Review: Magma – Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (1973)

Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh is the third studio album by Magma, founded in 1969.

MDK is the album that finally gave Magma its own style. Magma’s first two albums were also unique releases, but looking back, they could be defined as ” only” jazz-rock. MDK, on the other hand, is impossible to fit into that, or indeed any other previously existing category. With MDK, the eccentric visionary, drummer Christian Vander, who for the first time composed all the music alone, created a whole new genre with his band. Later on, this style even got its own name and this zeuhl music (zeuhl = heavenly music) has numerous torchbearers all over the world, from Finland to Japan.

Christian Vander 1973.

But nothing comes out of nowhere, and of course this was not the case with Zeuhl. Christian Vander was still heavily influenced by the music of his greatest love, John Coltrane (Vander’s Coltrane worship sometimes feels almost obsessive), but also more and more by 20th century art music. In particular, Carl Orff’s (1885-1982) style of compositions using the chorus combined with a rich percussion arsenal, and his use of repetition in his music, for example in ”Carmina Burana” (1937), can be heard on MDK. Igor Stravinsky’s (1882-1971) heavily mechanical rhythmic, and orchestral ballet ”Les Noces” (1923), with its fierce, even violent-sounding choral singing, also seems an obvious model.

However, Vander hammered these influences into a whole new direction with his electric and extremely intense 12-piece rock band, and the result was something never heard before.

MDK’s music sounds primitive, stripped down and downright ritualistic. At the same time, however, it is quite complex, especially rhythmically, and at times it is downright orchestral with its wind arrangements. MDK is also music on a grand scale. It is a massive 38 minutes in length, although it is divided into 7 shorter sections. There is a brief pause between the third and fourth sections due to vinyl limitations, but otherwise it is a seamless and completely coherent progression of a continuous, quasi-symphonic whole.

The orchestral and grandiose atmosphere of the composition is further enhanced by the eight different vocalists singing on the album. Christian Vander himself plays an important role as vocalist on the album, as does the singer Stella Vander, who makes her first appearance on Magma (Stella and Christian were married at the time and although the marriage has since ended, the collaboration continues). The incomprehensible words uttered by the singers in Kobaian (Vander’s own ’language’) are like incantations or exorcisms. A sense of ominousness hovers over everything. Yet, at the same time, the atmosphere is also somehow spiritual. Perhaps MDK is a kind of cosmic gospel. Whether it spreads a message of good or evil remains an open question. 

Whereas rockers in the 70s, including heavy rock bands, usually dressed as colourful as peacocks, Magma preferred black.

The album features a huge variety of different vocalizations. Sometimes the vocalists sing together as a choir, sometimes as a solo, and the style of singing varies from operatic interpretation to growling and demonic screaming. Christian Vander himself is responsible for some of the album’s strangest vocal passages, where he sings in a very high register. And he does it with great control and skill. MDK’s vocals can be startling, if not frightening, to the sensitive listener on first listen. And it still sounds powerful to me after dozens of listens.

Another notable debut on the album, alongside Stella Vander, is bassist Jannick Top, whose aggressively growling and virtuosic bass playing takes Magma’s music to a new level. Top’s powerful bass playing, which insistently repeats complex phrases, became an important stylistic element not only for Magma’s future music, but also for the whole zeuhl style.

A&M released the album internationally, giving Magma even more attention outside France. For example. Bill Bruford encountered Magma’s music for the first time around this time and described the band as a force of nature.

With their third album, Magma finally reached their true potential. Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh is undoubtedly Magma’s most significant single album and also one of the most stunning and unique albums of the entire progressive rock genre.

Best songs: ’Hortz Fur Dëhn Štekëhn Ẁešt’, ’Kobaïa Iss Dëh Hündïn’, ’Da Zeuhl Ẁortz Mëkanïk’, ’Kreühn Köhrmahn Ïss Dëh Hündin’.

A&M julkaisi levyn kansainvälisesti minkä myötä Magma sai aiempaa enemmän huomiota myös Ranskan ulkopuolella. Mm. Bill Bruford kohtasi Magman musiikin ensimmäistä kertaa noihin aikoihin ja kuvaili yhtyettä suoranaiseksi luonnonvoimaksi.

Magma saavutti kolmannella albumilla vihdoin todellisen potentiaalinsa. Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh on eittämättä Magman merkittävin yksittäinen albumi ja samalla myös yksi koko progressiivisen rock -genren upeimmista ja ainutlaatuisimmista levyistä.

Parhaat biisit: ”Hortz Fur Dëhn Štekëhn Ẁešt”, ”Kobaïa Iss Dëh Hündïn”, ”Da Zeuhl Ẁortz Mëkanïk”, ”Kreühn Köhrmahn Ïss Dëh Hündin”

Rating: *****


Read also: Magma – Kãrtëhl (2022)



  1. ”Hortz Fur Dëhn Štekëhn Ẁešt” – 9:36
  2. ”Ïma Sürï Dondaï” – 4:30
  3. ”Kobaïa Iss Dëh Hündïn” – 3:34


  1. ”Da Zeuhl Ẁortz Mëkanïk” – 7:48
  2. ”Nëbëhr Gudahtt” – 6:02
  3. ”Mëkanïk Kömmandöh” – 4:10
  4. ”Kreühn Köhrmahn Ïss Dëh Hündin” – 3:13


Klaus Blasquiz: vocals, percussion Stella Vander: vocals Muriel Streisfield: vocals Evelyne Razymovski: vocals Michele Saulnier: vocals Doris Reinhardt: vocals René Garber: bass clarinet, vocals Teddy Lasry: brass, flute Jean-Luc Manderlier: piano, organ Claude Olmos: guitar Jannick Top: bass guitar Christian Vander: drums, vocals, organ, percussion

Production: Giorgio Gomelsky

Label: A&M

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