Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gojira - Magma (2016)

Being one of the most anticipated records of this year, Gojira had a lot to live up to with the release of "Magma", their 6th full length album of their career. The Frenchmen have gained immense fame during the last couple of years, and established itself as one of the premier metal bands out there. Their last album, the 2012 effort "L'Enfant Sauvage", was a stunning record that took everyone, including me, by storm, so it was safe to say that the expectations for "Magma" were quite high.

As soon as the album started, my jaw dropped, but not for the reason you might think. "The Shooting Star" opens up the album, and it is a very different song from what we are used to with Gojira. It is calm, spiritual, and singer Joe Duplantier only uses his clean vocals. It is a start that does set the tone of the album, because "Magma" is possibly the most experimental album of the band's career. They have always had that little Tool inspiration in their music, and that part gets more attention than usual. I think it is a interesting way to go, it certainly changes the dynamics of the band, but I am pretty sure that "Magma" will divide a lot of the fans.

Fortunately, we do have some familiar material in "Magma" that makes this sudden transition a little easier. The common Gojira fan will definitely love "Silvera", a tune that displays everything that the band stands for. It has heavy riffs, polyrhythmic beats that twist your mind, and a aggression that will make The Hulk seem like a Buddhist monk. The lyrics deliver too, expressing that the only way to change the world is to start with yourself. Oh, I almost forgot about the solo, which is both frantic and epic. Dear god, I am truly in love with this song.

Some good aggression can also be found on the first single "Stranded", even if it already got a stamp as a "sellout" track, plus "The Cell" and "Only Pain", two songs that delivers some sweet drum beats by Mario Duplantier. Among the calmer songs, I find the title track to be the only one that I truly enjoy, because the band succeeds in creation a mood that is hauntingly beautiful. Those screeching guitars could potentially hurt your ears if played at a high volume, but they fit so well in this song that I do not mind if I get tinnitus from it. I have to admit though, the songs sounds a lot like something Mastodon would make, especially on the more normal guitar tones.

While the album is a grower, I always ended up feeling a little empty when it all ended. "Magma" had potential, but the band did not maximize the space that they had. I find it highly unnecessary that the end of the album is a three and a half minute long beatnik session. If we take that away (plus the one minute interlude in the middle of the album), we end up with roughly 38 minutes of material, in other words, quite a short album. That's it! That is why I felt empty every time, because I want more Gojira, more crunchy riffs, more polyrhythmic time signatures, and more experimentation. Four long years of wait, and I get this little? That is a pretty big let down.

The best way to describe "Magma" is that it is interesting, but not fully impressive. The band is up to something, but are yet to arrive at their goal. See this as a new chapter to the story of Gojira, because even if this is far from the best album Gojira has made, it is still pretty darn good. However, it is short, and the song material is unpolished, so even if this album has several good sides, it also has some ugly ones that makes it hard to swallow. You should at least try this album, since it is another statement that Gojira is one of the best and most technical bands from the 21st century. It is definitely not as hot as lava, but it has its warm moments.

Songs worthy of recognition: Silvera, The Cell, Magma

Rating: 7/10 Low Lands

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