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2016 has been the year of Gojira. Not only have the past twelve months heralded the progressive quartet’s brand new album, the enigmatic Magma (2016), but they have also borne witness to the beloved juggernaut touring relentlessly. After laying waste to a plethora of European festivals (including Bloodstock and both the British and French editions of Download), the French connection of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier alongside Jean-Michel Labadie and Christian Andreu headlined a trek across the entire USA in autumn. But their highest profile shows of the year arguably came under the wing of American rockers Alter Bridge, who tore through the UK on an immense arena-level crusade in November and December. It was a tour that saw Gojira adapt to a new crowd, as their experimental death metal stylings threatened to go over the heads of the melodic rock-loving masses that Alter Bridge attracts. “We played some more extreme songs. Not too many, but we could tell people were kind of shocked,” drummer Mario recalls of the first show of the Alter Bridge/Gojira jaunt, speaking mere hours before his band’s set at London’s legendary O2 Arena. “So we will adapt today; maybe change every day’s set list and just try different things, but it will still be catchy and metal, of course. But also the room is bigger, so it’s very challenging to make it sound clear when you go fast. We are doing our best to maybe focus on more groovy stuff that will fit the room better.” Even though the new Magma album is an experience filled with songs that are cleaner than anything else the band has ever done, bringing out this more sombre side for the Alter Bridge fans has proven to be a challenge as, in Mario’s own words, “we can’t do a soundcheck”. He explains: “We had a line check for five minutes yesterday so we just put the stuff on-stage and had to start the show. The mixing on-stage was a mess. That’s the bad point about opening for bands: we don’t have time for proper soundchecks. For [clean songs like] ‘Shooting Star’, not for me but for the voice, we need to have good frequency on the guitar. We cannot play it when things are too messy. Unlike the heavy stuff, where we can just scream and it’s alright.” Magma’s cleaner, less abrasive and more melancholic tone when compared to the rest of Gojira’s back-catalogue is something that was born out of great personal adversity for Mario and vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier. During the album’s pre-production stages, the brothers would tragically lose their mother, Patricia Rosa, to illness. “The impact is bigger than you think,” Mario says. “This album is good because we feel that we started mourning. I felt good when I listened to the album because I expressed so many emotions, so I feel better now. “Maybe the next one will be entirely different,” he proceeds, “but I say that for us, specifically with Joe, it’s very important to try new things with his voice. He’s 40 years old and you don’t want to scream forever. He needed to express this and he told me ‘I want to sing,’ and I said ‘Yeah, but you have to scream.’ He said ‘No, I need to sing.’ So I said ‘Then let’s sing. Try it. Work on your voice and try it.’
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