4 out of 5 Stars!
To many Prog-Rock fans, Triumvirat was nothing more than an Emerson, Lake & Palmer clone, but in my eyes, the German band also possessed a style all its own. Granted, the vocals did not have that “instantly recognizable” factor that only Greg Lake of ELP could produce (and which helped make ELP internationally famous), Triumvirat nevertheless displayed impressive musicianship during its relatively short career, as clearly shown on Illusions on a Double Dimple, the band’s second (and easily one of its finest) releases.
After the group’s fairly decent but less-than-spectacular debut album, 1972’s Mediterranean Tales (Across the Waters), the long-time and often-underappreciated team of keyboardist Jürgen Fritz and drummer Hans Bathelt recruited Helmut Koellen, a bassist/guitarist/vocalist to replace Hans Pape, who departed during the creation of this album. For inclusion on Illusions on a Double Dimple, the new trio expanded on the positive aspects of the debut album to record only two new songs.
Both ambitious compositions were divided into six parts/movements, with the twenty-three minute “Illusions on a Double Dimple” encompassing all of Side A, and the twenty-one minute “Mister Ten Percent” occupying the entirety of the flip side. On both lengthy pieces, flashy Hammond, piano, and Moog interplay abounds, with Fritz, like before, giving Keith Emerson a run for his money. Bathelt’s percussion is once again impressive and occasionally jazzy, while “new guy” Koellen delivers a solid performance, his guitar and bass contributions typically melodic and tight, while his singing voice being a noticeable improvement from the more-pedestrian vocals that appeared on the band’s debut. To further enrich the grand and intricate compositions—and, more than likely, to further set Triumvirat apart from ELP—the band elected to add a brass section, an opera house orchestra, and female backing vocals to the proceedings, which, for the most part, worked quite well.
The final result is that Illusions on a Double Dimple is a highly commendable effort, a generally adventurous and well-written foray into Symphonic Prog-Rock territory that, apart from a few weak sections, became a borderline masterpiece. Unfortunately, despite its best efforts with the diverse and well-crafted material and orchestrations on this album, Triumvirat could never fully shake free of that “ELP clone” designation—the label would unfairly follow the band during its entire existence—but Illusions on a Double Dimple shows the group branching out, striving to develop a style all its own amid the inescapable similarities to the other group, and remains perhaps my favorite in the band’s catalogue. Most lovers of the epic, pompous, keyboard-drenched material so abundant in early ’70s Prog-Rock will likely enjoy this platter as much as I do.