The year is 2016 and reviewers everywhere are having trouble putting down Gojira’s latest offering, ‘Magma’. It’s no joke how Gojira have climbed a mountain of their own making to become one of the world’s best metal acts. Fans everywhere look fondly back at the band’s catalog of records, including ‘The Link’, ‘The Way Of All Flesh’ and even 2012’s ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ which in all honestly only stopped its continuous play time to be replaced with ‘Magma’. Gojira have become the French masters of their own class, coming to terms with the translation of the name that defines them. Hence, the importance of bands like them in modern metal cannot be ignored as “just another album”.
First things first. While it is known that Gojira are often high energy, high octane and furious with their instrumental approach to song-writing, not all things are presented so. The album’s opener “The Shooting Star” has a rather pensive feel to ‘Magma’s’ overall dissonance, rather than the instant barrage of riffs and percussive work most listeners’ will be used to. Subtle melodies link together, massaging winding notes into building riffs. This is not to be mistaken; the riffs come and stay, but Gojira are making a statement early; this is about tracks coming together naturally, unapologetic and as beautiful as they are bleak. The opener’s message is rather emotive. Gojira has always been the “thinking mans metal” taking their knack for the progressive to dizzying heights. The band’s use of clean vocals are an immediate pull on what’s different after fifteen glorious years. Chances are you’ll see a mention of Joe Duplantier’s croons in every text about ‘Magma’ from the album’s release date. Frankly, they are a welcome addition for a band looking to shape one of the year’s better records. Joe’s smooth croons sit somewhere between eerie and sensual, and manage to bleed emotion into the core of Gojira’s music.
‘Magma’ is a completely honest rendition of the band’s emotive talent; blending great song-writing into solid musicianship. But the story of Gojira’s 2016 album isn’t a happy one. During the production and recording of the album the Duplantier brothers lost their mother and while that would change the mental state of anyone, the main writing force behind Gojira had changed. Tracks like “Pray” and “Only Pain” speak rather obvious volumes about the impact this had on the boys’ lives, but if you look deeper “Silvera” hints at some truly optimistic messages without forgetting why those lines are there in the first place. “When you change yourself, you change the world” idolizes an outward view – looking within. It’s lines like these that become instantly memorable for listeners, even if they are somewhat cryptic in nature.
With ten tracks, ‘Magma’ is far from a lengthy pursuit. Most older fans will be looking for the occasional eight minute (plus) exercise in masterful representation of Gojira-esque music, but it’s not here (I’ll admit I was one of those fans).Though it’s not even needed. ‘Magma’ is everything it’s supposed to be, in a 44 minute display of some of the year’s best writing to date. In a recent interview, Duplantier stated that the music would be shortened, focusing on song-writing, stripping away some of what people would expect them to make. However ‘Magma’ clearly shows a focused sound, highlighting that nothing has been scaled back or stripped away. Even the band’s lead single highlights how a band can mature through music, bring accessible, head-banging groove to what could be considered almost-radio friendly metal. After fifteen years, it’s hard to justify a band not exploring new territory to which “Yellow Stone” and “Liberation” both achieve. ‘Magma’ as a whole is a highlight, and not what you’d expect from what Gojira music “should” be.