(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
One album can't even begin to tell the whole story with Magma, but if you need a good starting point, Magma-Live is most certainly a great one.
Featuring a lineup of twin keyboards (a delight for Fender Rhodes piano fans), angry insistent fuzz bass, Christian Vander's maniacal drumming, nearly hidden guitar, Didier Lockwood's soaring violin and male/female dual lead vocals, Magma takes it's enraptured audience on a wild ride through space, to that mythical world of Kobaia (for the complete Kobaia saga, consult the GEPR entry on Magma).
We open up with the relentless force of "Khontark" a 30 minute epic piece that never gets tedious, as it offers so much contrast between sections and lots of colorful contributions from everyone (love those spacey e-pianos and that cool fuzz-bass), and it fittingly ends with an explosive climax!! "Kobah" by stark contrast is a funky, joyous little number, imagine Herbie Hancock's Headhunters with male and female Klingon lead vocalists! "Lihns" (Kobaian for rain)is a haunting, gradually building piece with a vocal/rhythmic pattern that does indeed suggest a rainfall, Stella Vander's voice really gets highlighted to good effect here. "Hhai" is a marvel of layering and building from almost nothing, here is where vocalist Klaus Blasquiz takes the spotlight with his Klingon-like inflections and amazing range, the piece builds to a ferocious choral roar with C. Vander's insistent drumming underneath pushing it along. And we end with "Mekhanik Zain", an 18 minute rollercoaster ride starting with spacey keyboards and percussion supporting the meanest, nastiest, ugliest fuzz-bass solo you ever heard in your life (by Bernard Paganotti). From there, C. Vander comes in with a relentlessly fast and complex drum pattern that he keeps up for nearly the whole piece, it's a wonder his hands didn't fall off! From that point, the piece begins a trance like build with Didier Lockwood soaring over the top! Then the transition to a funky groove section where the singers come in and just amaze us with their tightness and range, it blows my head how they were able to stay together singing such intricate and speedy material like this! And the band's trademark building to a ferocious explosive end is in full view here, and the audience roars with amazement and delight.
This again is a great starting point for anyone who is curious about Magma, but may be put off by the dark murky intensity of the earlier albums at first, or the Kobaian* singing (some describe it as being like Klingon Opera). Here, the playing side of Magma is more at the forefront. Get ready to blast off on a wild musical ride!!
*Kobaian: The band's invented language, which is an amalgamation of Dutch, Hungarian, French, scat singing and blues shouting