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Magma - Köhntarkösz CD (album) cover

KÖHNTARKÖSZ

Magma

Zeuhl


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars The vinyl came with one of the best poetry I ever read in French and I did a fine job of translating it in English but I lost both. The Cd does not seem to have it. As you can guess the usual Magma music streams out of your speakers as the lava flows from the volcano as represented on this most beautiful cover. The vocal harmonies are delicious as always and to see Magma in concert (even 30 years later) is something that every proghead must experience.

I guess I'll have to rewrite this review in the coming future in order to have it appear on here.

Report this review (#22338)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Marcelo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars How dare I write about MAGMA when I'm not into Zeuhl? Well, for those who read this lines, I must say that I love traditional symphonic prog and this is my first experience with this band. So, it will be a point of view from an old prog listener but newbie in the sub- genre.

After several listenings, I would say that this is a dark fusion among contemporary classical music, jazz, space and... madness! Very dense, very strong and very strange. Piano, organ, sax, drums, chorus, voices... and nothing in the traditional way! This album is absolutely different from any other I ever heard. It seems even chaotic and reiterative at the first listening, but intensity is so incredible that made me feel involved on music along the whole opus. Really, even though this style isn't my cup of tea, I recognize I had an unique experience.

For those who look for mellow or simple prog music, or even the conventional symphonic beauty, I would recommend to keep far from "Köhntarkösz". But those who like the most difficult and intense side of progressive will find, at least, an incredible album.

Report this review (#22340)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Prog rock was criticized by the excesses some bands did with their music. One of those bands criticized by this was ELP. ELP sounds to me "very conventional" in comparison to Magma. ELP is even more "accessible". They wote songs in their native language. They played on stage songs like "Karn Evil 9" with a duration of more than 30 minutes, with very different sections in style, but after listening to it several times, one found something good. But Magma seems like they created their own "world" with their own language. So they lived in their own "world" that it is only for their fans only.I don`t understand their language and their music, so I like more "conventional" prog music. Magma for me is one representative example of "prog music excesses". For fans only.
Report this review (#22341)
Posted Friday, September 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you want to hear a totally different kind of Prog music, check Magma's Köhntarközs, MDK, Üdü Wüdü and Atthakh. Köhntarközs has intrincate and beautifully built rhythms and harmony that create the unique mood wich is characteristic of Zeuhl music. Köhntarközs pt.1 has a quiet rhythm and strong harmonies. Köhntarközs pt.2 shows similary strong harmonies but with frantic rhythms. The two other tracks are shoter; Ork Alarm is a really strange chant that may even sound "frightening" for some ears. Coltrane Sundia is very calm and melodic, in my opinion it's the "easiest" song in this album. I can say that Magma is strongly recommendable for those who want to go beyond the "conventional" Progressive Rock.
Report this review (#22342)
Posted Friday, October 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my favorite albums of all time. Some won't agree but this is by far my favorite Magma album. Sublime and mysterious. Minimalist, heavy and dark, the 30-minute title track smoulders and burns, until the last few minutes when it goes for the throat and rips your head off. The two shorter tracks aren't as good but they are classic nonetheless. This recording belongs in the highest pantheon of prog divinities along with "Relayer", "Lark's Tongues in Aspic", "The Power and the Glory" and just a few others. Oh by the way, like those albums, you have to listen to it more than a few times. Then it will become part of your life.
Report this review (#22343)
Posted Saturday, November 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Magma as always with a dark macabre , and rare sound, is the escence of this great band, this album is my last purchase, and without any doubt is a very good album, without coming to be of the better of magma as the kobaia or mekanik constriktiv komandoh that´s a masterpieces , nevertheless this is an encxelent album in terms of music ,and compositions,only contains 4 songs but are long songs that maintain us Al pending of the music, a good one recomendation. I like a lot this band cause is another style of musci or by the way another style of prog music, this album is an example of the good work that they made.
Report this review (#39450)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an absolute masterpiece: climactic, dark and minimalistic.Christian Vander is a giant of modern music.The point here is the musical structure.Listen to this a lot of times. This album maybe isnot the best for starters but i think is trully the most important musically speaking.
Report this review (#43582)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Dated 1974, this fascinating as well sinister live from a dissonant band such as Magma was an important event, above all for the so called "Zeuhl" Music (think of the controversial French avant-garde albums, except on "Eros" by Dun, perhaps the best and too much intricate work of all time within this music genre.so accept or refuse them as for their difficult features, in their coherent nature!!).Nevertheless their lack of precise melodies, except on several interesting but disagreeable vocalizations, even by paying their tribute to Coltrane, make their job a complex and often unbearable number, which can disturb the common listener.well I don't get crazy for their gloomy tunes of free music, in this sort of "ritual" mysticism , but of course -sometimes- I recognize the cleverness of their efforts inside, especially those ones by Didier Lockwood (an underrated English guitarist).

At the end erase "one star" at least, especially if you're not patient!

Report this review (#44412)
Posted Saturday, August 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A bit "toned-down" in comparison to MDK, but hardly "conventional". Still very, very dark, but whereas MDK was all about the rapid tempos and contrasts between soft and loud, the title piece of KOHNTARKOSZ is more about slowly building from start to finish, with a more controlled intensity. As a result, it probably doesn't have the immediate impact that MDK does, but is just as rewarding (if not more so) in the long run. Stella Vander truly becomes a part of the band with this album, her haunting soprano voice adding another important thread in the dense aural tapestry that is Magma.

There are also a brace of short, cameo pieces on the album. "Ork Alarm" is a dark and creepy number typified by "twangy" Hohner Clavinet and scratchy guitar (courtesy of the underrated Brian Godding), with one of Klaus Blasquiz' most affectingly disturbing vocal performances. "Coltrane Sundïa", on the other hand, is a heartfelt piano instrumental, one of the moments of greatest, most touching beauty found on a Magma album.

Report this review (#46578)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth work released in 1974 "Kohntarkosz". It is a work that adds the guitar and the organ to a strong sound and accomplished further evolution. The sound that warps in electricity caused by the guitar and the organ is multiused, too. The rhythm increased heavy, and the performance became an acute angle. The ensemble undulates like angry waves exploding passion. It might be their most heavy work. The title tune is a wonderful masterpiece.The piano is also beautiful.

I recommends it for the fan of KING CRIMSON.

Report this review (#80684)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another magnificent album BY Magma, I liked it the first time I listened to it and was convinced straight away that this deserves five stars because of the energy and imagination in the music. This is probably the darkest sounding album in the Magma catalogue. Kohntarkosz part one kicks off with a dark jazzy introduction, Vander punishing his drums, Topp's bass roaring, then starts the theme tune, Blasquiz fine operatic voice singing away in their bizarre Kobaian language, Its full of darkness energy and dynamite, slowly building up with great mysterious keyboards, and the beautiful female backing voice of Stella Vander, after the dramatic introduction, the darkness continues, but it is beautiful!,sinister but devine, mysterious and glourious. To some Kohntarkosz part one may sound slightly repetitive, but you have to be in the moment you have to really listen not recommend driving music or easy listening. The music is more of a show, and audio theatre, and a passionate building trance; treat it like that and you'll be immersed into a world of power and wonder. You can hear great subtlies such as great guitar and hissing vocals. It ends with lovely soothing piano which also is the sound of the introduction to Kohntarkosz part two, it somewhat raises the mood, don't be mistaken this piece is not depressing its dark but fulls me with a great joy and happiness because this music is excellent.

The version of Kohntarkosz that I own, has Kohntarkosz part two start straight away, the soothing piano continues where it left off on part one, with some lovely singing by Vander, it is very pretty and uplifting, but then it gets sinister again with those again mysterious sound keyboards and Vander quietly rumbling at his drums, the piano creates a building tension with the keyboards giving the music a sense of uncertainty and anxiety, both Stella Vander and Klaus Blasquiz have scared ghostly voices, that soon add to a mounting and tense music, Topp adds his rich dark throbbing bass which I think is wonderful, that energy of Kohntarkosz part one is building up again taking you away into into that mad world again. The guitar does excellent exercises and adds a fine screetching nightmarish addition, you feel that the whole bands is going to explode with their energy with the speeding up the climbing vocals where is this climax leading us to?. The voices screatch, and chant away with passion and excitement, this is what I love about Magma they were always passionate about the music they performed and gave it their all. The piece ends with the merciless sounding beats of the bass and drums and thenwith dark deep voices that sound similar to the chants of buddist monks, but herwe it is to add to the dark textures and richness to the music.

Ork Alarm is just incredible Jannick Topp wrote this piece, showing that he was an emerging songwriter in the band. It has great dark feel to it it reminds me of the gargoyles in Notre Dame. It sounds very classical with the violins and cellos and may have been a key influence on Inivers Zero. The voices are wonderful ; deep and rich. I cannot describe it in much detail bacause I don't have words to describe it except for that it is wonderful and grand sounding, and is perhaps the epitome of dark prog or just darkness itself, a surreal nightmare of beauty ( a contridiction I know but listen to it yourself and you'll now what I mean). Great guitar on that piece as well but the drums appear to be absent. The music ends with this evil laughter and stamping sound.

Coltrane Sudia, I presume was a tribute to the late John Coltrane, whom Vander is a great fan of. Primarily piano, guitar and vocals. The song is a beautiful classical sounding piece, very nice and soothing sounding it has a sound of hope to it, which perhaps is there to relax the listener after such dark and tense music, It ends the album quietly and gracefully, the song is reminiscent of other progressive cotemporaries,in my opinion, the guitar sounds similar to Robert Fripp's work.

Great musicianship, and a sense that a lot of love and energy has been put into this album. Five stars. Get it, its essential and a masterpiece.

Report this review (#82990)
Posted Thursday, July 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first heard the epic title song on a progressive rock radio, I was sold right away.

The vinyl LP had the song split in two halfs, but the CD version contains the "version 2" which is the epic glued together again. The music and vocals on the album are very strange, but that's normal with Zeuhl right?

The epic is great, you really get the feeling that you're on some far away planet with a lot of magma and lava. It slowly, but surely, builds up to a nice climax. The other songs are a tad lesser, but I'm an epic lover so this doesn't say that the other songs are bad. Orc Alarm is quite funny sounding even though I doubt that it was intended this way) and Coltrane Sundia is a beautiful song. Essential for Zeuhl lovers all over the world, must hear for the rest of all proggers!

Report this review (#104687)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is difficult for me to review this album, because I would ultimately be biased. I listened to this record in the dark, in a very depressed mood, and the result of these two factors allowed me to travel to a world of such intense musical experience that I am forever marked by this album. Musically, it is captivating, but those who only listen to symphonic prog or folk will not understand the magnitude of what MAGMA have created. Those who are familiar with their style will all agree that this album is macabre, sinister, but more importantly hypnotic. Why hypnotic? because it is repetitious, but never in the same way. A certain melody can be repeated several times, but differently each time, either louder, faster, darker, softer, slower etc...and it's the transitions between these passages that offer the most chilling effect, as the images in your mind crash and new ones appear. You can see how it would be difficult to review this album, because I'm reviewing it from experience rather than musically. IMO, musically, this album is scarier than anything Univers Zero have ever made, only because of the state it pus you in. Instrumentation: Drumming: extremely precise, and well balanced; not too quick when necessary and so not overly bombastic, sets the mood just right. Keyboard: once again, not pompous, it accompanies the music, it doesn't create it (like TRACE) Bass: not as present as I would have liked (much more present in MDK I find), but still, holds the pieces together when--those who are not familiar with zeuhl--some would think they are falling apart. Guitar: not too present, once again sets atmosphere, but also provides the more obscure sounds you would get from a synth...good for pitch elevations in the songs. OVERALL: this album deserves a 4/5 only because I don't want to give it a 5 on account of my "trip"...Yet, if you want to discover Zeuhl and are willing to sacrifice a bit of your time to understanding the music, then pick this album up.
Report this review (#116096)
Posted Friday, March 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have a special place for this recording in my collection even though I am not a huge fan of Magma, perhaps because I never bothered to check out the entire catalog. Maybe I should. I still remember admiring Christian Vander both for his amazing talent but also for creating a language which is truly a progressive statement . I also love the cover art , probably among the top 10 ever printed. Magma's music is certainly not for the faint of heart or lovers of saccharine melodies (which explains Hugues ratings) . In fact, their artistry is at the polar opposite, where fiery intensity and smouldering rythms combine to take the listener into a hellish sweltering forge , well beyond the lower depths of rock music. Led by a manic drumming legend, Magma is a volcanic fusion of Wagnerian fury, best expressed on this masterpiece, propelled by the develish rumble of Jannick Top's bass guitar and hissing massed vocals that give a "Carmina Burana" feel to the compositions. Pounding e-pianos, steely organ, sulfurous guitar leads all blend with the ultra dynamic rythm section to create a vortex of swirling vertigo that would soundtrack any sci-fi alien movie to perfection. To get a proper feel , try this sample of liner notes from "Ork Alarm": "The people of Ork are marching upon us . The people are made of indescribable matter which to machines is what the machines are to man. The alarm is sounded...ORK ALARM! The people of Zeuhl Wortz are preparing for battle". Pheww!! How can you Top that (no pun intended) . Now that you have been warned, there is only one course of action... 5 eruptions
Report this review (#117673)
Posted Sunday, April 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Something great is cooking inside this CD. I can feel It but I can not totally appreciated It. The harmonies, the vocals, the subtle piano, the hidden guitar parts. As a whole this is a challenging album, one that you must work hard to understand but once you get to know the beauty of a perfect song like "Köhntarkösz (Part Two)" everything must fell in place. Nice record, much better than the predecessor but not perfect.
Report this review (#120137)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars My MAGMA journey began with "MDK", and then I went back to the beginning and have been working my way forward. This record has been the best one i've heard so far. This one is again different from the rest, and compared to "MDK" it's more laid back and less dynamic but I like it more. The vocals are really in your face on the "MDK" album, this one seems to slowly build much of the time with the vocals being more tasteful.

"Kohntarkosz (Part One)" is repetitive and builds slowly. I love it ! Organ and drums open the proceedings before vocals (Blasquiz) arrive 1 1/2 minutes in. It's almost 3 minutes in before we get a good beat that is joined by vocals and organ. Stella comes in with her vocals and she's outstanding as usual.This section repeats itself over and over. Piano 6 minutes in as vocals stop. Another change 9 1/2 minutes in as we get more energy and vocal melodies from Blasquiz. I like this. The sound softens and is repetitive to the end of the song. "Kohntarkosz (Part Two)" opens quietly with piano and keys that sound like a xylophone. Vander's vocals come in as everything is so reserved at this point. The drums get more aggressive 3 1/2 minutes in as organ joins in the melody. Stella arrives 5 minutes in with her beautiful vocal melodies. The pace and volume increase 6 minutes in. Check out the drumming 7 1/2 minutes in. Nice. Some scorching guitar 9 minutes in as the sound has built to almost a frenzy. Male vocals 12 minutes in. The song calms down during the final minute as drums,piano and Blasquiz' vocals end it. This is the best 30 minutes of music I have heard from MAGMA yet ! "Ork Alarm" is a Jannick Top composition. He plays both bass and cello on this one. This song is also very good. I like the way the tension builds to a dramatic conclusion with dissonant sounds.Great song ! "Coltrane Sundia" or "Coltrane Rest In Peace" is pretty much piano and guitar honouring John Coltrane who was a musical hero of Christian Vander. This is peaceful and a fitting end after the intensity of the previous track.

An amazing album cover and a more amazing recording.

Report this review (#143474)
Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zeuhl has many distinct faces. The quick, tight, rhythmically led, and very jazzy Zeuhl; the grandiose, compositional Zeuhl; the spacey, bass-heavy, and also jazzy Zeuhl. Interestingly, all of these different styles were all derived from one or two Magma albums. The quick, tight jazz Zeuhl from their first two; the grandiose, compositional Zeuhl from Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (and Wurdah Ïtah to a degree), and the spacey, bass-heavy Zeuhl from Üdü Wüdü. The side of Zeuhl we see very little of is the liquid, pulsing, slowing and subtly climaxing Zeuhl developed with this release. Köhntarkösz is the first release where the music truly does the name justice. No previous Magma release was so liquid, so thick and unhurried, and never were the eruptions so grand. In fact, this album is in such a new direction from the previous Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, that there is in fact nothing but the Kobaïan language that relates the two. Now that they had founded an entirely new genre (not an offshoot of another genre, mind you!), they were off to new things.

Not only is the Khöntarkösz suite incredibly slow, thick, layered, and milky, but it is also infinitely malicious and malevolent. Some of the sections are just downright evil. To up this up yet another notch, listening to it is one of the most atmospheric and encapsulating experiences I've ever had. The vocals completely abandon the harsh, high, and operatic style of before, and adopt a very symphonic, a very melodious style. They are used just as any other instrument forming this great volcano of sound. And as they are used more as an instrument, they are used less as a tool for lyrics. That is the chief reason why the story, the narrative of the Kobaïan odyssey, is somewhat lost on this release. In the previous three albums (and the following Christian Vander solo album Wurdah Ïtah) the vocals were used greatly as a vessel for the very meaningful lyrics (though many or most listeners will never understand their meaning).

What is known based on what lyrics can be translated, and a great deal of guesswork based on the atmosphere and feel of the music is this. A man named Köhntarkösz finds an ancient tomb, which he somehow learns is the resting place of an Egyptian Master or Lord. Maybe a Pharaoh or Emperor of some sort? Only Vander knows. Upon his entrance into the tomb (which seems to be a quite large and spacious catacomb-type of tomb, judging by the atmosphere) Köhntarkösz has a terrifying vision of Ëmëhntëht-Rê, who was the Egyptian whom this tomb belongs to. Ëmëhntëht-Rê's goal in life was to reach immortality, but he was murdered before he had success in his goal. Now, all the secrets and knowledge that Ëmëhntëht-Rê had acquired on his pilgrimage to eternity had been passed to Köhntarkösz. Kind of creepy, eh? Well, that's about as far as the story goes.

However, I can tell you theme of the remaining two tracks outside of the Köhntarkösz suite. Most obvious is Coltrane Sündïa. The booklet states beside the song name "Coltrane rest in peace". It is a track in honour and in memory of Vander's great influence and inspiration, John Coltrane. The track does not call up any recognizable riffs or melodies from Blue Train or anything, it's just a gorgeous piano and guitar harmony. Ork Alarm, however, is more cryptic and extremely hard to understand. Beside the song name, the booklet reads "The people of ORK are marching upon us. The people are made of indescribable matter which to the machines is what the machines are to man. The alarm is sounded... ORK ALARM! The people of ZEUHL WORTZ are preparing for battle..." This is the first word of "the people of ORK", who show up again in following albums. I presume that those two bubbly, and clearly organic ("matter which to the machines is what the machines are to man") folk sporting neat shades on the cover of Attahk are these "people of ORK". (Don't quote me on that, it's simply an uneducated guess.) But who are they? No idea. Some evil alien race that the Kobaïans will save us from? Probably not.

This is in fact the first movement in a second cycle (the first cycle being Theusz Hamtaahk) called Ëmëhntëht-Rê. The following movements weren't released altogether, and are all split up among various live albums and Üdü Wüdü. Supposedly Attahk isn't related to the Ëmëhntëht-Rê story, which would destroy my guess that those two plump figures could be people of ORK (or maybe not...). So, beyond what you read above, we know nothing more about the concept behind this one.

This album will require many, many listens to understand. The miniature (and the massive) climaxes are sometimes subtle, and only a few listens will reveal them. The writing and arrangements are absolutely brilliant. There's something so incredibly otherworldly and surreal about some of the melodies here. The atmosphere is absolutely gripping (more than any post-rock album you'll ever hear) and the clear and distinct thing about the mood is that it paints. If I were to close my eyes while listening to this (which I often do!) I see the red, red glow of the slowly crawling lava. It's this unreal atmosphere that is so captivating that makes this album so phenomenal: not the brilliant drumming or perfect bass playing, not the interesting and thought-provoking concept, not even the stellar writing.

This is absolutely essential to any casual fan of Zeuhl. After Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, this is the most vital Magma album. I cannot speak for all of the Zeuhl genre (for I can't claim to have heard it all). For something really fresh, really cleansing and renewing, and extremely atmospheric, get Köhntarkösz. Though it may take many listens to fully comprehend, and requires some patience to enjoy to its full potential, the end result is extremely rewarding and undeniably unforgettable. We see too little of this type of Zeuhl, methinks. Pity. But this only makes Köhntarkösz even more independent, unique, and essential. I pity the ears that die afore digesting these sounds.

Report this review (#155104)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have to say a few words about my first encounter with the Zeuhl genre. As much has been said before (and by reviewers who know this music better) I'll just limit to describe what I think of the album. I really didn't pay attention to the vocals and the lyrics in the made-up Kobaiian language. There's no point in doing that. What really should grab your attention in this album is the instrumental music (95% of the disc) that really reaches unique heights.

What the music produced in my mind is the idea of a lava lake in a dark cave, probably the crater of a volcano, which at the same time resembled hell, with little demons dancing around while the flames burst and bubble from the big pond. The constant piano figure that adorns the music made me think in little tiny red devils that dance around my surprised body, watching an event both grotesque and magnificent at the same time. I'm pretty sure MAGMA never intended to create such a concept, but music is wonderful when we cannot agree in what it creates in our mind. And this is what it created in mind.

The vast instrumentals (where ideas get repeated but developed as well), the fusion of rock with jazz (cold, icy jazz at that), the dissonant harmonies, the instrumental marvels, the precise drumming, the textures, all of that helps create a picture that leaves an impression on your mind, even if the music doesn't touch your heart.

And that's why I give this album only 4 stars. It's my review and therefore it has to reflect my opinion but also my taste and what I got from the art. My mind was thrilled, my brain was beating, yet my heart wasn't. This is music that I can enjoy when I'm in need of brain-incentives, but not on an every-day basis.

A piece of art. For historical and musical reasons, this would get a 5. Adding my own feelings to the rating, it gets a 4.

Essential. If not for me.

Report this review (#162230)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rating: A+

In one single blow, Magma (led by drummer/vocalist/composer Christian Vander) invented and defined an entire new genre of music, known as zeuhl. That blow was Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh. With the follow-up, Kohntarkosz, Magma bested themselves (and numerous others), releasing the best Zeuhl studio release. Whereas MDK was full of dark horns and massed choirs (which admittedly worked to near perfection), the drumming of Christian Vander and the bass of Jannick Top were mixed far too low, meaning it largely lacked two of the key elements of Magma's sound. On Kohntarkosz, not only are the drums and bass appropriately mixed, but the vocals are more low key, allowing the trademark Fender Rhodes keyboard work to shine through as well. The result is a more organic sound, a better sound, and, accordingly, a better album.

Kohntarkosz is dominated by the massive title epic. Built around a simple, three-note theme, Kohntarkosz is a masterpiece of patience, use of space, and building around a theme (among many other things). The vocals, which were the dominant instrument (alongside the horns) on MDK are now used mostly to repeat the main theme of the song, around which Magma adds ominous bass growls, perfect drums (I mean it, just listening to Christian Vander's drumming on this record sends shivers down my spine), and, of course, the aforementioned keyboards that are such an essential aspect of Magma's sound.

After twenty-one minutes of teasing the listener, building, then relenting, building, then relenting again, Magma burst into what has to be among the most spectacular climaxes in all of music. It's hard to explain with words, other than to point out that the energy picks up, but the song suddenly gains energy unlike anything I've ever heard. The buildup may be fantastic, but it pails in comparison to the climax, which takes up most of the remaining time in the song (about eight minutes) and which never relents. MDK, already one of the most powerful CDs I know, looks laid back compared to this. Everything does.

The only reason why Kohntarkosz isn't perfect (and my favorite CD, which it would be if it were just the title track) is that, well, there's more than just "Kohntarkosz". Suffice it to say that there is no way to follow an act as intense as "Kohntarkosz". While "Ork Alarm" and "Coltrane Sundia" are both excellent songs, they would've done better on a different album ("Ork Alarm" in particular would've fit well on Udu Wudu), as they just don't fit here. I could see "Ork Alarm" working well as the opening song to Kohntarkosz, as it is similarly oppressive atmospherically, but "Coltrane Sundia" with its beautiful, joyous piano has no place here, as good as it is.

Despite that, Kohntarkosz remains a masterpiece of an album. Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh is the best Magma album, but Kohntarkosz is the best Magma song, and what a song it is. Absolutely incredible.

Report this review (#165320)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Köhntarkösz' must be one of the most otherworldly albums I've ever heard. Be warned, it is not the sort of thing that most people will 'get' straight away (I certainly didn't!). Repeated plays, however, will reveal the sheer cleverness of Magma. Only they manage this particular blending of the cerebral, the visceral and the spiritual.

The 'Köhntarkösz Suite' in particular has got this solemn, icy feel, as if it's the soundtrack to the progress of a glacier. Part One is deceptively simple (i.e. not simple at all...), spending much of its 15 minutes cycling through macabre repetitions like some obsessive mantra. It begins with slow, heavy chords and fluttering, tingling percussion, marking the beginning of its subtle, pacing procession around what feels like a claustrophobic space. The music seems glued to the same few repetitive motions, which when you first listen to the piece, make no sense whatsoever. It took me many repeated listens before the penny dropped - this is actually very like the more immediately thrilling, hot-and-quick music of 'MDK' - just slowed right down to the pace of a planet's tectonic plates scraping past one another! The first part rolls ominously along to its conclusion, a bright, icy chime of piano with a cold breeze of vocals stirred into it.

(I have the CD version, in which 'Köhntarkösz Part Two' follows straight after Part One, rather than being interspersed by 'Ork Alarm'. I think it makes more sense to keep the suite together - its impact would be far less profound if interrupted by the machine-like gurglings of 'Ork Alarm'! The 'Köhntarkösz Suite', in contrast, feels organic - like a force of nature!)

Part Two opens with more frosted piano and keyboard, and vocals like visible breath on a cold day. The beginning of this piece is gentle and sweet, only to revert to being macabre, just a couple of minutes in. The drumming here is restless, fidgety, uneasy, whilst the keyboard oils its way across an unsettling melody. Mournful soprano climbs discordantly, before a sudden attack of militaristic urgency seizes the whole ensemble, the bass growling, the drums clattering, the piano speeding up, frantically clutching at the same three chords over and over. Something that sounds like a guitar faking an electric violin keens. All the time, the same three chords are pounded out by the piano, keyboards and vocalists. The guitar-like sound is now describing lunacy at lightning speed. This music is trance-inducingly heavy! It never lets up, not for a moment, the pressure building, growing more and more hysterical by the split second. The tempo speeds up gradually and inexorably and at some point you notice that most of the ensemble is still revolving around three chords, whilst in the foreground the yelping guitar is joined by howling vocals that cycle through four notes, creating a very weird sensation of jarring and blurring at the same time. The four against the three, continuously repeating, line up differently each time, sometimes clashing, sometimes complimenting each other. A very clever device that!

Then suddenly the tension becomes ecstasy, in which the minor key erupts into an obsessive major key chant, like some kind of spiritual ceremony reaching an emotional climax. If you stood in the centre of a tornado it might feel like this!

Finally, the music thins out into repeated hammer falls of dark piano, bass and drums, with blackly malevolent, inhumanly deep vocals croaked out at the resonant frequency of your soul!

The instruments used on these two pieces seem fused together under the heat and pressure of the doom-laden music. Yes, it starts out cold, but by the end it is white hot! There seems to be no space between the different instruments and vocals, no free will - it all adheres together into one huge, enormous, mega-instrument, compelled by some omnipotent force to surge on together in sinister unison.

The story that goes with this music is of a man who discovers an ancient Egyptian tomb, in which he experiences a revelation, becoming endowed with the wisdom of the tomb's occupant. It really does give you the feeling of leaving a hot, normal, everyday world behind, and entering a cold, majestic place in which something important and otherworldly is going to happen.

Now, on to 'Ork Alarm'! This piece by Jannick Top assembles an infernal doomsday machine of dark, guttural vocals - like a choir of satanic miners! Layer upon layer of strings, as emptily obedient as zombies under Top's puppet-mastery, blot out any light and space. Creepy electronic squelches resound in syncopated rhythms, plugging any remaining gaps in the structure. A choir of falsetto and soprano zombies comes in, howling wordlessly, whilst a guitar yelps atonally. Appalling crashes and unholy laughter bring the piece to a bone-rattling conclusion, wreaking destruction on the carefully-constructed behemoth until it collapses abruptly, not even bothering to fade out.

'Coltrane Sundia', on the other hand, shimmers into being like the lady of lake emerging with Excalibur in her lily-white hand! It starts off sounding a little eastern in places, and then the piano trembles its calmness, matched by liquid guitar, outlining a hopeful-sounding melody. This piece is sheer balm - you will need it after listening to both parts of 'Köhntarkösz' and then 'Ork Alarm'! Its tone of optimism and sentimentality (in memoriam John Coltrane) will leave you feeling peaceful as it fades out, having hardly begun.

My word, does this album ever grow on you! My first encounter with it left me frankly confused. But it bears persevering with - and at some point you will find yourself assaulted with amazement at the things this music can do. Partly, I think the vintage keyboard sounds might mask the brilliance at first. If the 'Köhntarkösz Suite' was given a full-on Wagnerian orchestration... well, actually, that might be DANGEROUS...!

So... yes indeed! Five stars!!!

Report this review (#166136)
Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dear Lord...

Zeuhl. A world and a word that had obsessively intrigued me during the beginning of the year. I had already liked progressive rock for a long time: Bands like Gentle Giant and King Crimson. Bands that have slapped me in the face with their complexity and inward darkness, even though you can't really recognize it that fast. Before listening to prog I was a Metal fan, and so darkness and mysteriousness have always intrigued me. My first thoughts on Magma would be that it had to be a really heavy band. And boy was I right.

When I got Kohntarkosz, I was eager to listen to every inch of it, because it was my first Zeuhl album.

I had put it on my computer, and then pressed play.

From the first notes, I was swept away, this is huge my friends! The bass, the organ and the drums, it's all so immense, like a huge slap in the face, and a big breath of fresh air. The theme of the song starts and you here Blasquiz's voice (I actually guessed it was him, because I had imagined him singing with that voice). The whole whirlwind of music takes you to some kind of trance! And you can't let go! The theme starts to slow down a notch. But the trance is still there. This is awkward, he's repeating the same phrase over and over again. But I'm captured in this wave of music. But it gets heavier and louder, you enter in the cave/crypt of Ëmëhntëht-Rê that Kohntarkosz travels (read Shakespeare's review to know the story of the album). As the music goes on, the light of the tomb is getting darker and darker. The music is actually decomposing and recomposing itself throughout the first song. Might I also point out the voices, that follow you throughout the song.. like a sort of obsession, because it keeps going on and on and it's stuck in your head. At the end of K.. part 1, the them dims and a solo of vocals appears and on to the second song.

Kohntarkosz part 2 is my favorite song (maybe my favorite song ever). It's as if Kohntarkosz has entered through impenetrable darkness. With a beautiful tune of Michel Grailler's clavinet and Gérard Bikialo's organ. The soon, the beauty kind of fades and turns into a scary atmosphere. The drumming, yet very simple is still extremely obsessive, it all stays in your head. Brace yourselves Zeuhl newbies, your going for a wild ride. But the time the vocals appear, the music starts to get really freaky! The music is insane! It's mind bobbling! It goes through different kinds of directions! Especially the dark riff that introduces the guitar solo, it takes you to another world. The guitar solo is amazing as well, it really clear, trust me you didn't see this coming. You can't expect such music from something that came out in 1974, this is so far beyond its time. By the tenth minute the guitar solo ends perfectly. Now there's the best part, Vander's monologue! This where [&*!#] breaks loose and everything goes [&*!#]bat crazy! It's just amazing music, Vander is insane. The suite ends with a scary and disturbing end.

Speaking of disturbing, here's the next song: Ork Alarm. This song reminds me of music from the vein of Art Zoyd or Univers Zero. It's my least favorite of the album. But still a great song, a very disturbing and awesome arrangement, it takes you away. Finishing with a great guitar solo. Metal fans would really like this. Next up is the last song: Coltrane Sundia, a beautiful piece written by Vander as a tribute to his idol John Coltrane. A very calm and peaceful song, with a trio of clavinet, guitar and piano. Like every song off this album, Coltrane Sundia, takes away in a climate you've never experienced.

All in all, this album is a jewel a prog masterpiece. Nobody can touch the brilliance of Vander's music. As some people here stated, Zeuhl comes in many shapes and sizes. If you're looking for Zeuhl that looks like Kohntarkosz, check out the band Eskaton (its the only band that comes close to Kohntarkosz's Zeuhl aspect).

GRIMFURG REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY APPROVES OF THIS!

Report this review (#173330)
Posted Monday, June 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The Dark Opera.

A long overdue review here of one of my favorite Magma albums. I'm going to keep it real simple, and focus on the parts that are not talked about much (ie not the title tracks). Basically, the title tracks are amazing. You need to listen to them. You will enjoy them. They are everything you could want out of a prog epic.

Anyways, Ork Alarm is based around a tense cello movement that gives the song its pace and structure. Kobain chants and a quaint little solo piece flow over giving the feeling of something somewhat like a community march or street protest, at least this is what springs to my mind. The Coltrane Sundia is as you might have guessed, an honorary piece for Coltrane which closes out the album. It is a beautiful and gorgeous piano piece, but I feel it's horribly out of place given the nature of the rest of the album. This might have fared better at the end of Merci or Attahk, but not here, it just doesn't really fit themewise with the overall aim of the album.

I would not start here if you are new to Zeuhl or Magma. This album has too many twists and turns, and takes longer to fully grasp than some of the others (not that they are easy to grasp, but you get the idea). This is one of Vander's masterpieces, enjoy it as such.

Report this review (#177853)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars I began to listen MAGMA a few months ago, and to be honest I never cared for Zeuhl before this, but there's something in the pompous, arrogant and self indulgent music of the French band that makes me come again to their albums over and over and what is worst (for my pocket) to buy all their albums, like an addiction I can't explain.

Lets start saying something that falls by it own weight...."Köhntarkösz" is a weird album not for everybody, any listener who wants to get into this album, or better said allow the music to get into him/her, needs to like pompous and strong music, with few but complex vocal sections in Kobaian (A language invented by Christian Vander to sing in the MAGMA ALBUMS) and of course the mysterious chorus hat seem like a combination between the sacred and the pagan, but if you achieve this, the experience is rewarding.

One first recommendation is to buy the Seventh Records CD version and not any other, because you get "Köhntarkösz" parts I and II as a 30 minutes super epic, only separate originally due to the limitations of the Vinyl format

"Köhntarkösz" opens the album with the unusual (even for MAGMA), Psyche Space intro that reminds me of PINK FLOYD, but the real deal comes after a few ,minutes, when the organ starts adding an incredibly portentous section as a theme for an epic movie in the vein of Ben Hur, and the dark male chorus blending with the haunting female ones create a terrifying atmosphere that keeps the listener awaiting in expectation for an sonic blast that never happens.

As a fact, the track keeps getting even more complex with unexpected piano interruptions that instead of bringing calm, contribute to the magical chaos so characteristic of MAGMA.

Even when there are no dramatic changes, the collision of styles happen so gradually that sound natural and not forced, simply brilliant.

If "Köhntarkösz" Part I was strong and haunting, part II is a radical change, the chorus are relaxing and softer, some Jazz passages appear out of nowhere, still the haunting atmosphere is kept by the keys and soft drumming, this time is less claustrophobic.

But my changed part is yet to come, around the 5th minute (or 20th if we take "Köhntarkösz" as a whole track), the music gets faster and explosive with a desperate and repetitive chorus that goes in crescendo both in volume and speed until it breaks into an absolutely dissonant Jazzy section that no Avant band could envy................But even when Jazz or Avant are not my cup of tea, I love this, don't ask me why but is fabulous like getting trapped in a close space but enjoying that fear.

This chaotic section keeps increasing and then in an undetermined moment and for no reason, starts to fade, simply beautiful, elaborate and perfectly structured, 30 minutes of pure Progressive Rock in it's more complex facet.

If this 30 minutes weren't enough "Ork Alarm" hits us with a semi Gregorian Choir in the vein of 666 by APHRODITE'S CHILD, the unusual violin passages are absolutely frightening and after them, everything starts again, absolutely brilliant.

"Köhntarkösz Version 2" again starts with a spacey intro and after that you can expect almost anything, the confusing and frenetic lyrics by Vander are almost hypnotic, but I won't make a detailed review of this track because it's not in the original album, but most important because It's hard to describe all that happens here in simple and limited words.

As it may be obvious for everybody "Coltrane Sündïa" (Coltrane Rest in Peace) is a tribute to John Coltrane, a gorgeous and exquisite piano performance, that seems a bit odd in this album, because it collisions with the almost paranoic and clearly mystic "Köhntarkösz" atmosphere, but serves as a relax after all those weird songs.

Maybe if the album had more variations, I would go with 5 stars, but it's a bit too repetitive even when unpredictable (If you listen the album, this phrase won't sound contradictory), so I will go with 4 very solid stars, which I consider an extremely high rating.

Report this review (#226521)
Posted Monday, July 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars On Köntarkösz Magma made another step in their continuing development. The preceding album MDK used to impress me more when I was 20 years younger but now the more restrained arrangements and tight focus of Köntarkösz has my preference .

On MDK, Magma was still all about hammering you down with how out-worldly and bigger-then-life they were. Here, we get a more mature release that convinces by its sheer quality. Magma relaxes just a bit and lets the music and atmosphere speak for itself.

The main part of the album is consumed by the title track: an half hour long improvisation that is carried by an entrancing rhythm and a marvellously dark and brooding atmosphere. Ork Alarm and the Coltrane thing provide an excellent offset against the storm that preceded it (at least on the CD where the tracks are sequenced properly).

Köntarkösz is Magma's studio masterpiece.

Report this review (#238264)
Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The instrumental MEKANIK DESTRUKTIW KOMMANDOH in a sense.

Magma had a thing going for them on MDK; putting out an album that is nothing more than an operetta that focused on blending the esoteric qualities of classical, jazz and opera with the punch and dancability of rock. They're still doing that here on KOHNTARKOSZ, but there's a noticeable difference; the vocals aren't as abrasive.

That vocal chanting was one of MDK's strengths, but here on KOHNTARKOSZ, those vocals are mostly wordless. Don't get me wrong, they're tremendous, but they're nothing like the intensity of those Kobaian chants on tracks like ''Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik'', no ''wii wii ess ess'' to sing along to. The quality of the music is the name of the game here.

This is probably the perfect second chance for those that couldn't soak up MDK as it seems like the strange chanting was what turned people off on that album. But, the music here is pretty faithful to what MDK did keeping the biting piano, epic bass and overall haunting atmosphere, at least on the title epic. This piece is not something you're supposed do dance to; in my mind, it's supposed to scare the whatzits out of you.

The problem with the direction shift is that now Magma makes their repetitions boring almost by complete accident. This is mostly a problem on the first part as the theme, while thundering, moves too slushily for me to retain attention throughout its entirety. The second part really changes that by beginning with one of the best piano lines anywhere leading into the main theme which builds on itself by slowly speeding up for about ten minutes until some worded vocals come in....that moment is euphoria in music. It makes me want to scream ''YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'' at that point as everything that came before suddenly makes total sense. This is the sign of a great composition, a long buildup to a climax well worth the wait.

As for the other two tracks, ''Ork Alarm'' makes me think of very scary gothic music with cellos and ''Coltrane Sundia'' is nothing more than a soft piano ballad in memoriam of the saxophonist. In any case, this Magma is toned down from the Magma on the previous album, which is a good thing if you couldn't get into the band.

Report this review (#252539)
Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another excellent release by Magma, this is quite different to MDK, as vocals aren't the most important thing here. I would say that this album relies heavily in the mood that causes. One can't help but to fall in the vortex of this jazz influenced band. Especially during the epics, which almost obviusly are the best part of the album, my favourite part being the change that happens in part 2, as we change from a soft organ atmosphere to crazy vocals effortlessly. Anyway the rest of the tracks are very good indeed.Ork alarm uses a cello through all the song to create a feeling almost intoxicating in nature, it evokes (at least for me) the image of a march or something like that. And Coltrane Sundia, as the title suggests, it's a piece dedicated to Coltrane. It's a gorgeous piano song, that might seem not to fit with the rest of the album, as this is not nearly as dark as the other songs. But it's a fantastic closer nevertheless. Keep in mind before listening to the music, than Magma it's not an easy band to understand. It took me a lot of listens to truly understand this album. I would not reccomend starting here(although I did) in your Magma journey.
Report this review (#262825)
Posted Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Magma - Köhntarkösz (1974)

Lately I've been sucked into the world of Magma and tomorrow (22-05-2010) I will see them live in my hometown (Nijmegen, Holland)! I first reviewed the debut and the second album, but now I had to skip on the third 'MDK' because I haven't been able to find a vinyl copy of it.

Köhntarkösz was a piece of which I already owned and adored the live version on the '75 Live album of Magma. Throughout my listening experience I couldn't help myself comparing the studio version with the live one. Since Magma has rearranged especially part 2 on the live album there are quite some differences to be found. Köhntarkösz has also two shorter tracks that were new for me. Every side begins with 15 minutes of the Köhntarkösz part 1 or 2. The rest of the side is filled with the two shorter tracks.

On Köhntarkösz Magma had once again changed their formula a bit resulting in yet more new territory for innovation. Still present are the rhythmical basis of Zeuhl-founder Christian Vander on drums and distorted bass by important Zeuhl musician Jannick Top. The haunting choirs and the minimalistic piano parts are also present. New is the Yamaha organ and the low pace of the compositions. A lot of the rhythmical experimentation that had flourished on the first two Magma albums has been replaces for atmospheric, concentrated and steady drums. The use of dissonance and abstract harmonics is what makes this album specifically interesting.

Köhntarkösz is a piece about mister Köhntarkösz who enters the tomb of Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, and that's precisely what it sounds like! A dark opera with continues troubling atmospheres that are highly original. Somehow Vander managed to create a piece that presents the fear and curiosity of some-one who's entering a very magical and dark place. For most people this music will be very frustrating and unpleasent, whilst others who can see the genius of it or/and get carried away by its curiosity and it's magical appeal will adore it.

Having that said I must say I think part 1 is stronger than part 2 on the studio album, whilst on the live version I like both equally much. Part 1 has a long low-pace opening section with the introduction of all magical themes and atmospheres. Magma is clear from the very beginning there is no consensus-seeking spirit: this concentrated exploratory music. At about 2/3 of the track a shrieking sound scares the hell out of me. And I love it! Such a great intervention of the band! Part 2 has a peaceful opening-section and a long comeback with a minimal approach. When the themes of part 1 start to re-occur it great however and the extremes of the track are great.

The two other track on the album are both totally different. On side one we get to listen to Jannick Top's Ork Alarm. This is a haunting dark song with a minimal structure but interesting cello parts of Top. The vocals are abstract and don't seem to interfere that much with the other elements of the compositions. The song is distinctive on the album, but I don't know for sure how much I like it.. it's just very weird. Christian Vander's Coltrane Sündïa is an ode to Coltrane. The symphonic track sounds like Vander really has the warm farewell wishes for his hero. This songs has no real Zeuhl sound, but it's nice to have this peaceful, emotional ending to such an troubling album. The track works very good for me, in spite of it's simplicity.

Conclusion. This is a well composed and recorded Magma album. It's essential for Zeuhl movement and yet another original recording due to its emphasis on the atmosphere and great use of dis-harmonic themes. My only problem with the album is that Köhntarkösz part 2 has too little ideas. Though this album is very very good, I must say the live version is still the one I prefer, since they increased the material for part 2. Four stars then, but only because of the even better live performances!

Report this review (#282908)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars If you are not into Zehul, this is not the best starting point. In fact, this album is a mature opera that can't probably be appreciated without having been in touch with their previous recordings.

Unfortunately, the 30 minutes epic was not suitable for a vinyl edition and this is the reason why Kohntarkosz is split into two parts. Some lyrics are in "Kobaian" so it's better to inform Magma's newbies about an alien language invented by Christian Vander some albums before. Don't waste your time trying to understand what the lyrics say. From a musical perspective, there's a touch of cold jazz, some Canterbury (Soft Machine, Hugh Hopper as reference), but also classical accents, apparently without a melodic line. It's only after several listens that a structure seems to appear. A hint consists in following the drums as main instrument because it's where regularities and structures are more evident. The sound and the athmosphere are dark and dramatic. Probably suitable for a soundtrack, but keep an ear to bass and drums. The roots of this piece are with no doubts progressive. Only Magma's vision of music is too wide to be confined into a single genre. The piano ending of part 1 is the easiest. Let's wait for Part 2 now.

"Ork Alarm" is a Kobaian song made of cellos and vocals. Not a relaxing song, of course. It's more bizarre than dark. I think this can be enjoyed also by a newbie. It reminds me to Quintorigo that I recently suggested for inclusion on PA.

Kohntarkosz Part 2 starts with the piano. Of course this is restart from where Part 1 ended. After the first two tracks this is quite a surprise: there's a melody and the agitation of the A side seems disappeared. But only for a couple of minutes. The music turns back into an obscure territory. The piano keeps the tempo with dissonant chords while the variations are given by drums first and bass later. It's like exploring a jungle on an extrasolar planet, or a cave never visited before. This music is evocative, specially when Stella Vander starts with her vocalisms. Christian follows and the music becomes parossistic and chaotic. As in the first part, is the drums that give regularity to the track, but there is an impressive work performed by the bass in the background. For those who appreciate the early Vangelis, this part is not so distant from "Nucleogenesis". I think it can be defined as "cold jazz" when the clavinet (is it a clavinet? I don't know) takes the leadership. This is the part on which Magma demonstrate all their musical skill. From here it's a crescendo of different situations leaded by vocalisms and piano chords while bass and drums provide the base. Suddenly it calms down and the last two minutes bring the piece to its conclusion

"Coltrane Sündïa" is a nice and relaxing track based on piano and keyboards. Again this reminds me of some early Vangelis works.

To summarize, if you are already into Magma, this is essential. If not, it's a good addition to a prog collection.

Report this review (#283446)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There may be multiple songs on here, but really there is only one for me.

And this main track may be the ultimate slow builder out there.

The first 9 minutes are slow, eerie, and unlike much of anything else I can think of (or course, that could describe much of Magma's canon!). Suffice it to say, few bands could get away with introducing so little new material yet still interest me. Perhaps it's the slight variations, such as the frequent tempo teases, or the unique combination of fuzz organ and bass rips underlying the soft "ooh-aahh" chants. Regardless, it's mesmerizing and unique.

Then, after a slightly pleasant break, we build, slowly but surely, into the phantasmagoric, chant-tastic finale. It never gets ahead of itself, yet somehow stays interesting, and then simply dies into slow bass drones.

There's really nothing like it. For that it gets major points. It's also deceptively simple, when I really think about it seriously, thus taking it out of masterpiece territory.

Regardless, it's a creative, unique, and enjoyable album, and I find it to be more consistent and restrained than much of Magma's other works. It's a very interesting side of the band, and I, like most proggers, am quite pleased they decided to show it!

Report this review (#283931)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
SaltyJon
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After a string of four very good/excellent albums, Magma released Köhntarkösz. The album is another good release, and for the most part sticks with the formula of the last two (aka, the majority of the album is one epic track). Unfortunately, things don't work out quite as well on this one for me as on the last two.

All of the same ingredients are here - the dark, brooding sound, the monstrous bass and drumming, and the chant-like vocals courtesy of Klaus and Stella. Something, though, just doesn't feel right on this...at least the studio version. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the other incredible epics the band has released, I don't know. The vocals on this album are more toned down and spaced out than on the last two - for some this is a blessing, for others, it's a curse. Me, I tend to enjoy the vocals on Magma albums very much. The music itself is still very good on the album. Where MDK was big and bombastic, Köhntarkösz is dark and brooding. Unlike the previous two albums, there are two companion pieces here - Ork Alarm and Coltrane Sündïa. Ork Alarm is a very interesting piece with Jannick on cello (and bass, maybe?), and it's another very dark piece of the album. Coltrane Sündïa, on the other hand, is a beautiful piano-driven tribute to (you guessed it) John Coltrane.

For fans of Magma (or Zeuhl in general) this is of course recommended. It isn't a great starting point for their music however, and it isn't as good as several other albums, so I feel like three stars is fair.

Report this review (#300373)
Posted Friday, September 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Magma, of course, is the French band who sing in their own made up language. Their songs are about a planet Kobaia and war between that planet and Earth. Egyptian history is involved somehow. Weird stuff but the fact you cannot understand any of it only makes the music more enjoyable. There are actually less vocals here than on most of the band's albums. Most of the vocals are of the "ohh" and "ahh" variety. Christian Vander is the drummer/composer/vocalist. His wife Stella sings. I hear more than one female voice here unless she's overdubbed and double-tracked. I think Klaus Blasquiz does the majority of male vocals, but I could be wrong.

The album is basically a 30-minute piece entitled "Kohntarkosz". It was split in two and two somewhat unrelated songs were put on the album. That 30 or so minutes deserves 5 stars alone. I think it's the greatest Magma epic, with "Theusz Hamtaahk" a close second. I don't like describing very long songs because they usually change so much. You can listen to the first part of "Kohntarkosz" here on PA, and I encourage those who have never heard this band before to do so. It's some of the best music this band has done. Having said that, I like Part 2 more.

Part 1 has a grandiose beginning. It settles down into a mellow groove for awhile. Slowly it builds and the tempo speeds up. It ends with female vocals and a lovely piano part. Part 2 starts with that piano part but without vocals and it is now played on a Fender Rhodes. The trademark distorted and chunky Zeuhl bass sound is more prominent on Part 2. There is maybe a bit more vocals than Part 1 and they are slightly crazier too. Over halfway thru the second part the music goes into a punk rock level of intensity. The vocals almost sound like scat singing here. It settles back down again.

Christian's drumming is excellent throughout the piece(there are no drums on the other two songs). The music almost revolves around what he is playing. Lots of piano and organ. There is guitar but it could easily be mistaken for Canterbury-style fuzz organ. One of my favourite parts on the album is the guitar "solo" on Part 2; it sounds like someone keeps hitting the 'pause' button while the guitarist plays. But he really is trying to sound like that on purpose! No riffs or traditional guitar solos here. The last song "Coltrane Sundia" is just piano and electric guitar. Nice but nothing special. "Ork Alarm" is more interesting. It's basically Jannick Top on cello and bass with clavinets going back and forth. Some chant- like vocals. A bit of guitar near the end. Strange sounds bouncing back and forth in the stereo spectrum ends it.

"Ork Alarm" is interesting because it predates the 'chamber-prog' of groups like Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. Magma was certainly an influence on both. Most CD versions have the "Kohntarkosz" epic together as one 30-minute piece as a bonus track. The version on Hhai/Live is good too and includes violin. One of the better Magma albums for sure. Only "Coltrane Sundia" and to a lesser extent "Ork Alarm" prevent me from giving this 5 stars. So 4 stars it is.

Report this review (#307134)
Posted Thursday, October 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is in my opinion the best magma album (and i trully love all their stuff), and one of my best music ever!!!The title track (30 minutes in 2 parts) starts in a very slow tempo, and is dark, mysterious, minimalistic, repetitive and oh!!!so powerfull!!! Slowly it goes faster and faster untill the volcanic last 4 minutes in an absolute ecstatic crescendo. Magma gives lessons of climactic contemporary writing in rock here. This was the first part of a trilogy that followed by KA(2004, in a more "possitive" atmoshere) and closes with Ementeet-re (2009) with elements similar to Kohntarkosz and sometimes more comlex. MAGMA will always rule!!!
Report this review (#339225)
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Magma are one of those bands where I like about half of what they do, and the other half is just OK. Kohntarkosz is an album that has been really hard for me to decide whether I like it or not. Everything that has defined Magma in the past is here, but I'm just not "getting it" this time 'round.

The 2 track title-suite is a big miss for me. I've acknowledged that a lot of the transitions between passages and the passages themselves are executed very professionally, and they sound perfect, and it's all wonderfully written, but the only part of this suite that I actually found to be interesting and able to stick with me is the bass groove at around 3 minutes into the first half of the epic "Kohntarkosz". That passage only lasts for about a minute, and enjoying 1 minute out of a 32 minute epic isn't a good sign for me. The rest of the epic, even the more energetic second half, is just so boring. Everything moves so slowly without creating any atmosphere or memorable motifs, or emotion even. I've never been a fan of the Magma operatic vocals, because they always sound unemotional and the vibrato sounds terrible, in my opinion. I just think other zeuhl bands do everything better than Magma, which is odd to say.

The last two tracks are still bland and boring tracks with no development. "Ork Alarm" is just a chuggy cello riff with caveman chanting, and "Coltrane S'ndia" is an uneventful and failed attempt at creating a beautiful and atmospheric piano-based track.

I want to like Magma, and I've always tried to like Magma, but most of their work is just boring. Definitely theatrical and dramatic, but it just isn't interesting. Great musicians, bizarre music with no emotion.

Report this review (#440796)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Kohntarkosz ? 1974 (3.4/5) 11 ? Best Song: Parts of the title track, if I was forced at gunpoint to choose. And gone once again are the overbearing yet flustering opera swells. Can't these French candied yams remain stable for one minute without jumping to whichever side is winning? I'm Steve Doosey with Fox News and we're detailing the progress made with WWK (World War Kobaia), and it seems to be that the Kommandoh is boarding one of Earth's arbiter jettison crew-ships, the project Gemini, named as such for holding our two interplanetary diplomatic ambassadors. After the initial volleys' shockwaves all but decimated Central America, the return assaults crippled the De Hunden wing patrol regiment. Here's Fox News, praying for a peaceful resolution to this massacre.

Meanwhile, in the tomb of Emehntett-Re, Indiana Jones, archaeologist extraordinaire, leads and expedition down to the depts. Of the tomb in hopes of uncovering secrets associated with his mystical rise to power and eventual demise. What did he achieve? We may never know. Yes, this is the fourth album from Magma so far, and I can say I'm still fairly impressed. I'd never have expected the group to have released this many albums that engage me so. As per the usual fare, there are distinct differences between Kohn and MDK. The former was a series of recessions and climaxes in the most Wagnerian and operatic, but Kohntarkosz is rather tame and quiescent in comparison. It's equal parts ambient, new age, and classic jazz fusion. Think Return to Forever a la Light as a feather, only utterly incomprehensible and devoid of clarity. The moods presented in the double-epic, mammoth title track, which is split into two parts encompassing more than half an hour in overall duration, are eerie, mysterious, explorative, and dust-covered. It's also rather dull. In all the thirty-one minutes only about five of them are hectic and explosive. The rest just sort of plods along, assuming you'll give a damn about what's (not) going on. I do somewhat, but it's a little too laid back for me this time.

Report this review (#443197)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Despite the auspicious beginning, I've always felt that this album was far more sedate almost soft jazz than any of the other Magma epics. As a listener, I've always found it much more difficult to stay tuned in, as if I have to consciously make an effort to stay focused on the music and musicianship here. After the opening three minutes, the pace is fairly plodding alternating with some quite delicate even alien-ethereal passages. Were I a true devoté of all things Kobaïa I might know and understand the story flow and thus appreciate the music for being the delivery mechanism for such, but I'm not. This is music. I don't know where or what "Köhntarkösz" is or why it would/could demand such prolonged stark and lumbering music.

1. "Köhntarkösz (Part One)" (15:24) aside from some occasional interesting keyboard work, the first ten minutes have very little to offer--there is even an unusually noticeable lack of vocals or vocal excitement until a little action in the eleventh and twelfth minutes. Less than what I've come to expect in the usually know-your-socks-off world of Zeuhl. (21/30)

2. "Ork Alarm" (5:29) opens sounding like an interlude or observed chase scene in a theatric stage production. Classical strings arrangement, clavinet, piccolo bass, and lone male vocal provide most of the delivery of this drawn out, monotonous song. (7.5/10)

3. "Köhntarkösz (Part Two)" (16:04) opens with some McCoy Tyner-sounding piano before quickly being handed off to electronic keys, cymbals, and single male voice. In the second minute a pleasant foundation of CHICK COREA's RETURN TO FOREVER-type music is established over within which bass, drums, and synths contribute their pensive and delicate flourishes and riffs. In the fifth minute drums and keys build in intesity before the lead saw-synth gives way to solo female soprano singing her wordless vocalise. At the very end of the sixth minute bass and Klaus serve notice to ramp things up so that by the middle of the seventh minute a quicker, more insistent (almost urgent) pace has been established. Canterbury-familiar sax-guitar (á la Phil Miller) enters to take on the lead, holding on to such for a few minutes as the urgency behind and beneath continue to build, first with increased volume from bass and drums, then with three-note wordless chant being picked up by male and then female choirs. At the end of the twelfth minute the guitar has settled into the background, the drums, bass, and choir driving the music into dangerous abandon--further evidenced by rogue voices sneaking off into tangential ejaculations. At the twelve minute mark full speed has been achieved, everything is cruising along, when Klaus enters to begin his operatic narration. Then he is joined by several other male voices adding their elements to the conversation all-the-while the female voices maintain their solid foundation in support of the "controlled mayhem" that is occurring around them. Early in the fifteenth minute everything comes very quickly to a derailment, layers being stripped away, volume being diminished, as choir of throat singing males frog-sing to the end. Now this is Zeuhl--at its best! (29/30)

4. "Coltrane Sunia" (4:14) basically a piano and electric guitar duet (with some background participation from voice). The song is most notable for opening with and being totally based upon a single chord familiar to us from the opening of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." (8.25/10)

Other than Side Two's wonderful epic, "Köhntarkösz (Part Two)," this is a disappointing album of rather benign, banal music.

3.5 stars; another interesting if not always exciting or engaging contribution to the history and development of Zeuhl.

Report this review (#459484)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Slow Burn Zeuhl

After the frantic intensity of MDK, Magma released Kohntarkosz. A much more deliberate album, the work is composed of a two part, 30 minute epic and two excellent short pieces. Dominating the album, the lengthy title track begins carefully and evolves slowly like burning embers consuming the last of the fuel from an earlier bonfire. All the classic elements of Zeuhl are still here, but the overall tone is darker, less busy, and more classical. Female vocals dominate, singing clearly more composed lines, and never really devolving into all out chaos. In fact, some sections are subtle and gentle, with clean piano and an open mix almost reminiscent of early Weather Report. Where the enormous chorus vocals dominated MDK, here voice simply play a role in the overall feel of Kohntarkosz (whose primary lead instrument is keys.) Large sections are completely instrumental, with churning drums and bass supporting electric piano and occasional vocal flourishes. By the end of the main suite, the energy builds to a tension and climax, but a sense of cohesion and organization remain. Unlike MDK, no where do I feel the music is going to completely fly into chaos.

Interestingly, the two short pieces are among my favorites in the Magma library. "Oak Alarm" is a dark fusion that evokes Univers Zero, with a rolling string a bass riff that makes me think of goblin soldiers on the march. While the vibe is amazing, the piece doesn't really go anywhere once it has established itself. This is not uncommon in Magma's music, and as this is a relatively short piece, I don't mind. The movement is in grand contrast to the title track, and the song serves it purpose well in the progress of the album. "Coltrane Sundia" is a more pleasant piano-fueled release for the record. Both the guitar swells here and some of the key work in part 1 of the epic point to the connection between Zeuhl and the classic prog artists. In addition, the more deliberate composition and chording make this piece seem more like a song than many of Magma's works.

This album takes more work to appreciate than MDK, and that's saying alot. It's more subtle, but I think it may actually have more to say artistically. Where MDK is a bombastic exposition in a new form of music, Kohntarkosz is more pure form of expression within that new realm. It may not be for everyone, and it may not even be truly essential listening because of its narrow appeal. But for those like me for whom the performances hit the mark, it still is truly a masterpiece. 5/5

Report this review (#480435)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I really should get more albums by Magma.

This LP was the second of the two Magma albums I found way back in the seventies (the other being "Üdü Ẁüdü"), and the better of the two.

The music is dark, and almost droning. But at the same time, there are elements of fusion that call up some of the best of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Compositionally, the four pieces are a bit repetitious, but Christian Vander's powerful and energetic drumming keeps the songs from becoming boring.

I wouldn't recommend Magma for the non-adventurous listeners out there, but if you want your music to send you on a journey, they are certainly something to try.

Report this review (#518750)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Occupying a compromise position between Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh and Wurdah Itah - it takes the full instrumentation of MDK and combines it with the stripped-down vocal performance of Wurdah Itah - Kohntarkosz does not quite have the apocalyptic majesty of the former or the stark ritualism of the latter. But it is still a strong Magma album with a great epic track that builds up to a ferocious climax, as well as a couple of shorter pieces - a peaceful John Coltrane tribute and Jannick Top's urgent and electrifying Ork Alarm. On the whole, if you're already hooked on Zeuhl you will doubtless want this album, and enough fusion returns to the formula that it might make an interesting entry point for those who are particularly keen on the wildest forms jazz-rock might take.
Report this review (#521825)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Magma does some hypnotic albums which draws the listener in like sugar to a bee.

This is the fourth album by Magma and the second really hardcore zeuhl album. The first one was the previous album Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh. And we are really talking hardcore zeuhl here. It starts out almost with a Tibetan munks drones and continues into a jazz, fusion, military tabook like music. Zeuhl in other words. But there is also a lot of chamber rock, also called RIO, here. A lot of rhythms and melody lines are active during the forty minutes of the original album I got. Things that really fascinates me and drags me in. Oh my, this is really progressive music in all it's glory !!

But where Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh was a bit more one dimentional, Köhntarkösz opens up into a lot more jazz than the above mentioned album. It still have this zeuhl kick and intensity. But it still allows air into the music. Hence, it shows a bit of a different side to Magma.

In short, this album really fascinates me. The music here is almost top rate. It is enthralling too. This for me is progressive rock and progressive music. Enough said.

4 stars

Report this review (#554628)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Kohntarkosz is almost doom metal. All the suite (that's divided in two parts due to vinyls) is a slow piece that is dominated by the Jannick Top's bass and the synthesizers.

The first part of the Kohntarkosz suite is something very dark. Many bands of the avant-garde rock movement from France and Belgium adopted the heaviness of this album (and obviously of all the Magma's discography) to make albums that sound like a desesperate serpent in a box.

I want everyone to listen the piano from the 6 minutes to forward. Tell me if there's another thing that can beat that enigmatic and dark sound! The choral voices whisper "üts, üts" for so much minutes, making this song very atmospheric and "quiet" (if you know what i mean). Incredibly amazing (10/10)

The second part of the Kohntarkosz suite is more rough, leaving the slow tempo to a more jazz-rock tempo. This part (around the 6:33 minutes) is one of my favourites parts of the album. The drums sound like an AK-47. How can humans make songs like this? (10/10)

The rest of the album is completed by Ork Alarm, that is like "chamber rock", in the vein of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd and Coltrane Sündia (this one being a homage to John Coltrane: Coltrane Rest In Peace -in kobaian-).

These two songs are not as good as the Kohntarkosz suite, but it's ok.

A classic record by the classic period of Magma.

Report this review (#807029)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Kohntarkosz" is the way I like my Magma served up; dark and uninviting with mournful choirs and soundscapes of irregularity laid on the cold slab. As we approach the altar, Magma draw us in with subterranean caverns of strings and keyboards. The subversive music is guaranteed to alienate many listeners and therein lies it's power. This may be one of the darker more intense albums from the Zeuhl oddballs, and it is a delight from beginning to end. As a followup to "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommando" it delivers on almost every level. The non-sensical alien Kobaian language is never underplayed, the music is brutally off the scale, and the choral voices resonate powerfully with textures of beauty that launch un- expectantly into a mouthful of screeches.

The epic title track is incredibly bleak and yet strangely uplifting in all its transfixing dissonance. This centrepiece to the album is nothing new to my ears as I have heard it many times on the "Live" album. It is missing the raw edges in the studio but still manages to captivate. The music undulates and twists with darkened tones emanating from full blown choirs and sound blasts that jolt the listener into submission under the spell. The relentless exploration of musical form is entrancing, and Magma realise that one becomes good at something by doing it over and over, not by thinking about it. Indeed, much of the music seems improvised as are the vocals but they are sung in sync so somebody must have sheet music to this strange cacophony of sound. The 2 part epic is an amazing tapestry of colour and form, of broad-brush organisational musicianship and the obsessive minutiae of lyrical interpretation. Christian Vander's visionary perception lands clean out of the box as always, and this is the most endearing aspect of the music.

The second track, 'Ork Alarm', is horrific with piercing violin serrations and manic guitar squeals over a staccato percussion. There is a counterpoint of monosyllabic vocal intonations that are oppressive and very unsettling. This is Magma, folks! The final piece 'Coltrane Sundia' has tinkling piano, and nuances of beauty to end the album on a more uplifting note. This brings the listener out of the oppressive atmosphere on a ray of hope; the tale of Kobaian folklore cemented by a convoluted plot. The chronicle tells of an ancient mystic Köhntarkösz', who enters the tomb of the Ancient sage Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, a master who attempted to find immortality but dies trying. While in the tomb Köhntarkösz is given a heavenly (Kobaian) vision showing him the revealed secrets of the master. None of these secrets are revealed to the average being but must be revealed within as enlightenment occurs. The chronicle would continue on albums to follow and would become more complex until the tale was discarded totally.

"Kohntarkosz" is a unique feat of imagination executed with prodigious artistry and virtuoso skill. The sheer exuberance in the music is a crucial factor that transcends mere understanding of the form; the surreal music speaks for itself and does not need to be interpreted literally. Magma always seems to prompt a re- evaluation of the meaning of music if it is meant to have any meaning at all. It is the emotional resonance that counts, as the music operates on a different level that defies the norm; a veritable stream of consciousness. The serpentine waves of musical patterns have an indigenous, almost primal quality of tribal culture that stirs the soul.

The mythology encased in the music is enigmatic, scattered in a myriad of directions and the listener can do the interpretation in their head. The music is sculpted in layers of polarised vocals that never make sense out of context but seem to make sense in the Magma realm while the album is playing. Magma overturns virtually every accepted notion of musical convention and presents an album of intense labyrinthine confusion. On subsequent listens the whole becomes an immersive experience that is easier to digest, but it takes superfluous patience as you wander down the isolated hallways of a subversive museum; a stark antithesis of the real, replaced by an outlandish mythological paradigm.

Report this review (#867374)
Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars I may bemoan, as may others, the fact that MAGMA didn't repeat a certain formula because we really loved an album, but one thing is for sure: this band really knows how to keep things innovative and interesting by adding just enough of what came before but still really throwing your expectations out the window. This is the case for KÖHNTARKÖSZ, the fifth studio album by zeuhl innovators and Kobaians fronted by none other than the star of the show Christian Vander.

Basically MAGMA takes the approach of "Ẁurdah Ïtah" and presents a more fluffy and friendly sound. While that album was a stripped down to a quartet, this one actually has seven musicians on board, yet it sounds more reserved. The album basically consists of two sprawling title tracks (Part 1 &2) plus two shorter tracks. This album is also technically the first of another trilogy which includes "K.A. (Köhntarkösz Anteria)" (2004), and "Ëmëhntëhtt-Rê "(2009). Whatever the theme may be is beyond me and like all MAGMA albums doesn't really matter.

This album has a slow repetitive feel to most of it. Once the teapot starts boiling it is quite exciting, but there is a lot of building up to get to these points and although Vander has had a long love affair with John Coltrane and cited him as one of his major influences, I had never really heard it in MAGMA music until the tribute called "Coltrane Sundia" on this album. Overall, another great album but I do like this one less than the previous ones.

Report this review (#1327399)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Progfan97402
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Finally got a copy of this LP, a used copy, so the review is going to be the old vinyl version. Kohntarkosz is the followup to the masterpiece that is Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. Here Christian Vander is joined with Stella Vander, Jannick Top, and Klaus Blazquiz from the previous lineup, and they brought in Welsh guitarist Brian Godding from Blossom Toes, as well as others. The album starts off with the first part of the title track, and you know right away it's not going to be in your face as its predecessor. It tends to go on the slow, dirge, plodding pace, but the vocals are easier to take in. It's a more minimalist piece to say the least. Had I made this my first Magma purchase years ago I would have likely sworn them off. Things really pick up with "Ork Alarm". A truly ominous piece with Jannick Top using cello. Part two of the title track picks up more, with a more fusion feel to it, dominated by electric piano. In fact this points more towards the fusion-oriented direction of their 1975 live album (which includes a live rendition of Kohntarkosz, both parts). The piece really picks up steam towards the end. Then there's the brief John Coltrane tribute, "Coltrane Sundia", which is rather calm and relaxed.

To me, it's doesn't quite hold up to the greatness of MDK, because it lacks the intensity of that album, but I still find it enjoyable despite the flaws.

Report this review (#1999225)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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