I first became aware of Gojira during an interview conducted with Annihilator’s Jeff Waters back in 2007, where he praised them to such a degree that I had to give them a chance. Since then I’ve seen them live countless times and I got hooked on (especially) last two releases despite the fact that I’m not that big of a fan of death metal and Gojira’s music for sure includes plenty of death metal aspects. But there is so much more to Gojira; the experimenting as well as the atmosphere that band builds up through their music has always been appealing to me. These are the aspects that band has especially been developing on their last two releases The Way of All Flesh and L’Enfant Sauvage.
Four years after the release of L’Enfant Sauvage the French metallers are back with a brand new album heavily inspired buy the passing of Joe Duplantier (vocals/guitar) Mario Duplantier’s (drums) mother.
This is most evident in lyrics, but also in the overall atmosphere of the album. What sets Magma apart from band’s previous releases is the far more simplistic approach to song writing and performance, as well as Joe Duplantier approach to singing. The screaming and growling is almost gone and the focus is instead on clean(er) vocals.
When you combine all this it’s easy to see that the result is an album that is far more commercially acceptable and easier to digest. We’ve seen such moves countless times over the years. Metallica did it with release of Metallica and Megadeth did it with Countdown to Extension. In more recent years Mastodon’s The Hunter comes to mind. Common for all three above-mentioned releases is that they were successful, both commercially and artistically.
Time will tell how big of commercial success Magma will be and will it manage to open the door of mainstream for the band, but artistically the album has succeeded on high level.
Hardcore Gojira-fans might have some issues with simpler, shorter songs and clean vocals, but if they can manage to get pass that and allow themselves to get sucked into the dark depths of Magma, they will find the highly complex and rewarding piece of music.
The simpler approach has allowed band to focus more on core of song-writing as well as the emotion and atmosphere of the album. The interplay between riffs and melodies gives the album catchy quality, while at the same time remaining the overall eerie dark feel to it. Songs on Magma are extremely tightly put together and at same time the band has never grooved so massively.
In many ways this is an album filled with contradictions and diversities, which work extremely well together. And it’s interplay between all these aspects creates a greater whole, gives the album whole another level.
From technical point of view, the album might be simpler, with less technical exhibitionism, but it’s still a gigantic display band members’ abilities as musicians. These are just not thrown into your face as they might have been on previous releases. At the same time if you allow yourself to dig deeper in, you’ll find more technical debauchery than most other bands can pull off, without coming across as jam-bands.
Much like case was with Mastodon, Magma sees a band whose basis was never melodic approach to singing, entering somewhat unknown waters of melodic singing and such shift can be tricky. Mastodon did a fairly good job making this shift despite the fact that none of their two singers have substantial classic singing talents/abilities. Much of the same can be said about Joe Duplantier, but he did a very good job on this album, nonetheless thanks to numerous effects and masterful arrangements.
Magma sees Gojira growing and at the same time daring to explore unknown ventures as well as very private sentiments. At the same time this is without a doubt a Gojira album with the most identifiable trademarks. Together with The Way of All Flesh this album comes across, not only as one of their two finest releases, but also most certainly their career defining ones.