This past year will go down as one of triumph over tragedy, more so than any other recent memory. It seems that across the board suffering in the world and on a personal level has been paramount in people’s minds. The same can be said for French metal gods Gojira, whose Magma (Roadrunner) is nothing short of brilliance, created from a place of angst and suffering on a level the band hasn’t dealt with before. Not only is it is a technical and artistic marvel, it stands apart on an emotional level for the creators, as well as the listener. The if the best art is made from a well of pain, Gojira hit the bottom of the well and came through an ocean on the other side to get here.
The global staff of Ghost Cult is a diverse lot, spread across two continents and ten countries. Our tastes run as diverse as our people, so it was a shock to us that Gojira won the staff voting by an enormous 3-1 margin over the next nearest band/album (Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas’ – Mariner EP). This has never happened in the almost five-year history of our company. A further testament to how impressive this album is.
Musically the album is a tour DE force, summing up the bands’ sound perfectly with new elements added in. Heavy, progressive, and slickly produced by frontman Joe Duplantier at his Silver Cord Studios; the album is a beast sonically. While it has all the familiarity of past efforts in Gojira’s already stellar recorded history, there is new ground covered in every area. Brutal parts are executed to perfection, growls are deeper, guitar parts are more weird and adventurous, and words land blows to the brain more impactful than before. Similar to a few acts in our Top 10, the band has found away to evolve without radically changing what makes them special.
The songs are just masterful from the slow boil prog of opener ‘The Shooting Star’, to the crushing cuts like ‘Silvera’, ‘The Cell’, ‘Stranded’ and ‘Pray’; these are some of the best tracks of the bands entire career. The epic title track is on the level of something I would expect from Tool, Devin Townsend or Porcupine Tree. ‘Only Pain’ is just crazy amounts of riffs, an out-and-out aural assault. The tear rendering ‘Low Lands’ Pink Floyd-isms will seep into your soul, if 2016 hasn’t crushed yours out of you yet. Even the delicate closing cut ‘Liberation’ as a somber guitar piece, lends gravitas to the entire 43 minutes before it. It even calls to mind the great Led Zeppelin b-side ‘Black Mountain Side’, it’s that good.
More than anything else, lyrical and vocal performances are allowed drive an album, as the band has rarely done on an album before this one. With the untimely passing of their mother in 2015, Joe and Mario Duplantier had reportedly scrapped half of the album they had already completed and wrote new songs inspired by their loss and grief. If my personal favorite by the band, 2008s The Way Of All Flesh (Listenable), was a tome to the cycle of death and rebirth, Magma can be seen in the white heat of the pain of loss and unshakable grief. Every lyric on this album is a 10, and has a more wistful, philosophical bent to it. Although the brothers and the band were channeling their pain into their art, somehow this resonates so deeply for these times to the listener, it’s uncanny.
Ghost’s Cult scribe Gary Alcock in his 9.5/10 review of Magma summed it up better than we could here:
While Magma may not be the record some Gojira fans might have expected, there is no question that this is absolutely the album they should have made. Oppressive, cathartic, and thick with raw emotion (especially lyrically), yet uplifting and far more accessible than you’d believe possible, this collection of songs represents a band at the top of their game, allowing themselves to explore and break down more boundaries, while also serving as a fitting eulogy to the memory of the Duplantier’s mother.
Thanks for this Gojira. The world owes you a collective hug after this one.
GHOST CULT’S TOP 50 COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY STEVE TOVEY AND STAFF
Read Part I of our 2016 Album of the Year countdown (50-31) here
Read Part II of our 2016 Album of the Year countdown (30-11) here
Read Part III of our 2016 Album of the Year countdown (10-2) here
GOJIRA ENTRY WRITTEN BY KEITH CHACHKES