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Album Review: Gojira - Magma

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★★★★★

Gojira are a band that have earned their notoriety by breaking rules.

For twenty years and five records, the French four-piece have fused elements of progressive, thrash, death and groove metal with lengthy, complex structures and poetic, environmentally-conscious lyrics.

And the band’s upcoming sixth album, Magma, is a record four long years in the making. After relocating from Paris to New York and building their own studio from the ground up – as well as enduring numerous personal tragedies – Gojira have been set the tremendous task of continuing a stunning discography.

If there’s one thing to be said upon listening to Magma, it is that the album is something completely unlike the band have ever attempted before.

At roughly 45 minutes, it is the shortest record Gojira have put out. It is also the band’s darkest release, exploring new lyrical avenues with instrumental sections that achieve that unique feat of somehow feeling both similar and different simultaneously.

Magma’s diversion from its predecessors becomes instantly apparent in its beginning with ‘The Shooting Star’. Instead of thrashing its way into existence like older album openers – such as ‘Ocean Planet’, ‘Oroborus’ and ‘Explosia’ – ‘The Shooting Star’ begins in a building, mid-paced riff that leads into yet another rarity: clean vocals from the normally roaring vocalist Joe Duplantier.

‘The Shooting Star’’s use of clean singing as well as slower pace makes it reminiscent more of Mastodon than Gojira, but the song’s post-chorus riff is its defining moment: simplistic yet also brooding and addictive.

‘Silvera’ is when the sound of classic Gojira begins to mark a return, opening with a punishing riff and an intense drumbeat from Mario Duplantier, before Joe returns to his groove metal-inspired, pitched screaming of old in the verses. ‘Silvera’ is the polar opposite to ‘The Shooting Star’ in every way, with the former being shorter, far more aggressive and jam-packed with thrash riffs. The contrast is astounding and something that – in hindsight – adds to both songs.

Yet, ‘Silvera’ still maintains elements of melody in the vocals and riffs of its chorus. This is something that its follow-up – ‘The Cell’ – totally dismisses, making it the heaviest and harshest entry in Magma’s opening trifecta.

‘The Cell’ is the most likely of all the songs on Magma to win over the traditional extreme metal fan, as it exhibits three minutes of pure power and punishment before ending as quickly as it begins.

‘Stranded’ returns to the pacing of ‘Silvera’ yet also embodies the harsh vocals of ‘The Cell’, at least until one clean refrain at the very end of the single. It is easy to see why ‘Stranded’ was released as Magma’s first single, as it embodies everything that the record has demonstrated up to this point, mixing memorable riffs with pitched screaming and hints of the melodic.

After the instrumental ‘Yellow Stone’, Magma’s title track takes over. The song comes across as eerie and alien, thanks primarily to the strange vocal technique employed by Joe Duplantier. It’s an experience unlike anything else and is actually difficult to describe. But an album being able to yield that feeling is inherently a massive positive.

‘Pray’ continues much in the vein of ‘Magma’, before ‘Only Pain’ provides another song filled to the brim with unfathomable aggression, only lacking the speed of ‘The Cell’ but making up for it in undiluted ferocity.

‘Low Lands’ is another entirely clean entry, bookending Magma perfectly after it began with the similar ‘Shooting Star’, before it comes to a halt with the short, instrumental demo ‘Liberation’.

All that there is to say about Magma is that it is an album unlike anything you will hear in 2016. So much so that this review was in many ways rather difficult to write; what Gojira attempt and achieve on this record is sometimes beyond description.

Every second of it is teeming with emotion, be it visceral, aggressive, eerie, haunting or even powerful. This is progressive and new even by Gojira’s already extraordinarily high benchmark.

Magma will be available physically and digitally via Roadrunner Records on 17th June.




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