A Token of My Extreme: Magma- Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (1973)

A&M; 1973
Of all the classic late '60s and early '70s European progressive rock acts, French collective Magma might have very well been the strangest. This is saying something. Sure Jon Anderson may have been off riding Paramahansa Yogananda's dick, Peter Hammill had his own brand of hammy Gothic melodrama, and Damo Suzuki wasn't even singing in fucking words half the time, but none of them can compare in eccentricity to Magma's Christian Vander. The man's inspiration and creative process is on some serious other shit. From Wiki:

MDK is story of the prophet 'Nebehr Güdahtt' who delivers to the people of the Earth this insight: If they want to be saved from themselves, they must morally cleanse themselves to worship of the Kobaïan supreme being, 'Kreuhn Kohrmahn', by learning sacred "Zeuhl Wortz" music (already wildly popular on Kobaïa, of course). In response to this blatant cultural imperialism the people of the Earth initially march against Güdahtt, but slowly like any true believer Güdahtt attracts enough of a base of adherents to survive, to sing the Kobaian music.

.... got that? Well it makes little to no difference, as all the lyrics are written in Zander's own invented language anyway. Yeah, 30 years prior to Sigur Ros and "Hopelandic" (which barely counts as a language seeing as it's only 4 or 5 syllables, whereas Kobaïan sounds a lot like some bizarro dialect of German). This is delivered by both male and female choirs in a variety of quasi-operatic timbres from thick baritone to demented falsetto, and the end result sounds like Zappa's "Sofa No. 2," if it was being performed completely straight. The choirs are backed by a veritable small orchestra of brass, woodwind, guitar, hypnotic piano and Vander's fascinating but understated work behind the drums--this is an intriguingly unique animal, its sound hovering somewhere between Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and jazz fusion with a noticeable touch of late Coltrane (Zander has repeatedly cited him as an influence), the rich melodic framework fit for concert halls instead of crowded clubs and sitting outside the world of "rock" almost completely.

So yeah, Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh is pretty goddamn weird even now. But what that description up there doesn't accurately convey is just how huge and EPIC it all sounds. Sure it often and unabashedly teeters on the very edge of goofiness, mostly thanks to the vocals, but the surrounding music is performed with so much verve, ambition, and a very holistic solo-free approach (repetition and slow-building climax are the name of the game here) that even these odd touches become somehow endearing. The themes of "Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West" are continued throughout the album with varying degrees of intensity and drama, culminating with the huge blowout "Mekanik Kommandoh" and the softer "Kreuhn Kohrmahn Iss De Hundin" (my spellchecker just had an aneurysm) forming a satisfying conclusion and "epilogue" to the album. It's all a very cohesive, grandiose 40-minute song cycle that's one helluva ride, and for all its bizarre excesses, it's never very longwinded or even particularly hard on the ears. Japan's Ruins and numerous spinoffs notwithstanding, you'd be hard pressed to find a band that can duplicate the Magma experience.

And their live show is apparently something to behold, as pretty much every critical review I've read (including Steve Wilson's if that matters to you) ends in pants being creamed in spectacularly gooey fashion, so make note of that fact should Vander and company pass near your area.


As noted Magma is a pretty singular beast, and even an extensive background in '70s prog is no guarantee you'll like this. As I haven't heard all of their music, it's hard to say exactly where to start, but Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh seems to get strong props among the newly converted so this is probably as good a place as any. This band pretty much defines "acquired taste," but it's one worth acquiring.


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