just fit like a square peg when Ana is serenading you. All of the sudden it sounds like the tax collector is there in an argyle sweater vest ready to assess you for your ecstasy tithe. But alas, these moments are few and for between and detract very little from the overall glory of The Magus. And certainly, a more appetizing entrée than their sister band, Runaway Totem.

Final Score: The is an amazing album. I loved it from the first listen. I appreciate the homage to traditional Zeuhl, with UTO's own special spices that make The Magus uniquely their own. Just a few bizarre sounding sets of male vocals away from a masterpiece. An excellent addition to any progressive music collection. 4 stars.

Tapfret | 4/5 |


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