Well here's my pick for most intense disc of the year! Runaway Totem are the bastard child of Magma and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, with the eerie vocals from hell of the former and the symphonic grandeur of the latter. Add a bit of King Crimson and even Metamorfosi, and we have one of the most exciting CDs I've heard in a while.
Runaway Totem are a quartet from Italy and Tep Zepi is their fourth album. It opens with considerable bombast with "Aurea Carmina", a track that could accompany the next Dario Argento film, especially when vocalist Cahal De Betel begins his Christian Vander-like chanting. He sounds as if he's conducting some sort of Satanic mass over a bed of synthesizers emulating a chorus. Tep Zepi begins to rock on track 2, "Sacro Re", an eight minute piece that conjures images of hellfire and brimstone to match the syncopated rhythms. Possibly the highlight here is the 11 minute "Iperborea", a sonic tour de force that starts with a VERY Banco introduction that wouldn't sound out of place on the classic Darwin! album. Midway through "Iperborea", an atmospheric section gives way to De Betel's dramatic vocals. I cannot think of another track that manages to be so frightening and so beautiful at the same time! It must be mentioned that de Betel has an outstanding voice as he reminds me of David Spitaleri from Metamorfosi as well as Christian Vander; full of passion, intensity and raw emotion. This is not to diminish the contributions of the other members as the guitarist is very good and strikes a very nice Robert Fripp tone. The longest piece is "14 Signori", a 17 minute suite in 3 movements. It runs the gamut from jerky angular rhythms to melodic vocal passages as demonstrated by guest vocalist Susanna Villanova. With "14 Signori", I was amazed that a four piece band could come up with such a big, panoramic sound.
Runaway Totem is one amazing group and I can't imagine how they would sound in a live setting. Tep Zepideserves your attention, particularly if you need to scratch a Magma itch or simply want to hear something powerful and dynamic. Highly recommended!