For Fans Of
Progressive metal, whilst giving bands a lot of freedom to experiment with their sound and different techniques, can often be limiting. However, the genre isn’t to blame for this.
Progressive metal fans are notoriously resistant and vile to drastic changes with some of their favourite bands. When Opeth ditched the growls and ramped up the jazz influence on ‘Heritage’, there was considerable backlash (that album is just incredible from a musical standpoint). So you really have to go out on a limb and take a risk if you’re a band wanting to change within this genre. Gojira is renowned for writing some truly epic long tracks, coupling ambience with some serious groove and aggression. Their new album ‘Magma’ is ten tracks long with the longest song being just under seven minutes, and the rest around the four-minute mark. Even based on song duration alone, that’s a pretty big change for the band. So, what have these French boys been cooking up in their New York studio for this new one?
Well, the band has essentially decided that it was time to write shorter songs and some that were far more catchier, which you can read about in my interview with drummer Mario Duplantier (DO IT). Now don’t mistake that for the band suddenly turning into Bring Me The Horizon, as ‘Magma’ is still crushingly heavy when it needs to be.‘The Cell’ for example is definitely a lot more reminiscent of the songs from ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’, with its fast-paced and frenetic drumming paired with Joe Duplantier’s growls, which are almost eerily similar to a French Max Cavalera in my mind. ‘Stranded’, the first single, is easily the catchiest song I think this band has ever written. It’s not technically complex, follows a simple structure, and has a repeating chorus, but it’s awesome. The pitch-shifted main riff is a nice touch, too. This is definitely going to be a great live track, and will be a great introductory song for any and all new fans.
It’s when you hear songs like ‘The Shooting Star’, ‘Magma’ and parts of ‘Silvera’ that you notice the most drastic changes. Joe Duplantier has started singing a lot more on this album, and whilst some may say that his vocals are hit and miss in this department, in my mind they really work in the atmospheric sections of the songs. ‘Silvera’ has clean singing and it definitely benefits from that. About the only song that I felt could’ve been better without a reliance on the clean vocals would be ‘Lowlands’, and that’s mainly because it’s one of the two six-minute songs, so the slower pace is definitely more noticeable.
Lyrically, however, it’s great to see the band exploring more personal topics. Whilst they’re well known for writing a lot of songs about death and the environment (they’re well-known supporters of Sea Shepherd), they decided to not touch on those topics here. There’s a lot of lines that are clearly addressed to the Duplantier’s brothers recently deceased mother, which is as about as far away from environmental lyrical content as you can get!
Of course, the production of the record is solid. Gojira has self-produced their own albums in the past, but this is definitely their strongest self-produced album. The guitars sound massive, as do the drums, and the heavier vocals sound great especially when they are double tracked in the choruses. However, I feel that there’s too much reverb on the clean vocals as a whole. Just a personal musing.
As you may have guessed, there’s not a lot I really disliked about this album. ‘The Shooting Star’ is a great track musically, but I feel like it’s not the right song to have as an opener. It does definitely set the tone for the rest of the album but it just doesn’t get me excited to listen to the rest of it. I feel like it would’ve been better to have it following ‘Silvera’ personally. ‘Yellowstone’ is straight up Black Sabbath with its sludgy bass riff, but it’s an instrumental filler and I don’t think it’ll be one of the songs people will tell their friends about. Like they would with say, ‘Stranded’.
Overall, I loved ‘Magma’. It showcases some new elements for Gojira’s sound, whilst retaining the progressive aspects and not being a complete 180-degree shift from what fans would expect. For me personally, it gave me that pure sense of excitement one gets when you hear something new for the first time and you’re in love with it. Just like myself when I first heard ‘The Way Of All Flesh’ way back in high school. This could very well be the finest metal release of the year so far!
01. The Shooting Star
03. The Cell
05. Yellow Stone
08. Only Pain
09. Low Lands