LABEL (YEAR): TOMATO (1978)
FOR FANS OF: YES, KING CRIMSON, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
Words by Chris Gaduzo
French progressive rock/jazz fusion band Magma is the brainchild of drummer and bandleader Christian Vander, who bases all of his albums’ concepts and lyrics (sung in a made up language called Kobaian) on a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future". Vander claims that his main influence is John Coltrane, but judging from the wealth of influences present on Attahk, you’d think that Magma simply have no regard for conventional music combinations.
Opener ’The Last Seven Minutes’ perhaps best represents this album, consisting of sharp jazzy riffs and some magnificent drumming about half way through from Vander himself, when the band settle into the most magnificent head-nodding groove. Tracks ’Spiritual’ and ‘Rinde’ showcase the band’s gospel and orchestral influences (yeah, gospel, you read that right), whereas the menacing ‘Maahnt’ and the slow, two note bass build up of ‘Nono’ really demonstrate this band’s knack for genius arrangements and excellent songwriting.
The vocals are another story altogether. With three singers all contributing to the manic yelps and downright bizarre vocal arrangements, this is definitely the icing on the weirdest cake. The brilliant thing is, however, that these are simply another instrument for Magma - never a focal point, but crucial to their grander vision. Sure, during ‘Lirik Necronomicus Kant’ the almost inhuman howling will grab your attention, but it’s impossible to ignore the fantastic bass playing - fuzzy, busy, but never heavy. The keyboards are central throughout, especially in the aforementioned ‘Rinde’, which begins with only piano and vocals, showcasing another crucial thing about Magma - they know when to strip their arrangements down, and in progressive rock like this, it’s a skill that really works to their advantage.