Review Summary: Meusik fruhm da planeutt Kobaia fur jeu stekehn pruhg raukerz3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Suppose the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t a complete sham. It’s hard to imagine, but humor me for a minute. Sure, they recently inducted Rush, but they rejected Deep Purple in the process which makes all their efforts toward musical integrity void. So again, hypothetically, if they acquired unbiased judges who knew a thing or two about music, and they had an award for most original and unique band in history, Magma would no doubt be a top contender. And of all their albums, M.D.K. is the album that deserves recognition as one of the most bizarre yet completely focused albums in history.
Magma was founded in 1969 by drummer Christian Vander of France. Basically, Vander is a mastermind of weirdness who concocted one heck of a crazy band and genre in the process. If I as a regular musician were interested in a job and asked Vander about his band back in 1969, he’d reply “I want our band to play jazzy, Carl Orff-inspired prog rock that is sung by the most bizarre choir of lunatics singing in a language I invented.” Either I’d think he’s joking or I’d run back home, listen to In the Court of the Crimson King, and repeatedly tell myself it’s still the most out-there thing on the planet. Magma stopped at nothing to become one of the world’s most daring bands. While Magma’s first two albums had all the basic elements of the new genre dubbed “Zeuhl,” it was only until Magma’s third opus M.D.K. that they became more than just a zany jazz fusion band with weird vocals and lyrics.
Right from the first track, “Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West,” you know you’ll either hate or love this album. Pounding drums, piano, and bass open the song with an ominous, plodding march that is made even more eerie with chanting vocals in the constructed language of Kobaian. Sounds kind of like nazi aliens marching towards your doomed town and demanding your subjugation under threat of complete annihilation. At 9:34, this track is a real tour de force with horns, female choral parts, and even a short bluesy jam.
What you’ll notice with M.D.K. is that it’s very bombastic, rhythmic (often grooving in 7/8 time), repetitive and linear in its patterns. Usually songs will continue to repeat and build on one theme and then move on to the next. Songs constantly utilize chimes, horns, and flutes along with the standard rock instrumentation. “Ima Suri Dondai” is one of the more pleasant songs vocally, and it also showcases the different instruments very well.
Still, the most striking element of M.D.K. is the powerful choirs of male and female singers. And then there’s that one…vocalist. Yeah, there’s a dude in there that sings in the most laughable, shrill voice imaginable. It may be Vander himself for all I know, and if it is, I advise him to keep his mouth far away from all microphones. He specifically ruins the track “Nebehr Gudahtt” with his shrieks and horrifying squeals that come off as both frightening and extremely unpleasant. Then again, black metal fans may enjoy one of the freakiest vocal tracks ever put to vinyl. It is a shame, because “Mekanik Kommandoh” comes right afterward and deserves to have a better introduction. This song is the album’s highlight. It is upbeat, has powerful choruses, a groovy guitar solo, and a bombastic conclusion if ever I heard one.
This albums only real flaw is certain tracks don’t quite stand out and can be very repetitive. I think Vander could have used a few more good solos or hard hitting jams, especially on the yawner “Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik” which drags on and on for its 7:47 running time. Still, this is quite a feat of unrivaled music that undoubtedly created a small but dedicated following in France. If you’re tired of your same old symphonic prog rock that everyone’s dad knows, let Magma come into your world and, like a swarm of nazi aliens, destroy your perfect little world of easy-listening music.