Magma is a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically-trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him. In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans — descendants of the original colonists — encounter other Earth refugees. A remarkable aspect of Magma's albums is that Vander actually invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. Later albums told different stories set in more ancient times; however the Kobaïan language remained an integral part of the music.
Considered by many to be musically adventurous and imaginative, Magma makes extensive use of the choral format, their album Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh being particularly reminiscent of the classical composer Carl Orff, while Ẁurdah Ïtah reveals connections to Béla Bartók's piano music and "Les Noces" by the Russian master Igor Stravinsky. Work by Magma is also highly influenced by jazz saxophone player John Coltrane.
So many musicians played with Magma over the years, who then went on to form their own solo projects and/or spinoff acts, that the Kobaian term Zeuhl came to refer to the style of these bands and the French jazz fusion/symphonic rock scene that grew around them. Beyond Christian Vander, the drummer/composer, the best known of the old Magma lineup was probably Jannick Top, the bassist/co-composer.
While Magma's recordings remain relatively hard to find, Christian Vander and Jannick Top together keep Magma's back catalog in print on CD.
The K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria) and Köhntarkösz albums are respectively the first and second parts of a second trilogy. Although never surfaced in full, at least parts of the missing movement Emëhntëht-Rê have been recorded, two snippets appearing as a bonus tracks on the Seventh Records CD reissues of Live/Hhaï and Üdü Wüdü. Emëhntëht-Rê is currently being completed by the band and is expected to be their next album, for release in 2008.
The Unnamables was recorded as Univeria Zekt and is widely considered to be an easier listen than most of Magma's recordings.
Ẁurdah Ïtah may technically be a Christian Vander solo project, in that it was composed entirely by him, bore his name during its original release as the soundtrack for the film Tristan et Iseult, and did not feature all of Magma's then-current musicians. It did bear the Magma logo, however, and Vander has referenced it as a Magma album.
After Hhaï, the focus shifted away from the spiritual/epic poem aspects of their music. While Attahk and Üdü Wüdü do have some songs written in Kobaian, it was never revealed how these fit into the earlier story structure Magma had built.
Les Voix and Floë Ëssi/Ëktah were performed by Vander with a completely new lineup. The style was somewhere between the classic Magma sound and the more jazz-influenced music of Vander's post-Magma band, Offering.
Simples consists of several earlier Magma prog-rock epics edited down to a length that the band had originally hoped would garner them radio airtime during the 1970s.
In November 2004 Kohntarkosz Anteria or K.A. was released on Seventh Records, the first recording of a lengthy work written 30 years before, bridging the gap in the Kobaian saga between MDK and Kohntarkosz. Magma's lineup was different for this disc; the only original members were Christian and Stella Vander. Reviews were almost unanimously positive, many considering K.A. the equal of any of the '70s classics.
Prolific drummer Zach Hill (best known for his work in Hella) stated in the August 2006 issue of Modern Drummer magazine that Christian Vander is his favorite drummer of all time. Punk rock singer John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd.) stated that he loved Magma.
Antoine de Caunes wrote a biography of the band.