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. (Don’t hurt me.)
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.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 24th, 2010