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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Magma

Zuhn Wol Unsai: Live 1974

Review by Gary Hill

Magma is an odd beast. They are also pretty amazing. I mean, any band who creates their own language to use in their songs kind of lands in both of those categories on the strength of that alone. I really love this live album. Well, all except the extensive drum solo because I’m not crazy about that. I think the whole concept of using a language no one speaks is brilliant because it allows the vocals to float across the music without the encumbrance of being interpreted as ideas. That makes it almost more like instruments than voices.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Sowiloi (Soi Soi)
A spoken phrase starts us off and then the music comes in tentatively. Subtle layers of sound build out from there. A fusion type sound rises up to take control as this moves forward. It continues to develop and some of the vocals are a bit over the top in a rather operatic way. They take it out further down the road into a rather freeform mellower section. It evolves into quite a cool rocking jam as they continue from that point. It gets into some intense fusion jamming as that section continues to grow.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: I.Hortz Fur Dehn Steckehn Wes
This one also starts with a spoken introduction. It builds out gradually, too. It’s just not as tentative at the start as the previous cut was. The first vocal section of this is compelling and very powerful. This is more purely rock than the more fusion like opener was. Still, it’s definitely progressive rock. There are hints of world music built into this one, too, though. The jam later in the piece has a real soaring, powerful arrangement to it. It continues to shift and evolve as it grows outward, though.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: Ii.Imah Süri Dondai
Coming out of the previous one, this has a mellower, keyboard based arrangement at first. It combines fusion, prog and some theatrical rock as it grows. I love the space rock meets prog and fusion section later in the track. It’s got a really classic sound to it.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: Iii.Kobaia Iss Deh Hündin
Also seeming to come out of the previous piece, this continues that prog meets fusion sound as it grows. There is a real powerhouse jam later in the piece. A crescendo pulls this straight into the next number.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: Iv.Dazeuhl Wortz Mekani
I love the dramatic, rather theatrical sounds on this one. It builds out from there. It has some real jam band type sounds in terms of some of the guitar playing on this. I love the rocking sections later in the piece. A crescendo takes us to the next movement.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: V.Nebehr Gudahtt
Keyboards bring this in with a mellower musical motif. It builds gradually from there. Vocals (a bit weird like performance art) and keyboards are the driving factors on this one. This eventually evolves to a guitar led jam that’s part fusion and part jam band. It gets pretty intense and rocking as it continues. This flows directly into the next piece.
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommamdoh: Vi.Mekanik Kömmandöh
The powerhouse progressive rock jam from the previous movement is continued here. This smoking jam really does a great job of wrapping the whole thing up. It’s hard rocking, but also operatic and theatrical.
Disc 2
Drum Solo
A spoken section that seems to include throat singing serves as the introduction to this drum solo. There are some odd noises, perhaps electronic, perhaps a woodwind or reed instrument, on the early parts of this. I’m not a big fan of drum solos, though. So, this leaves me a little under-impressed. Also, this track is over twenty minutes long, so that’s a very long drum solo. There are some vocals in the last minutes of this thing.
Theusz Hamtaahk
Although keyboards lead the instrumental arrangement here, and it works through some shifts and changes, the vocals really dominate this piece. They are almost a sea of instruments in some ways. When this shifts out to harder rocking territory later it makes me think of King Crimson quite a bit. The piece continues evolving from there, moving into some great melodic fusion meets prog sound. Theatrical prog sounds take over after that. The evolution continues giving way to a hard rocking movement. That ends and one of the tastiest bits of the whole set, a mellow, dreamy kind of tapestry ensues. That section works out toward more dramatic theatrical stuff before pounding forward to more hard rock. A killer prog jam ensues from there. The instrumental section later takes into some fairly crazed space rock like territory. That intensifies and then gives way to a more mainstream progressive rock jam. This just keeps changing, getting very intense and powerful. Then a crescendo after the 21 and a half minute mark gives way to a mellow, theatrical section. As it blast back out to more rocking territory there seems to be some funk in the mix. Still, it’s all tempered with more of that classic Magma sound. By around the 24 minute mark it evolves to more melodic prog. That gets noisier as they continue the push forward. A chaotic section ends it.
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