Album Review: GOJIRA Magma
At this point in music history, the Frenchmen of Gojira have cemented themselves as one of the paramount metal bands of this generation. Though the band's first two albums, Terra Incognita and The Link, flew relatively low under the radar, their third album, From Mars to Sirius, stands to this day as an absolute classic in every sense of the word, and it's arguable that its follow-up, The Way of All Flesh, is equally as monumental. In the 15 years Gojira has existed, they have developed a style entirely their own, and it's a testament to their impact on metal that so many of the elements they pioneered are instantly recognizable when other bands play them, similar to that of bands such as Meshuggah and Neurosis. Indeed, Gojira is a band whose significance and influence cannot be overstated.
As such, it should come as no surprise that Gojira's latest album, Magma, stands as one of the most highly anticipated metal albums of 2016. It's been four years since L'Enfant Sauvage, an album that was perhaps not as powerful as its two predecessors, but was nonetheless an important chapter in this band's legacy. A lot can happen in four years, and indeed a lot has in the case of Gojira, a fact that is evident throughout the entirety of Magma.
It's clear from the very unorthodox opening track of Magma that something about Gojira is very different this time around. "The Shooting Star" is a sharp left-turn from the normally high-energy and driving tracks Gojira chooses to open their albums, opting instead for a more contemplative and introspective approach, and it more heavily relies on a tool the band has used in the past, but is far more intentional and deliberate this time around: clean vocals. Joe Duplantier's haunting voice carries above the hypnotic melodies and driving rhythms, bringing the listener into an almost trance-like state before bludgeoning them upside the head with the more orthodox riffs of "Silvera." The catchy leads and chorus of this track make it accessible enough for the new metalhead, but the crunchy main riff will satisfy even the most seasoned metal listener. The lyrical themes of "Silvera" keep in line with the eco-friendly mentality Gojira has always advocated for with their music, and while other tracks on Magma trace similar themes, the group also venture into more emotionally heavy territory at times, both sonically and lyrically.
The Brothers Duplantier have proven themselves time and time again to be one of the most gifted songwriting duos in all of metal, and the songcraft on Magma is only punctuated by the hardships they endured during the creation of the album. The brothers lost their beloved mother to cancer in the midst of the recording process, and the raw emotion that comes with such a tragic event can be heard in every part of Magma, from Joe's tormented screams and cryptic lyrics to Mario's furious and impassioned drum performance. It's very apparent that they channelled everything they were feeling into these ten songs, and the result is a mixture of some of the heaviest songs Gojira has ever written, as well as some of the most atmospheric.
"Stranded" is the closest Gojira has ever come to being radio-friendly, with it's relatively simple but catchy-as-hell main riff and its infectiously headbangable chorus. "Yellow Stone" serves as an intermission of sorts before leading into the album's title track, which is really the centerpiece of the album. "Magma" is a bit deceptive; it starts with a riff that seems typical for Gojira, but then becomes something else entirely as it opens up into an almost alien-sounding motif that prevails for the majority of the song. It's almost eerie in its execution, showcasing a more spiritual and atmospheric side of Gojira, but that's precisely why it sticks out. Of course, it wouldn't be a true Gojira album without riffs that crumble the earth beneath, and the next two songs, "Pray" and "Only Pain," are rife with just that. It will be a sight to behold hearing these songs live and watching the havoc that ensues.
"Low Lands" is a slow burner, building upon its simple, polyrhythmic groove until culminating at its head nodding climax. Magma closes on a more somber note with "Liberation," which highlights Gojira's more tribal tendencies with a twangy acoustic lick and campfire percussion. At just over 43 minutes, Magma stands as the shortest and most concise Gojira album to date, but it's exactly the album they sought to make. It's a touching and powerful eulogy to the Duplantiers' late mother, and an emotionally-fueled journey that is quite unforgettable. From beginning to end, Magma oozes with passion, conviction and genuine artistry, and serves as an urgent reminder of why Gojira is one of the most important bands in metal.