Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Triumvirat - 1975 "Spartacus"

Spartacus is the third album by the German group Triumvirat. It is a concept album based on Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who led the 3rd slave uprising in 73–71 BC. The lyrics were written by Hans Bathelt, with contributions by Jürgen Fritz. It was originally released in 1975 on the EMI label, and later distributed in the U.S. by Capitol. It debuted at number 27 on the Billboard album charts.

After this album, Helmut Köllen left the band to start a solo career. Two years later, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning when he was in his car, in the garage, listening to his own compositions on the car's cassette player.

The album was digitally re-mastered and released in CD form in 2002 by EMI. The re-mastered version included two additional tracks: a live version of "The Capital of Power" and a previously unreleased song called "Showstopper".

Spartacus may not be as progressively strong as 1973's Illusion on a Double Dimple album, but it still stands as this German outfit's second best release. Based on the famous Roman gladiator who led the rebellion against his homeland, the music supports the album's concept quite solidly, with the better tracks coming in the form of the sporadic "School of Instant Pain" and the nine- minute "March to the Eternal City," which gathers a menacing conglomeration of bass guitar riffs and pointed keyboard work. The music becomes effectively motivational toward the concept at the proper times, enabling the band's idea to remain fresh and colorful as the music is played out. Jurgen Fritz's Hammond organ and Moog intervention gives Spartacus a genuine progressive air, culminating as it should on the final track. Although Triumvirat's staunch, stern notes and articulate keyboard meandering can easily be compared to Emerson, Lake and Palmer's style, it's balanced quite impressively with Helmut Kollen's electric and acoustic guitar work. This album has a slight edge over 1976's Old Loves Die Hard because the synthesizers are put to better use, while the overall sound and flow of Spartacus contains greater instrumental animation.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you enjoy the sound of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, you will like the band Triumvirat. On Spartacus we are treated to wonderful keyboards, with organs and moog solos, well after ELP’s glory days were now behind them. I would even go as far to say that Triumvirat were more consistent musically and songwriting-wise than the supposed monsters of prog.

The Spartacus theme is introduced on synthesizer first on “Capital of Power” and then played beautifully on grand piano to introduce “The School of Instant Pain.” The story that we all know from movies and TV of Spartacus’ rise to glory and subsequent fight for freedom from Roman slavery is told on this concept album in songs and instrumentals. Here on this song Spartacus calls out to his fellow gladiator slaves to fight for their release and be free men.

Several instrumentals are sprightly and fun, using march beats and hopeful melodies to convey the mood of the recording even when bassist Helmut Kollen is not singing lyrics to tell the story. Band leader and keyboardist Jurgen Fritz plays in a style that is slightly more jazz-oriented than the classical slant his forerunner Keith Emerson works in.

“The March to the Eternal City” features great a great keyboard introduction and three distinct parts. Especially fun is a tribal beat section in the middle part that features drummer Hans Balthet working the skins in a way that would make Carl Palmer sit up and notice, while Fritz layers an excellent moog solo over the top. Closer “Spartacus” shows just why this record is successful at its intentions. While wearing its influences clearly on its sleeves, it brings the story to a wonderful climax.

Although this might all be a bit lighter and less intense than their most obvious influences, Triumvirat’s Spartacus holds a special place in the progressive rock canon. If you have ever been even a casual fan of ELP and have yet to experience a Triumvirat record, this would be an excellent place to start.

Track listing:

1. "The Capital of Power" (Fritz) – 3:13
2. "The School of Instant Pain" – 6:22
  a) "Proclamation" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  b) "The Gladiator's Song" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  c) "Roman Entertainment" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  d) "The Battle" (Fritz, Bathelt)
3. "The Walls of Doom" (Fritz) – 3:57
4. "The Deadly Dream of Freedom" (Köllen, Bathelt) – 3:54
5. "The Hazy Shades of Dawn" (Fritz) – 3:09
6. "The Burning Sword of Capua" (Fritz) – 2:41
7. "The Sweetest Sound of Liberty" (Köllen, Bathelt) – 2:35
8. "The March to the Eternal City" – 8:46
  a) "Dusty Road" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  b) "Italian Improvisation" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  c) "First Success" (Fritz, Bathelt)
9. "Spartacus" – 7:39
  a) "The Superior Force of Rome" (Fritz, Bathelt)
  b) "A Broken Dream" (Fritz)
  c) "The Finale" (Fritz)

Personnel:

Jürgen Fritz – Keyboards, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Moog synthesizers, Mellotron, String synthesizer.
Helmut Köllen – Bass, acoustic guitars, vocals.
Steve Rotella – Drums, percussions, words & lyrics

1 comment:

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