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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaan, 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 | 1116 ratings
MEKANK DESTRUKTW KOMMANDH
Magma
4.36 | 269 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.26 | 743 ratings
K.A (KHNTARKSZ ANTERIA)
Magma
4.24 | 503 ratings
EROS
Dn
4.23 | 552 ratings
MHNTHTT-R
Magma
4.26 | 189 ratings
MATHEMATICAL MOTHER
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.15 | 531 ratings
KHNTARKSZ
Magma
4.17 | 368 ratings
CHRISTIAN VANDER: TRISTAN ET ISEULT [AKA: ẀURDAH TAH] (OST)
Magma
4.19 | 234 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.12 | 478 ratings
1001 CENTIGRADES [AKA: 2]
Magma
4.30 | 91 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.09 | 414 ratings
FLICIT THSZ
Magma
4.13 | 155 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.31 | 64 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.03 | 527 ratings
MAGMA [AKA: KOBAA]
Magma
4.08 | 154 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.08 | 139 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.09 | 125 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.59 | 28 ratings
200 000
Zwoyld
4.16 | 75 ratings
BUDO
Vak

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

HUNDRED SIGHTS OF KOENJI
Koenji Hyakkei
TRIMEGISTO
Runaway Totem
C'TAIENT DE TRS GRANDS VENTS
Shub-Niggurath
TOSCCO
Happy Family

Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Dai Kaht II by DAI KAHT album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.89 | 35 ratings

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Dai Kaht II
Dai Kaht Zeuhl

Review by TheEliteExtremophile

4 stars In my initial review of this album, I unfairly maligned it as simply a more guitar-centric Attahk. But that mischaracterization is part of the risk of writing a review after only a listen-and-a-half. There are plenty of blatantly Magma-ish moments (rapidfire Kobaian-inspired gibberish, scatting over jazzy background), but those are some of the record's weakest elements. Dai Kaht thrives when they put forward a sound that is their own. Jazz, metal, blues, and even Southern rock flavors are obvious in the guitar lines, and the songs twist in strange ways. The two tracks which top 10 minutes are especially praiseworthy for their cohesion and dramatic builds. In particular, "Mōa Orgata" is one of 2020's best individual songs.

Review originally posted here: //theeliteextremophile.com/2021/01/14/top-50-prog-albums-of-2020-part-2-25-1/

 Zss - Le Jour Du Nant by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.71 | 163 ratings

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Zss - Le Jour Du Nant
Magma Zeuhl

Review by TheEliteExtremophile

3 stars Magma are the founders of the zeuhl genre. Over the span of their 50-year career, they've been remarkably consistent in both their strange character and high quality of output. Strongly rooted in jazz and heavy on hypnotic jamming, their studio recordings were often taken to new heights in live settings, such as the version of "Khntarksz" on their album Live/Hha. Live performances have also seen epics be debuted and developed before reaching a studio album. Their 2009 album mhnttt-R began life in the 1970s at live shows, and "?lag Tanz" was debuted live several years before it was recorded. "Theusz Hamtaahk" as yet remains unrecorded in the studio. Zss similarly began as a live-only epic in the '70s.

"Zss" struck me as an odd choice for Magma to record. The live recordings I'd heard came off as long-winded, meandering, and repetitious, and this was a critique I'd seen elsewhere online. I think the band may have been aware of this criticism, so they enlisted the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to add some texture and dynamism. Distinct to Zss, band founder Christian Vander takes lead vocals over the span of the entire album. There are the usual female vocals in the background, but Vander remains at the forefront. He also does not play drums here, another first for the band.

The 37 minutes of Zss are presented as one huge song, though there are seven distinct movements therein. It's also a big improvement over the archival live versions I'd heard. Magma have never been a particularly guitar-forward band, but the guitar is nearly muted on this album. Piano and the orchestra take center stage beneath Vander's vocals. Hearing just how naturally strings fit in with Magma's sound, I'm shocked the band had never attempted such an integration before.

Vocals on Zss are presented both in French and Kobaan, Christian Vander's invented language which has featured on every one of the band's albums (except Merci, but there's a reason no one talks about that album). The music flows smoothly over the course of the album. The orchestra lends a certain fluidity, and the jazzy percussion, while not Vander's, is befitting of the band.

As big of an improvement over the early recordings of this song as it may be, "Zss" does still retain some weaknesses. It isn't able to fully escape all the tedium of those old recordings. Certain points on this massive epic begin to feel superfluous or needlessly extended. The barely-noticeable guitar hampered the band's ability to put some oomph behind the moments that were meant to be menacing. The orchestra certainly could add a creepy, spooky vibe, but a splash of something distorted may have helped drive the point home.

Zss ties up some of the loose ends in the Kobaa storyline that's run through band's music since their 1969 debut. (Or so I've been told. I'm not exactly fluent in Kobaan.) I'd consider this to be Magma's second-weakest album, but their discography has been so incredibly strong (aside from the aforementioned Merci) that it's still good. There are some moments of monotony, and the lush strings may reduce some impact, but Christian Vander has demonstrated that he's still able to conjure up something weird and interesting half a century after his band debuted.

Review originally posted here: theeliteextremophile.com/2019/08/19/album-review-magma-zess/

 Budo by VAK album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.16 | 75 ratings

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Budo
Vak Zeuhl

Review by TheEliteExtremophile

4 stars Budo is a lot to swallow. It's 59 minutes of music spread out over three songs, 51 of which comprise the first two. The title track leads off the album, beginning with an immediate, bouncy, jazzy bassline before quickly adding layers of synthesizer and electric piano. The vocals enter around the two-minute mark and are yet another trademark of the genre: operatic, dramatic, and ritualistic. As far as I can tell, the vocalist doesn't sing in French, but it's unclear if it's just scat-style organized gibberish or if the band has some sort of Kobaan-style art language.

The intensity of "Budo" does ebb eventually, turning into a more meditative piece of gradually-building tension. The song then slides into a chaotic series of solos, trading off between guitar, electric piano, and some rather Van der Graaf Generator-inspired saxophone. As the solos end, the song drifts to a spacier place, with the keys lending an expansive atmosphere. As the song nears its end, intensity builds briefly, only to dissipate once more.

"Hquark", the second song on the album, is a little less immediately inviting. It quickly dives into strange chords and warbling, high-pitched synth lines. Before long, the song is lurching into a flurry of jazzy piano and pounding drums. However, this musical storm eventually breaks onto gentler shores. As happens multiple times in these suites, the song builds to big, irregular riffs before crashing back to earth and repeating the cycle. This is not repetitious music, but there is definitely a pattern to VAK's songwriting. "Hquark" ultimately builds to a more satisfying climax than "Budo", but the path to get there is a bit bumpier.

The closing "Au Fond des Creuses" is a relatively brief eight minutes long, but it's a nice encapsulation of the band's sound. A flautist is enlisted to play on this slow burn of a track, as the music gradually escalates from gentle murmurs to something which wouldn't sound terribly out of place on an early King Crimson record.

This review does drop a lot of old bands' names, but that's meant more as a framing device than a direct comparison. VAK sound modern, but their influences are not difficult to suss out.

Review originally posted here: theeliteextremophile.com/2019/01/10/album-review-vak-budo/

 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.36 | 269 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by Antonio Giacomin

5 stars Well, progressive subgenre Zeuhl is a kind of, how could I say, WEIRD. It is not my favorite subgenre, but I knew I should try it. This was exactly what I did, in the same way I did and commented in a review of Obscura, from the band Gorgut poste even today here.

Will I visit this album frequently? In the same way of Obscura, the answer is NO. Does it prevents me from considering it a masterpiece of progressive music? Definitely NO.

Musicianship here is very strong, and the vocals are in French. This is very good when you are normally used with English or Italian/German; it adds variety to your musical diet. As long as it is less visited and explored subgenre, it deserves your try. Repeating Mr. Chamberry in his review from January 2007, it is one of the easiest album to start exploring zeuhl.

A final recommendation is to consider that Magma is the zeuhl monster. If you do not deals frequently with it, probably you limit yourself to Magma. Do not go this way, give also Eskaton a try, and 4 Visions is a recommended masterpiece of progressive music

 A Fh by OFFERING album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.78 | 23 ratings

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A Fh
Offering Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars The third and final Offering album, with Christian Vander again exploring life outside Zeuhl and Kobaia (mostly). Not as Coltrane-heavy as the previous two albums but still a decent part of Vander's wider discography.

It starts on a bum note though, with the first track taking the title literally, a cathedral organ solo. Meh.

Cosmos starts with dark piano chords before becoming more ethereal thanks to the dual female vocalisations. Its not a dynamic track on its own but is a pre-cursor to title track Affieh which starts with similar vocals but a faster paced piano and cymbals. Interplay between these vocals and Christian Vander's early Zeuhl style 'lyrics' is excellent, with the track building in intensity with a range of percussion too. Some lyrics also in English ('Just for you'). After the intensity of percussion and piano peaks after 6 minutes it settles back down to the original cymbal roll and light piano chords, building again with even more dynamic vocal interplay. Probably the best track on the album (and the 2nd longest at over 10 minutes).

The next section begins with deep male vocals from Vander and a handful of guests, with the women joining in for a full choir after a minute and a half. As the title would suggest, the accompanying piano is very march-like, but unlike peak Magma this isn't quite the dystopian military march and is a lot more upbeat.

Magnifi is a mysterious sounding monologue accompanied by alternating piano chords and string effects, a strange interlude. The prelude to Purificatem is the most jazzy track, mainly due to the freeplay saxophone and piano, starting slow and lazy but building quickly into fast tempo free jazz after half the track with the addition of drums.

Vander's piece de resistance is the 26 minute Purificatem, which can be broken down into several phases. It begins like a classic early Magma jazzy Kobaian track, with Vander's vocals alongside jazzy sax, glockenspiel and drums, with just a hint of foreboding thanks to the rolling piano chords. After 4 minutes or so, Vander's smooth vocals become more abstract and scatty, with the instruments following suit, becoming more chaotic as his 'manic' vocalisations build in intensity. This continues to a crescendo and at half way the vocals give way to a 3 minute jazzy instrumental which peaks and troughs between minimal and intense. Vander then returns and the track gets even more intense, with him and the saxophone practically screaming at each other before everything slows to a break on 17 minutes, but it builds quickly up again for a second shouting match. Vocals return periodically for the remainder of the track, with the intensity still shifting up and down, often signified by strong low pitched piano chords (think of cartoons dropping a piano out of a window...). Cracking track.

I'd therefore focus on the two longer tracks - the rest seem a bit like filler really. Hard to compare the three Offerign albums, they're all good in very different ways!

 Graviyaunosch by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.14 | 12 ratings

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Graviyaunosch
Ruins Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars Graviyaunosch is a bit of a return to the deliberately messy Stonehenge, but with the more polished production of Burning Stone, although much more minimal in terms of effects but better sound quality overall. The title track is the highlight of the whole album, a fast audio assault, before a reel of five shorter tracks which are quite stop-start and aggressive. Not much stands out particularly but I did seem to enjoy the final part of the section Knaftt more than anything else. There's a bit of a change after this, with the last three tracks all recorded live, and two of them re- imaginings of previously released tracks. Acid Blue is a 100mph jam, with an odd-timed riff breaking it up in the middle. The Big Head remake is notable for the extreme distortion of its vocals, and lengthening of the mid-section into a marimba-based melody which breaks it up very nicely. The B.U.G. remake is also a major improvement with some of the added effects.

In all, probably prefer Burning Stone, however this is a reasonable follow up, just not enough new tracks to add to a highlight reel.

 Gnosis by PAGA (PAGA GROUP) album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.00 | 8 ratings

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Gnosis
Paga (Paga Group) Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars Bernard Paganotti's group's third and final album. Full confession - I'm missing two of the tracks so reviewing based on being 20 minutes short of the full effort. Zeuhl influence practically zero at this point. Reviewed as a jazz album though, its pretty good. Classic piano and sax mix with deep bass - its a bit lounge-style really but if you listen hard it does retain some of the darker or alien elements of Zeuhl, particularly in Jazzobizz. That's probably the best track for me, with Urantia being very middling, and Coup de Blues somewhat lacking in elements beyond 'the usual' when it comes to smooth-ish Jazz, and minus points for English lyrics on this occasion! Zigzag is also a decent track to finish off.

The debut Paga album was almost a masterpiece of Zeuhl-Jazz, while Haunted was a cheesy 80s mess. Gnosis is somewhere in between. If you're looking for Zeuhl, probably best not to bother, but its a good enough example of a decent jazz album

 Burning Stone by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.72 | 25 ratings

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Burning Stone
Ruins Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars I listened to the earlier Ruins EPs and Stonehenge prior to this, all of which sound like they were recorded from the bottom of a well, and a re a brutal thrashing mess. As many reviewers say here, Burning Stone is perhaps the better entry point into listening to Ruins, as its a lot more polished and produced. It also contains a bit more progression and diversity in terms of the styles used.

The opening track Zasca Cosca and third track Praha in Spring are perfect examples, still containing the brutality that is Ruins' main point of difference, but also with some genuine structure and quality musicianship. Vocals throughout the album have similarities and differences with Magma Zeuhl. The language is fictitious, and there are the high-pitched shrieks synonymous with Klaus Blasquiz, but they are much more cartoony than other exponents of the genre. Tracks like Onyx and Shostak Ombrich do show that Ruins could do the foreboding instrumental style of Zeuhl though.

There is a place for the absolutely mental - Power Shift for example sounds like they got Mr Blobby involved on vocals (one for Brits of a particular vintage there), but for me the best run of tracks is Real Jam; Misonta; Spazm Cambilist - all great rhythmic tracks with a light-hearted feel thanks to the inclusion of marimba.

 Les voyages de Christophe Colomb by VANDER, CHRISTIAN album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.00 | 5 ratings

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Les voyages de Christophe Colomb
Christian Vander Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars Are you sitting comfortably children? Then we'll begin.

One of Christian Vander's many side projects. If you're looking for Zeuhl or Jazz move along. Here, Vander narrates the story of Christopher Columbus, with accompanying background composition entirely performed on synths and programmed by wife Stella. Programmed in are an assortment of orchestral instruments, without percussion, and always to create a background atmosphere for the narration. Weirdly in the second track towards the end, presumably its supposed to sound like being at sea but it actually sounds more like he's been abducted. Maybe a Kobaian link after all.

As a non-French speaker, there's not a lot for me to work with here. Being self-released too, it feels very much like a pet project not to be taken as a serious fully fledged solo album. It shows. Definitely one for fans only, but it would be wrong of me to say its poor.

 Eros by DN album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.24 | 503 ratings

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Eros
Dn Zeuhl

Review by AJ Junior

5 stars Dn's Eros is an album that has truly changed my life. This album is an absolute Zeuhl masterpiece and is one of the if not the greatest Zeuhl albums of all time. I first heard Eros about a year and a half ago when I had just gotten into prog, and I was not ready for it yet. I was disgusted and reluctantly made my way through the album. Fast forward a year later and after expanding my eclectic prog tastes, the album resonated with me a little more. I wasn't totally in love with it yet, but after about 3 or 4 listens, I knew it was going to be one of my favorite albums ever.

The album opens with the explosive "L'Epice", a wonderful track with epic percussion and guitar work from Alain Termolle, and Jean Geeraerts. The song begins with a massive drum roll, followed by the flute, xylophone, and guitar madness. It has a few jazz/avant-garde pockets that are complemented nicely by Geeraerts' guitar soloing, and some other melodic guitar sections that sound really unique and nice. The time signature and time feel throughout the song are constantly changing (as with the rest of this album). The latter half of the song goes into a synth and keys-driven riff that has almost all members of the band solo over. Great track and a great opener to a great album that shows the stunning musician.

The second track "Arrakis" is my personal favorite off of the album. A hauntingly beautiful piano-driven track with various flute overtures, the song contains two main movements, the first half and the second half. The first half is a melodic masterpiece, during which keyboardist Bruno Sabathe holds a consistent D Note for 3-4 minutes while flutist Pascal Vandenbulcke (also the writer of the song) and Geeraerts both extensively solo of the underlying piano track. After the outstanding beginning, the song picks up, and so does the tempo. The synth takes over and it stretches on for the remainder of the track with various solos, interludes, and adaptations including a drum/percussion solo that goes on for about two minutes. The thumping, fast-paced bass line from Thierry Tranchant carries the second half of the song.

Moving the side two of the album, Bitonio opens with a xylophone note repeating, which is overlayed with guitar, flute, and piano notes repeating. After a rhythmic build-up with very odd time signatures and accents, the song is introduced to its main piano riff and builds from there. Astonishing flute and guitar from Vandenbulcke and Geeraerts complement the song as it shifts from the main riff to an ambient section, and back to an explosive variation of the main riff. The song then slows down for a melodic section which is broken by screeching guitar and again brought back into a plethora of crescendos, variations of the main riff, and synth ambiance. Towards the final stand of the song, voices enter and a massive crescendo ends the song abruptly.

The fourth and final track on the album is the title track "Eros," which is also the longest track on the album clocking in at 10:30 about. The beginning of the song is dominated by synth and flute-driven licks, and occasional drums as the main riff slowly build with eerie synths from Sabathe. Steadily, the different instruments build on the riff and begin to come together as the synths turn to piano. The volume begins increasing at around the 4:30 mark, and the riff sets in. Epic flute, xylophone, and guitar picking pick up and a synth solo begins. Thierry Tranchant's bass seems to have a phaser on it at this point which adds to the established Zeuhl atmosphere of celestial noises. As a flute lick from "Arrakis" come in, the song turns to a new rhythmic section during which voices begin to chant "EROS EROS EROS EROS.." The ending of the song is a chilling nursery rhyme-sounding bit from a musical box, which truly encapsulates the eerie beauty of the album in just a few notes. A fitting ending to a wonderful album.

The bonus tracks from the 2012 reissue by Soleil records include a new song called "Acoustic Fremen" which is a soundtrack-Esque acoustic guitar and flute song written by Geeraertes, Vandenbulcke, and Philippe Portejoie, a saxophonist who only appears during the bonus tracks. The other bonus tracks include two early demos of "Arrakis" a demo of "Bitonio" and a demo of "Eros."

This 1981 magnum opus of Progressive Rock is truly a wonderful piece of music. It is really a shame that a band with such immense talent only made one album, but unfortunately, this was the case more often than not with the late seventies/early eighties bands from the international community. This album is an easy 5 stars, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves high intensity, high velocity, yet melodic and ambient music.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAS 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
DN France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ELEPHANT TOK France
ESKATON France
VOH France
FOEHN France
FRACTALE France
FREE HUMAN ZOO 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
PAGA (PAGA GROUP) France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PROTOPLASMA Hungary
PSEU France
RHN France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
RYORCHESTRA Japan
SC'F 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
FRANOIS 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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