There are few bands that can claim to have been instrumental in shaping what “progressive metal” has come to represent in the 21st century. Among those gargantuan colossi casting their shadow of influence across the entire scene stand French four piece Gojira from Ondres. Created around the duo and main creative force of brothers Joe (guitar, vocals) and Mario (drums) Duplantier, they have garnered acclaim as a modern metal juggernaut since the release of their first full-length album Terra Incognita in 2001,with their eclectic sound spanning from groove metal to progressive and technical death metal. With their new album Magma coming out on June 17th via Roadrunner Records, they will undoubtedly further their recognition as veritable legends in the metal community.
Ominous, meditative and brooding in nature, album opener “The Shooting Star” is an interesting choice to start the record with. Usually, Gojira have placed the more somber songs further into the record, like “Born in Winter,” the tenth of eleven songs on L’Enfant Sauvage. But playing with the listener’s expectations has been a strength of the band since day one, so this feels like the logical next step in their evolution. “The Shooting Star” may offer a deceptively laid-back pace, but the intensity of the song is still immense. Joe’s clean vocals give the song an eerie vibe with their seemingly impartial intonation counterpointing the sinister tone of the instrumental. When the song breaks from one of the reoccurring vocal lines into the outro, it seems that hint that this album’s journey may be very different from what Gojira has had to offer prior to Magma.
And then along comes “Silvera,” shattering every assumption with its massive riffs sounding undeniably like the Gojira. The vitriolic screaming atop of those riffs amplifies the intensity, allowing the vocal and instrumental delivery to play off of each other in an astounding fashion. Calling upon the conscience of their listeners, the chorus states that it’s ‘time to open your eyes to this genocide’. Joe, Mario and their two bandmates Christian Andreu (guitar) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass) don’t seem to have forgotten their environmentalist message, or at least that’s what I take from this line. A polyrythmic middle section, ripe with guitar eccentrics and drum flourishes, rounds out “Silvera.”
As a collective, but also as individuals, Magma might very well be the crowning achievement of Gojira’s career. Joe has again matured as a vocalist, displaying a vast improvement in his clean vocals, which are much more present here than on any previous Gojira record. Together with Christian, he created some of the most memorable riffs of the decade, once more garnished with the various effects that make the songs easily distinguishable and unmistakably their work. Mario holds down the kit with a presence and urgency only gifted to few other drummers. Interweaving his bass lines masterfully with the drum patterns, Jean-Michel’s contribution to Magma is as intricate as it is punishing. His tone is crisp and lays in the mix perfectly audible. These four men are perfectly in tune with each other, and it clearly shows in this incredible body of work.
Title track “Magma” is the longest song on this ten-track affair, and by far the most effect-laden. The main guitar line is slowly burrowing through pinch harmonics towards an epic chorus, once more displaying Joe’s newfound passion for clean vocals. Slow and repetitive, with some variations popping up here and there, especially in the heavily syncopated drums, “Magma” is a crawling monster, grandiose in its sheer splendor and enormity.
“Liberation” terminates Magma in a way not even the most keen-eared among us may have expected. A short, acoustic instrumental with unobtrusive tribal percussion gives the listener a sweet brief moment of solace before Gojira throw the listener out into the harsh reality of existence afresh to experience it with a new sense of consciousness and responsibility. Out there is a world to explore but also to save, and we all have to seize our respective role in what Richard Dawkins called ‘the greatest show on earth’: life.
To put it straight, Gojira’s Magma is a modern masterpiece, an album to define an era. Nothing within its runtime of around an hour falls flat or even short of brilliant. There is something to find for every fan of progressive music, and fans of Gojira will savor every moment the band has prepared for them.
Notable Tracks: “The Shooting Star”; “Silvera”; “Magma”.
FFO: Meshuggah, Cynic, Pantera.