Magma who have been around for 48 years and despite the line-up changes, they are for me one of the most influential, hypnotic, experimental, and powerful Progressive Rock bands to come out of the 1970s in France. Among supporters including Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, Julian Cope, John Lydon, Jello Biafra, and the late great David Bowie, it was for me, this eruptive blast that blew the doors down with a big bang. With the influences of Opera, Classical Music, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Jazz, and Rock, they can take those genres and give you a jolt like there’s no tomorrow.
Their music is as they’ve mentioned in the Magma Live album “A mirror where every can see a reflection of who he is.” They created their own musical language created by leader and founder, Christian Vander called Kobaia. It’s very much like giving the Klingon’s and the Vulcan’s a big giant middle finger and Magma does it right. That and their fourth studio album which was a follow up to their magnum opus, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh entitled, Kohntarkosz released in 1974.
This is where it all started in which known as a three-part trilogy of the story that consist K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria) and Emehntehtt-Re. This is the second part of the Egyptian pharaoh himself. It starts off with a cannon blast of a crescendo between the keyboards and drum introduction between Vander and the Yamaha organ as if we are about to head down in the deep tunnels and inside the pharaoh’s tomb.
It’s almost as if he’s calling upon the character to see what lies ahead. It is done in 2-parts of the suite and the walking down the corridor’s and the tension set by Vander and the vocals between Klaus Blasquiz and Stella Vander, is amazing and the eerie Crimson-sque section and Jannick Top’s bass tone. And then the shout of “STOHT!” featuring the eerie organ, bass, and Stella’s vocals just sends chills down my spine.
I love how the piano along with the vocals between Stella and Christian follow the melody on the instrument of entering in the tomb before the dooming noise gets quieter before an alarming shriek of the synths that can make you jump in a brief second that we are inside the tomb. Then, the piano and operatic vocals is shivering and jazzy thanks to the homage of Vander’s hero, John Coltrane.
The second part has these heavenly beauty sections as Vander vocals calms and delving into some great drum patterns and Rhodes-like sections. I like how it channels the styles Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge to show a little bit of a tribute to the early sound with the fuzz tone sections in the psychedelic-era in the first four minutes of the piece.
It goes up for a bit as he, Vander, Jannick, and Stella raise the bar and the tempo goes up a notch. The tempo gets to an increasing level for the last five minutes of the second part and then it ends with a dooming militant funeral march and the chanting. I had goosebumps throughout the entire two-part suite and knowing that have done justice. But it’s not over yet.
The haunting and sinister neo-classical composition of Jannick Top’s Ork Alarm. With the ticking clock, Top’s ominous cello sections as Klaus Basquiz gives us to know that the people of the Ork are ready for a war and the people from Zeuhl Wortz are preparing a fight to the death they are waiting for. I can hear the essence between RIO bands including Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, and Present throughout the sections of the composition.
And then Blossom Toes’ Brian Godding comes in with these terrifying sections on his guitar to give the people their weapons and their gear and knowing when it is time to fight and the battle will begin very, very soon. His guitar and Klaus set up these alarming noises as he matches his shouting lines as the temperature goes up to 100 before ending with a chaotic effect and ending abruptly.
The closer, Coltrane Sundia as I’ve mentioned earlier, is Christian’s tribute to the late great master himself. It’s almost as if Vander wrote it as a memorial to his hero and doing in the styles as if he wanted to continue the structures of A Love Supreme as Brian gives an emotional farewell up into the heavens and the piano knowing that to say thank you for giving Christian to follow in Coltrane’s footsteps.
For me, Kohntarkosz is a terrifying, scariest and one of their crowning masters I’ve listened to. This is Magma at their best. And with their documentary announced last year of covering the history of this remarkable band by Laurent Goldstein, it’ll be worth exploring when it comes out. If you want to embark and get ready to delve into the sound of Kobaia, Zeuhl, and Progressive territories, then walk into the dark-like tombs of Kohntarkosz.