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. Continue reading
After losing their mother to cancer in 2015, brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier of Gojira have had to dig deeper than they would have ever wanted to write the follow up to 2012’s much lauded L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner), and this unfortunate event has clearly been at the heart of all aspects of their latest release. From Magma‘s (Roadrunner) muted grayscale artwork to the the record’s lyrical themes and pervading feeling of solemnity, this is a piece of work driven not only by grief but by grim determination.
Reading this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that listening to the album would be a thoroughly depressing experience, but while the background to the record is certainly not the happiest, the music contained within is inherently Gojira. Just a more thoughtful, ambitious and expressive one.
Joe Duplantier turns in what is surely a career best vocal performance, his familiar throaty roar sitting naturally besides quieter and somewhat surprisingly more vulnerable tones, adding further depth and texture which allows the band to wander organically from their familiar path without ever sounding jarring or overtly calculated.
Drummer Mario Duplantier excels himself, driving some songs with fierce, occasionally scarily complicated jazz-infused rhythms while allowing others the space and time to breathe by either keeping it simple or backing off completely. Second guitarist Christian Andreu complements his counterpart’s playing as perfectly as ever, and oft-forgotten hero, bass player Jean-Michel Labadie plays his heart out, even taking centre stage with the short Sabbath-esque instrumental ‘Yellow Stone’.
There’s a big Angel Rat (MCA) era Voivod influence on opener ‘The Shooting Star’ and title track ‘Magma’, while ‘Stranded’ and ‘Only Pain’ feature the screeching cat guitar sound that Dimebag Darrell employed in Pantera‘s ‘Becoming’, only with a typically Gojira twist. Songs like ‘Pray’ and ‘Low Lands’ build patiently before exploding with groove-laden, lurching riffs and bursts of speed while ‘The Cell’ is the only song built almost entirely for pace, only slowing down for a mid-paced chorus and yet another crushingly heavy, lumbering riff which it uses to build towards the song’s climax.
Recorded at Silver Cord Studio in New York, a studio designed and owned by Joe Duplantier himself, the band have never sounded better. Each instrument is mixed with crystal clarity and the album flows from one song to another perfectly, its mood ebbing and flowing like the tide as you get swept along by wave after wave of aggression and introspection.
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.
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