UNIVERS ZÉRO - Forty years in the opposition

27. November 2014

Univers Zero

UNIVERS ZÉRO - Forty years in the opposition

For prog fans who appreciate music with unusual instrumentation, Univers Zéro is very popular. In 2014, the frequently reshuffled band, which was influenced by modern classical and medieval music, celebrates its 40th anniversary - an admirable achievement, as their early albums in particular present a real challenge to the untrained ear. Time for a look back at a group that belongs to the Kammerprog or the Prog subgenre Rock In Opposition (RIO), but in later years also struck more minimalist notes.

The only constant at Univers Zéro is the instrumentalist and composer Daniel Denis, born in 1953. At the age of eleven he had learned to play drums autodidactically, but the initial spark to rock came for him in 1967 when he heard the music of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Pink Floyd for the first time. Soon he also got involved with bands like King Crimson, Tony Williams' Lifetime or Soft Machine. In 1970, together with Jean-Luc Manderlier (org) and Claude Deron (tr), he founded the band Arkham (in 1994, Cuneiform released an Arkham compilation). Denis likes to remember this time: "In the early seventies there were very few avant-garde rock groups in Belgium, perhaps two or three. With Arkham we were able to perform at some rock festival, and our music was accepted just like that of the other bands."

The Magma Experience

When Arkham opened a concert for the French Zeuhl band Magma in Belgium in 1971, this had consequences: Magma drummer Christian Vander persuaded Denis and Manderlier to join his band. Denis was soon dissatisfied with his role as second drummer and in 1973 founded the group Necronomicon with Deron, Roger Trigaux (g) and Guy Segers (b), which was renamed Univers Zéro in 1974 (the name comes from the short story collection of the same name by the Belgian Jacques Sternberg). Denis didn't have a plan B: "Compared to today's music business, it was certainly risky, even suicidal. Either you try to create good music despite the threat of isolation, or you take a job to earn a lot of money."

For the next three years the band worked on their first pieces, which they formulated collectively. In addition, the prog avant-gardists already presented their material live back then, but for the time being only in their home country Belgium. In 1977 the debut "Univers Zéro" (also known under the title "1313") was released, in which the group integrated non-rocking instruments (bassoon, harmonium, violin) and largely dispensed with harmonic resting points. Despite the enormously challenging music, "Ronde" (in Rondo form) and "Docteur Petiot" (about the French serial killer Marcel Petiot) offer an unforgettable listening experience, which the visitors of the first RIO Festival in London could convince themselves of in 1978.

Lesen Sie mehr im eclipsed Nr. 166 (Dez 2014/Jan 2015).