Monday, June 13, 2016

Gojira - Magma

If you're reading this review and already know of Gojira, chances are good that Gojira doesn't need to prove anything to you anymore. While simultaneously being one of the most impressive live metal bands on the planet, they have also crafted an ever-evolving discography that's filled to the brim with more heavy rhythms and unique guitar slides than you could ever know what to do with (I guess except headbang to). 2005's From Mars to Sirius was a pinnacle for the band; showing that progressively minded compositions and destructively heavy metal stylings don't have to be mutually exclusive. Magma, however, showcases the band going back to square one, in some respects. Their latest offering still has its heavy moments, but it's evident that the overall emphasis is placed on the simplifying the rhythmic tendencies that have contributed to the foundation Gojira's sound since their inception.

"The Shooting Star", Magma's opening track, is a good indicator of the album's overall direction. A single mid-paced riff acts as the song's backbone which allows the clean vocals to expand and champion the primary melodies. One of the album's heavier tracks, and second single, "Silvera", kicks in next and is, simply put, a banger. The guitar work has an "I'm going to kick your ass" kind of edge, while the chorus features guitar tapping that is no stranger to Gojira's formula. Featuring extreme shifts in speed and precision, Mario Duplantier's drum work truly shines through on "The Cell". Magma's middle tracks are more or less a combination of elements from the opening ones. Nothing really made these tracks stand out from the rest of the pack. "Pray", the next track to really feature attitude similar to "Silvera", flaunts Magma's greatest strengths. Only centered around two rhythms, the track revels in its ability to tap into something so primal that it ensnares the listener due to its simplicity. The vocals match up with the melodic through-line, yet they also operate on a level that create their own autonomous power. The rest of the album seems to fade out in a series of tracks that, much like the rest of Magma, rely on repetition to get their appeal across. Acoustic guitars are also harnessed in the last track and a half to REALLY slow things down.

When compared to their previous work, it's hard to resist that urge to feel at least a little disappointed with Magma. While there is certainly merit to the "less is more" mindset, Gojira takes this to heart too much and doesn't present anything beyond that. This isn't to say that this album isn't enjoyable, however. Magma IS enjoyable and worth listening to, but it's enjoyable in a way that Gojira has not prepared us for. For a band that made a name for itself by constantly pushing their sound into newer territories with each release, it's natural to feel disheartened when they decide to take a step back and simplify their formula. In exchange for grander more melodic harmonies, Gojira sacrifices the progressive flourishes that initially made them a unique band.

Going back to how this review was front-ended, if you are familiar with Gojira's progression as a band, Magma shouldn't change your perception of Gojira either way. The album doesn't break any new ground but it also won't detract from the brand they've created. Certainly, it won't live up to your expectations if you worship albums like From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh (like I admittedly do), but it will cater to your need to hear a good melody every now and then.

- Mick

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