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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Triumvirat

Spartacus

Review by Larry Toering

This is a band that blew me away when I was younger and it’s nice to have a chance to review this title. I was never really concerned with the comparisons to ELP, but fully aware of them. I do see, after all these years, why such comparisons have been made. They did not help themselves by literally copying them. They were still fantastic for what it’s worth, and apparently still are, according to late efforts I've read about them being involved in. This, to me, is their best work although other opinions may vary on that, of course. Spartacus is either a genuine masterpiece or a piece of hack art depending on who you ask. Deep down it deserves special merit for one reason or another. This is a review of the original vinyl release, although it was re-released around 2002 on CD, remastered with bonus tracks. The band was a three-piece German group, consisting of Jurgen Fritz on piano, organ, synthesizers, Hans Bathelt on drums, and Helmut Kollen on bass, acoustic guitars and vocals. Tragically, Kollen passed away a couple of years after this album was released. The whole thing is about the gladiator from 73-71 BC. Three of the nine tracks are basically subtitled with several other titles within. I don't hold back with the comparisons, but it’s only to precisely point them out, rather than berate Triumvirat.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Capital of Power

From the first keyboard chords one cannot help but instantly compare the sound to that of Keith Emerson. Some of the structures reminds the listener of Jon Lord of Deep Purple. This is not a bad thing because it was hard to find better keyboard sounds back then or even now, so this instrumental could not be in better company concerning that.

The School of Instant Pain (Proclamation/The Gladiator's Song/Roman Entertainment/The Battle)
This starts off with piano and sounds rather original, but when the vocals kick in it does have a more familiar sound. It’s more like that of Coven's “One Tin Soldier.” It has several parts, and as it goes on the ELP influence begins to dominate. There are some interesting combinations of organ and synth to keep it going, and one can easily get used to this. This is probably one of the best tracks featured on the whole thing. It is a nice number, and then we get to the end and the cut and paste factor creeps in with a blatant note for note copy from the drummer Hans Bethelt. He was obviously a big fan of Ian Paice of Deep Purple because not only does it sound like him, it may as well be him because its 100 percent lifted from a track called “Flight Of The Rat,” which was recorded five or six year earlier. One can either choose to call this a rip off or a compliment, I'd say it can be either one, but I choose to see this particular bit as a compliment. I say that simply because drummers have these patterns that they all use, but in this case its a sort of Ian Paice’s signature “sneakers in the dryer” roll for which he is hugely famous. Hats off to anyone who can do Palmer and Paice so well in the same hour.
The Walls of Doom
This is by far my favorite number on Spartacus. It’s a soothing instrumental piece with a groovy organ and a much more original vibe to it than most of the other tracks. I wish it were a few times longer, but not all is lost there, thanks to the repeat option. There is no mistaking their abilities but they keys do go down the Emerson road before this track is over. This is simply a great one that I have never tired of hearing.
The Deadly Dream of Freedom
On this track there is more vocal input and it’s not bad at all. Even though it contains a bit of pop appeal, it’s very British-oriented to a large extent, in a good, but inaccessible sort of way. This is still a track that isn't hard to listen to and keeps the concept intact.
The Hazy Shades of Dawn
This track opens with a light synth and marching drums. Things are very ELP-oriented by now, but once again its all done so cleverly that one doesn't mind giving it a chance listen. Another instrumental, this isn't one of the stronger numbers, but overall not too bad.
The Burning Sword Of Capua
A chamber organ starts this one off and it’s one of the more commanding, but still one of the more influentially felt tunes. I get a real cross effect between Emerson and Rick Wakeman from this one. That is not a bad thing, just another unavoidable observation.
The Sweetest Sound Of Liberty
For the first time we get a guitar and bass oriented track, and it begins to save everything. This features some decent vocal work as well and the lyrics aren't bad either, in fact all of the lyrics on the recording are well above average at the very least. I don't detect a lot of derivative factors in that department, which only helps this particular Triumvirat release.
The March to The Eternal City (Dusty Road/Italian Improvisation/First Success)
This is another track with several titles within. They all lend direction to the concept, with vocals helping the story along. There are some great moments here, but overall it tends to prod along. I suppose its an appropriate thing considering concepts and their often limited elements. This is not overly boring, but not hugely exciting either. It is good, though.
Spartacus (The Broken Force of Rome/A Broken Dream/The Finale)
This is the title track and probably the most well-known number. It contains a bit of falsetto effort but falls rather short of stellar in that area. There are more ELP grooves for good measure and there is certainly no mercy for all that is worth. Containing a few outbursts here and there with some homage to the soldiers of Spartacus, this is really an appropriately placed track, saving grace for the concept and all. But it could also just bas easily serve as the opening number, as it probably wouldn't lose the careful listener. Either way it’s a great ending to a long forgotten prog album.
 
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