Runaway Totem

Tep Zepi

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It took Runaway Totem over three years to release a follow-up to 1999's Andromeda. In the process, the Italian progressive rock outfit lost its lead guitarist, forcing singer Cahal De Bêtêl to fill in the riffs. This fourth album in ten years differs little from the previous ones, apart from the fact that the music is now more keyboard-centered. By following every rule of the genre, Runaway Totem never developed a distinctive sound. De Bêtêl's bel canto voice reproduces the Italian singer stereotype better represented by Banco del Mutuo Soccorso's Francesco DiGiacomo and Deus Ex Machina's Alberto Piras without ever reaching the level of emotional grandeur of the former or the avant-prog edge of the latter. In the end, one must face the fact that the music of Runaway Totem remains highly conservative, something it tries to hide behind symphonic pomposity. Tep Zepi is subtitled "L'Era Degli Dei" (The Age of the Gods) -- or in other words the Golden Age. This loose theme offers a thread for De Bêtêl's banal philosophical and metaphysical pondering. The album does have its moments, especially in "Pardes," where the singer sounds inspired and the arrangements gel well. On the other hand, the clumsy heavy-yet-complex riff in the second part of "I 4 Signori" is lamentably performed, the drummer showing pitiful lack of imagination.

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