Magma - Gojira
By Barnaby Britten
Gojira. It is easy to place too much importance on the name of a band but in Gojira’s case it’s just so apt it deserves comment. It immediately brings to mind at once the unusual, the monstrous and also the beautiful: just as the word Gojira rolls of the tongue, so the music the band creates swirls, meanders, builds and destroys in equal measure.
With their latest effort, Magma, Gojira stay true to the sound that has helped them become one of modern metal’s titans, and easily France’s biggest metal export. The familiar Gojira elements are all there: Joe Duplantier’s brilliant, gruff vocals and environmentally themed lyrics; his brother Mario doing a number on his drumkit; Jean-Michel Labadie providing some audible and, most importantly, interesting bass lines; and Christian Andreu with the sweet, sweet riffs. However, Magma showcases what is possibly Gojira’s biggest tweak in their overall approach.
But before we get to grips with that, let’s delve into Gojira’s discography so we can see what has brought them to this point. With From Mars To Sirius the band experimented with their progressive, epic side. Then, on The Way of All Flesh they toned that down a touch to release a crushing, death metal-influenced, groovy riff fest. They subsequently streamlined this sound and avoided the one misstep of TWoAF, it’s unnecessary length, on their last release L’enfant Sauvage.
If that album was Gojira trimming the fat, Magma is borderline underweight. At 43 minutes, it is by no means a short album, but the focus has been shifted from heavy grooves to spaced out atmospherics. The grooves and tasteful technicality are still there but rather than each song being a journey from riff to riff, songs have two or three riffs as a backbone that is returned to after more atmospheric sections. In other words, Gojira have done a Deftones.
And the band does this with some success: opener “The Shooting Star” is probably the most subdued track on the album bar the two (superfluous) instrumentals “Yellow Stone” and “Liberation” but crafts a haunting atmosphere alongside its head-banging riff. “Silvera” subsequently sees Joe Duplantier return to his harsh vocal style and is a nice heavier contrast to the opener, and the album continues in much the same vain. Unfortunately, Gojira don’t do atmosphere quite as well as Deftones, and some parts of the album come across as simply uninspired. Lead single “Stranded” springs to mind, which begins with an almost Pantera-esque groove but then falls foul to a drab chorus.
Magma, then, is by no means an unenjoyable album: there are plenty of great moments here, both heavy and spacey. But in light of what the band has been capable of in the past, you can’t hep feeling that this is more of a regression than a progression.