Gojira - Magma (2016)Release ID: 817
I came into the Gojira game a lot later than some of you might have as I was still on my metal sabbatical when 2005’s classic “From Mars To Sirius” third album dropped. It wouldn’t be for another four years that Ben would finally bring it to my attention & needless to say that it made an immediate impact on me. I’d quickly investigate the rest of Gojira’s back catalogue including their highly praised 2008 fourth album “The Way Of All Flesh” which I found to be very solid. When 2012’s “L’enfant sauvage” was released I was well a truly salivating for more Gojira & tended to heaps giant amounts of praise on it as a result, a position I’ve since reassessed & now regard it pretty similarly to its predecessor. Strangely though, that’s where the Gojira story has stagnated for me as I’ve not investigated their two subsequent full-lengths for one reason or another. Let’s rectify that oversight now by taking a look at Gojira’s 2016 sixth album “Magma”.
The “L’enfant sauvage” album had seen Gojira dropping their death metal roots for the first time in order focus on a groovier progressive metal sound &, despite what you might read, “Magma” is very much the next logical step in that evolution. Perhaps “Magma” might not be as overtly technical as previous efforts however this is still a progressive metal record at its core with djenty Meshuggah-style staccato riffage still being an important component of their sound. The final hints at death metal that were still evident on “L’enfant sauvage” are no longer visible on “Magma” with tracks like “The Cell”, “Stranded”, “Pray” & “Only Pain” pushing the groove metal associations to greater levels than ever before & “Chaos AD”-era Sepultura being an obvious point of reference in not only the heavier material but also the stripped back & casual folk closer “Liberation”. Interestingly, there are a couple of tracks that push out into doomier territory with stunning progressive sludge opener “The Shooting Star” sounding more like Mastodon than anyone else & outstanding interlude “Yellow Stone” sitting in post-sludge territory. I’m sure most listeners will also be left thinking of Fear Factory at times due to the brilliantly executed rhythmic precision in some of the riffage & perhaps even a little Korn in the few nu metal-ish moments but the main point of reference with “Magma” is definitely Devin Townsend/Strapping Young Lad in my opinion with Joe Duplantier’s vocal delivery reminding me a lot of Devin’s & the general style of the music falling into similar spaces as well.
This is a more restrained & controlled Gojira than we’ve ever heard before. There’s a newly found maturity in the way they milk every last drop out of each riff with great attention to detail having been placed on not over-playing their hands. When combined with a shorter run time (both for the individual tracks & the album as a whole) this makes for a fairly accessible metal record that was always going to promote crossover appeal & commercial success. Perhaps this has been to Gojira’s detriment with their more underground fan base but a good metal record is a good metal record as far as I’m concerned, particularly one as well produced as this one. I love the moodier parts of the album with the sludgier tracks & some amazingly well thought-out transitions being amongst the key elements that “Magma” has to offer along with some very consistent & mature song-writing. Joe’s vocals don’t suffer for the lack of death growls either as he’s got enough emotion & variation in his repertoire to captivate listeners who are open to the idea.
“Magma” may not be one of Gojira’s more intense releases but it is one of their most atmospheric & engaging & I for one am totally onboard with their new direction. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this might be the band’s best album since “From Mars To Sirius” which is a pretty big call when you consider how highly regarded “The Way Of All Flesh” & “L’enfant sauvage” are. Perhaps it’s time to see what 2021’s ill-fated “Fortitude” record has to offer.
Opening an album with a dull, plodding psychedelic nu-metal song isn't really the smartest of moves. I already had this figured out, Gojira unfortunately haven't and as a result I am exposed to as oppressive and bleak a sounding start to a record as I think I have ever heard.
By the time track two comes along ("Silvera") with its more uptempo pace and frenzied prog sounds I am instantly hopeful of an immediate change of track. However, there's something still really flat and oppressive about the production. It is like the guitar is being played in the room next door to where everything else is. The guitarist seems to move another door down by track 3. As "The Cell" plonks through its course the guitar continues to meander away to itself as if the guitarist is unaware they are in a band with other members.
"Stranded" sounds like a more groove orientated Korn with the machine like lead and riff work. This underlines the frustration of "Magma", instead of getting to jump around like a young, dumb and full of cum teenager, shedding angst in my sweat I just sit like a confused dog tilting my head and pricking my ears with a permanent "WTF?" expression on my chops.
Quite what thought process went into "Yellow Stone" I will never know, in essence it sounds like a rehearsal track that they threw in without any consideration for it being seen as the blatant filler that it is.
I don't think there's much more I can go onto say about "Magma". After 5 tracks it loses me as my interest levels hit rock bottom and I start to wonder if any of my CDs need putting in alphabetical order by genre or in general alphabetical order disregarding genre (answers on a postcard please). Genuinely, I see no part of this ten track effort that deserves more than a passing moment of my attention. Blunted Pantera riffs with hazy bass and tired drums with one dimensional vocals for company. I don't know what it is for and it serves no purpose therefore.
Progressive Metal (conventional)
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Groove Metal (conventional)
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