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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaïan, the language written by Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the French band Magma.

Pronunciation: zEU(h)l, while the EU are like a French E with a slight U, and the (h) is a semi-silent letter which is an integrated part of the EU, totaling in a "syllable and a half".

The word means celestial, although many times it is misunderstood as meaning "celestial music", since the members of Magma describe the genre of their music as Zeuhl. Zeuhl Wortz, though, means Music of the universal might.


The genre is a mixture of musical genres like Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Modernism and Fusion. Common elements: oppressive or discipline-conveying feel, marching themes, throbbing bass, an ethereal piano or Rhodes piano, and brass instruments.

Current team members (1/3/2020):
Luca (octopus-4)
Ian (Nogbad_The_Bad)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)

Zeuhl Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Zeuhl | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.28 | 1104 ratings
MEKANÏK DESTRUKTÏW KOMMANDÖH
Magma
4.36 | 261 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.26 | 742 ratings
K.A (KÖHNTARKÖSZ ANTERIA)
Magma
4.23 | 549 ratings
ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ
Magma
4.24 | 499 ratings
EROS
Dün
4.25 | 188 ratings
MATHEMATICAL MOTHER
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.15 | 528 ratings
KÖHNTARKÖSZ
Magma
4.17 | 365 ratings
CHRISTIAN VANDER: TRISTAN ET ISEULT [AKA: ẀURDAH ÏTAH] (OST)
Magma
4.19 | 232 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.12 | 472 ratings
1001° CENTIGRADES [AKA: 2]
Magma
4.30 | 91 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RÊVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.09 | 412 ratings
FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ
Magma
4.13 | 155 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.03 | 522 ratings
MAGMA [AKA: KOBAÏA]
Magma
4.31 | 63 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.12 | 154 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.08 | 138 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.10 | 122 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.59 | 28 ratings
200 000
Zwoyld
4.17 | 73 ratings
BUDO
Vak

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Zeuhl experts team

MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RÊVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
AMYGDALA
Amygdala
TOSCCO
Happy Family
HUNDRED SIGHTS OF KOENJI
Koenji Hyakkei

Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Rituale Alieno by UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.10 | 122 ratings

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Rituale Alieno
Universal Totem Orchestra Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars I've listened to the the Universal Totem Orchestra albums backwards strangely. Backwards in date order that is, not everything in reverse...

Pane Astrale is a beautiful operatic piece, a fairly standard classical track rather than anything particularly zeuhl like, but lovely nonetheless. Calm piano throughout, opera vocals bridged by a cello solo. A nice appetiser for the album.

Saturno starts with a sudden gera change, straight into a 'typical' Zeuhl minor key bassline and rollicking drums. 90 seconds of this though before it breaks into a church organ solo believe it or not... A rapid journey through genres as another 90 seconds later a saxophone breaks in and the bass and drums return, leading to a jazz fusion style jam with a Zeuhl feel... might be what music would be like if Canterbury was on Kobaia? A soaring electric guitar jam adds to this particular passage too. This stops abruptly six minutes in with some Gregorian chanting before another Zeuhl style passage, with a few changes of time signature for good measure, ticking a few prog boxes! The soaring electric guitar returns as well, mixed in with some keys. Roughly on the half way mark it breaks into a dystopian march, very reminiscent of MDK, only with some electronic sounds - alien invasion in progress. Following that a fairly rocky sounding passage, and because of this the operatic style becomes a bit of a metal cliche - group of male vocalists plus a soprano. After a lot of this it builds to a crescendo, and then bizarrely despite all the changes its able to make, it's unable to find a way to end the track and just fades out!!

Il Viaggio di Elric makes use of a lot of percussion to begin with, under another great guitar riff but then suddenly breaks into a very avant-garde slow section with slightly 'out of tune' opera vocals and gongs before the original melody returns with another swirly guitar riff. Five minutes in, enter the cello, and the keys and vocals help to create an almost Tudor sounding section, a piece from a masked ball. The male harmony choir from this section continues as we revert back to a jazzy style which is reminiscent of early Magma albums, complete with head-bopping bass and strong drumming. Piano and more electric guitar take over from the vocals and the track becomes more like standard rock. Its switching genres a lot, but in a good way rather than just being a tick-box exercise for a long track 'medley'. You get the impression this might fade out like the previous track but it actually suddenly becomes another dystopian march for a couple of minutes, really heavy percussion and electronics. I didn't actually like the 'Tudor' middle section but otherwise this is a great track.

Ipernature del Tempo starts off as what I think some places would call "World Music" which is the lazy way of saying anything not sounding western. The percussion used is a Tabla, with the overriding theme therefore of the Indian subcontinent, although I think you'd be forgiven for hearing something of Sub-Saharan Africa in there too. After 90 seconds its classic jazz piano, but with a bass guitar and vocals that still keep you thinking of Zeuhl. We're then treated to another great guitar riff, although I'm not a fan of the keys under it, before a pause and another jazzy Zeuhl passage which builds from a great bass solo and classic vocals.

Antichi Occhi Ciechi starts with an industrial sounding blend of electronic noise followed by monotone chanting and then Fraile's soprano. This develops into early Magma on the 3 minute mark and switches back and forth between this and fairly classic jazz. Towards the end though it breaks into a bit of space rock, just for something different! The final track again, is quite like early magma.

All in all, a good album although I'd rate this one as a high 3 stars rather than a low 4 of their later two.

 C'étaient de très grands vents by SHUB-NIGGURATH album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.88 | 41 ratings

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C'étaient de très grands vents
Shub-Niggurath Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars I don't think I'll ever fully get into Shub, but I can still appreciate what they manage to achieve. This album is dark, evil, ambient and concrete all rolled together.

Glaciations - 5 minutes of ambient dark sound before major drumming chaos and screeching strings before the bell tolls over a guitar tuning

Ocean - Lead by the trombone, dark and foreboding from the start, evoking imagery of a ghost ship floating in dark and still waters. Guitar slowly builds up, based on a single chord, with a sense that something dramatic is about to happen as it picks up pace and the trombone gets louder. Giant squid attack!! A battle ensues, signified by the drums and guitar crescendo. The ship is destroyed. Fade to black.

Promethee - Sylvette Claudet sings opera-style over dissonant percussive noise, consistently and deliberately ever so slightly out of tune to put you on edge.

D'un seul et même souffle - Not called 'The Seal and the Souffle'. Graveyard music. The Trombone from Hell. Again, ambient and evil.

La nef des fous - Just a bit of chaos

Contrincante - Sinister trombone and bass and irregular guitar plinking.

C'étaient de très grands vents - Starts off ambient and percussive for a couple of minutes before some nice drum rolls which sets a background for more dissonant and grating trombone and guitars

I'd pick out the first two tracks as good examples , but I could never say its anything other than 'fans only'

 Offering Part III / Part IV by OFFERING album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.81 | 27 ratings

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Offering Part III / Part IV
Offering Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars Christian Vander's more jazz-oriented Coltrane tribute side project came back with a second album, built around a 44 minute journey which is made god by Emmanuel Borghi's piano work and the vocals of Mr & Mrs Vander. Another Day is pretty catchy from the start, with light and fast paced jazz stylings and a back and forth vocal from the Vanders, and for the most part is entertaining throughout its length. The vocals switch almost seamlessly between English and 'lyric free'. There's very little break from the call and response style in the first passage which slowly rises in intensity until the 13 minute mark where everything is stripped back to Vander's wide range of scatty melodies and some light piano and drums for 5 minutes or so. 20 minutes in we get some chaotic jazz, with the piano just getting mashed with ham fists and Animal from the Muppets on drums. This is the part of jazz I don't like... That's a few minutes before we're back into the previous calm style briefly before returning to the chaos and noodling. Some of the noodling is tuneful but its no where near as fun as the first 20 minutes of the track. In honesty, they probably could have cut the track in half.

The footnotes are then the confusingly titled Offering Part 2 which is a short track featuring a triumphant piano jingle and Stella Vander's almost yodelling vocals, and Ehn Deiss, which is very melodic on piano again, and this time with Christian Vander on the main vocals. Its quite a mysterious sounding track, particularly when Stella and Isabelle Feullebois' backing vocals and Khalifa's flute is introduced. If anything I actually enjoy this 5 minute track more than the 45 minute one!

 Stonehenge by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.57 | 19 ratings

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Stonehenge
Ruins Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars So far I've reviewed Ruins' three shorter early EPs. Well here goes... a full hour of their brutality.

The first ten seconds are a good enough idea of what you're in for with thrashing drums and shrieking to the max! But if you can look past it you can see some good musicianship - the guitar work Big Head around 3 minutes in for example (just before more shrieking). Many tracks follow the mix of interesting technical passages and outright brutal thrashing and pained vocals.

At times the heavy distorted bass gives you that funny feeling... you know the one. I think. Kibbutz is a good example! And there's also some fairly punk rock elements to some of the tracks. For me Fallout is one of the better tracks on the album for this reason.

After 16 minutes of the thrashy tracks, October is a sudden gear change, with a slow and sludgy bassline, almost quite MDK-like. It picks up the pace fairly quickly though, with some excellent drumming, but still a style of vocals reminiscent of Magma. A very good track with a mix of a lot of their styles, but mainly for the drumming, which continues brilliantly on the next track Hexagon as well.

Holebones is also quite a punk style track. It would be drastically overdoing it to call it melodic, but there is something to it that's not just the thrashing of previous tracks!

For Hail, we're back to that incredibly heavy bassline. And on the steamed copy of the album I had access to, also a much clearer sound. Unlike other tracks where the drumming is the highlight, this is all about the bass rhythm. Definitely one to check out. Seems to be a one off though, with the title track and Thebbes then returning to the mix of thrash and sludge.

From here, the final run of tracks also appear on the third Ruins EP which I've previously reviewed, albeit with a different bassist. B.U.G. is a very interesting track in its absolute simplicity for most of it - a single bass note and drum hit and a slightly changing tempo - and some stop-start faster paced elements as well. On Ripples, which was one of my favourites on the EP, we get the addition of a violin, which certainly adds a new dimension to the track and I think makes it one of the best on this album too.

Somewhere around 2.5 stars for me, some good examples of the less accessible side of a genre - but hard to say it would appeal to anyone other than fans!

 Fulmines Regularis by MUSIQUE NOISE album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.62 | 14 ratings

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Fulmines Regularis
Musique Noise Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars Part of a slightly new brand of Zeuhl focusing on the lighter and jazzier style, importantly incorporating the scatty operatic vocal style. Similar in style to Eskaton too who I would slightly controversially put ahead of Magma in terms of creating albums I'd listen to on repeat. That's on show in the first couple of tracks - one fast and light, the other slower and calmer, both full of jazz tropes and zeuhl vocalisations. Not such a fan of the very 80s synth work at the back end of track 2 though. That leads into a short track sung in French, with lots of electronic distortions which is a bit... meh. And it gets worse with some B-Horror cackling to start track 4. This is a really stop-start track which fails to flow at all through some attempts to sound a bit spooky. They were better off keeping it light like the first track. The next one L'étroit huit does a better job, and they really should have made more use of the saxophone that's on show at times here, rather than the synths. Ends well though.

Of the four additional tracks on the CD (and via streaming) Vision Intempestive is pretty funky with a great deep bass line, but that's all I'd listen to again. Ecco is pretty jarring and the vocals aren't great. Ragnarok descends into a chaos of percussion after a few minutes before some more 80s electronic synth. Villiers is too much like a sitcom soundtrack at times and then again gets too synthy.

It then ends with the very strange Pzkr! with massively sped up sections and oddly distorted vocals.

Massive frustration this album - the first track promisted a lot, but it just keeps on going downhill in my view.

 Eskähl 2020 (Bordeaux-Toulouse-Perpignan) by MAGMA album cover Live, 2021
3.76 | 9 ratings

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Eskähl 2020 (Bordeaux-Toulouse-Perpignan)
Magma Zeuhl

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars One would be hard-pressed to find another band pursuing a musical path as lonely as Magma, but for more than 50 years that is exactly what they have been doing. Formed by Christian Vander in 1969, there have been comings and goings over the years, but he is still very much at the helm. From the beginning Vander created a language he called Kobaïan and most of their material is sung in that, while the music they have developed has its own styling, Zeuhl, which according to Vander means celestial. A few other bands have followed in their footprints and have also played Zeuhl, while Vander says this is what "you'd expect an alien rock opera to sound like: massed, chanted choral motifs, martial, repetitive percussion, sudden bursts of explosive improv and just as unexpected lapses into eerie, minimalist trance- rock."

There is no doubt that the band are an acquired taste, as it is quite strange, and with a large series of both studio and live albums over the last 50+ years (they did disband for 12 years at one point), it can be hard to know where to start. Personally, I must say that this is a musical area I have not explored, and this is the first Magma album I have actually played, but having done so a few times now, I can certainly see why they are a band who are either loved or hated. There is no middle ground here, as either you will understand the complexity and experimentation which is bringing together so many different styles, or you will hate it as there is nothing here in terms of normal time signatures or song structures.

This double CD set does include one song which is only five minutes long, but they average above 10, while the closing number of disc one is "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh (Fragment)" which is above 20. That is of course from the 1973 album of the same name, the one which has gained the most critical acclaim throughout their career (even though their original recording was rejected by their label at the time). This is not something to be played in the background, as this demands close attention. As an introduction to their work this is a great place to start, so don't be frightened of their back catalogue but instead dive straight into the live set taken from concerts they managed to undertake in 2020 before touring was stopped.

 Memorial by PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1989
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Memorial
Paganotti/Paga Group Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

— First review of this album —
2 stars Bernard Paganotti took a punt on releasing a single from the 'Haunted' album - perhaps showing that like a lot of music tenuously linked to prog, it leaned a lot more towards the commercial side of the late 80s. Memorial and Rainy Days Lonely Nights feature on this single in exactly the same way as on the album.

In releasing Memorial as a single, my assumption is that they were attempting to ride on the coat tails of the burgeoning gothic movement. Think "Bela Lugosi's Dead". There's something about it that's too cheesy though. Most likely the irritating backing vocal rhythm (Shiggy-Diggy-Da?).

Rainy Days Lonely Nights is a slow instrumental. Nothing special or memorable.

 Prototype by SEFFER, YOCHK'O album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.59 | 4 ratings

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Prototype
Yochk'o Seffer Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars Yochk'o Seffer's Zeuhl links are very much gone here. its a much more 'standard' jazz trio of Sax, Bass and drums, jamming their way through a whole hour of meandering free jazz. Mostly. Occasionally a violin makes an appearance for a bit of variety, otherwise for me its the style of jazz I find a bit boring, where it's totally unstructured and doesn't lead anywhere. There's absolutely no doubting Seffer is a talented saxophonist, but this is an album for collectors purely interested in brilliant saxophony. Best track for me, which has that variety of violin and the best interplay between sax, drums and bass, is the penultimate one, Ritual Performance.
 Mekanïk Kommandöh by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.69 | 141 ratings

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Mekanïk Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

4 stars Magma lay dormant for a few years after their hit and miss albums of the early 80s before popping back up with a version of the classic that put them on the map.

This isn't the "proper" Mekanïk Destruktiw Kommandöh, nor is it the same as the live versions, nor is it the bonus track found on some MDK re-releases. It is however the original recording, with a smaller ensemble, that was rejected by the record company at the time in favour of the grander version split into smaller tracks, finally released 16 years later. Magma being confusing as always.

It's therefore stripped back a bit, with the drumming even more to the fore, and missing some key personnel, notably Teddy Lasry's brass instruments, Jannick Top on bass and Claude Olmos on guitar. It does feature though a chilling introductory speech from Christian Vander, in Kobaian.

Actually can't decide whether or not I prefer this version to the more bombastic MDK. It would probably be blasphemous.

 Haunted by PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP album cover Studio Album, 1988
2.71 | 12 ratings

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Haunted
Paganotti/Paga Group Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars Bernard Paganotti recruiting the voice of Zeuhl Klaus Blasquiz. Should be a recipe for brilliance, especially after the debut Paga album which I almost gave 5 stars.

It starts off well, with a funky jazzy and ominous sounding bass line. The vocals though are far more catchy 80s chorus line than Magma's MDK and takes a very cheesy slant (round and round and round you go....). After the frustration of that title track, the instrumental In A Spiral is a decent number - far more jazz fusion than actual Zeuhl but definitely catchy.

Sadly the rest of the tracks don't really improve on the cheesy theme of the first, and mostly just leads to a frustrating listen, thinking about what could have been. Memorial and King For a Day are just cheesy 80s tracks, and the album then fizzles out with a couple of short, calm instrumentals.

Real shame.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAÏS France
AMYGDALA Japan
ANAID France
ARCHAIA France
ARKHAM Belgium
BONDAGE FRUIT Japan
SERGE BRINGOLF France
CAILLOU France
CORIMA United States
DAI KAHT Finland
DAIMONJI Japan
DÜN France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ELEPHANT TOK France
ESKATON France
ÉVOHÉ France
FOEHN France
FRACTALE France
GA'AN United States
HAPPY FAMILY Japan
HIATUS France
HONEYELK France
IKARUS Switzerland
KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) Japan
KOENJI HYAKKEI Japan
LAGGER BLUES MACHINE Belgium
LAKTATING YAK United States
JAMES MAC GAW France
MAGISTER DIXIT France
MAGMA France
MUSIQUE NOISE France
NEOM France
NEW PLEASURE Canada
NOA France
OFFERING France
RYOKO ONO Japan
ORVALIANS France
PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PSEU France
RHÙN France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
RYORCHESTRA Japan
SC'ÖÖF Switzerland
SCHERZOO France
YOCHK'O SEFFER France
SEKKUTSU JEAN Japan
SETNA France
KENTA SHIMAKAWA United States
SHUB-NIGGURATH France
STALINGRAD 119 France
SUPER FREEGO France
SYNCOPATED SILENCE Russia
LAURENT THIBAULT France
FRANÇOIS THOLLOT France
JANNICK TOP France
UNIT WAIL France
UNIVERIA ZEKT France
UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Italy
UPPSALA France
UTOPIC SPORADIC ORCHESTRA France
VAK France
CHRISTIAN VANDER France
VAULTS OF ZIN United States
VAZYTOUILLE France
WEIDORJE France
XALPH France
XING SA France
ZAO France
ZIG ZAG France
ZOIKHEM France
ZWOYLD France

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