Gojira Magma2016 Roadrunner Records
Welcome to the new world.
It doesn’t take long to pick up on the emotional potency present in “Magma“, the sixth studio album from France’s favorite eco-friendly metal outfit Gojira. An unnerving representation of great personal triumph and tragedy, it showcases some of the most revelatory and poignant compositions the band have penned to date.
The road they took to get here was one paved over highs and lows however, especially for the brotherly duo of Joe and Mario Duplantier. In the past year or two alone, the pair built their own studio in NYC (Silver Cord Studio) for the recording of the album and furthered the Duplantier bloodline. Quite tragically though, they also lost their mother to cancer last summer.
Being so directly exposed to both extremes of the cycle of life, the increased human presence on this album is an relatable development. It’s often been the case that Gojira albums take on a more grandiose, earth-championing plight. With “Magma” more of the subject matter seems internally harvested, making it feel like their most personal statement yet.
From the shrill whirring riffs and angular grooves found on “Stranded“, “Only Pain” and “Magma“, to the repurposed Meshuggah onslaught of “Pray“, the group deliver some expressly heavy moments, dense with passion and immaculately layered fury. Dynamic juxtaposition remains near omnipresent as melodic tendrils spring up like undergrowth, enshrouding the ferocious earth churning grooves and pummeling riffs.
The above mentioned “Only Pain” features a particularly gnarled groove with a punchy bass line that intently stalks the listener into being blindsided by furious riffage. The amount of thought put into these compositions is staggering. There’s an engulfing amount of diversity present throughout the album, whether it manifests itself in a verse, chorus, or—perhaps more prevalently—in an interlude.
On a larger scale, much of “Magma” comes off like a union of technology and earthen constructs—an uneasy hybrid prone to exhilarating friction. As mortal as the songwriting and analog instrumentation is though, the band also employ the many benefits of the modern age. Be it guitar effects and ambiance/sampling or the ethereal disconnect of the occasionally augmented vocals, there’s often a touch of chilling mechanical precision also at play.
It’s a sensory explosion of color, sound and emotion that runs a proverbial gamut of intensity. Though I may very well be wrong, the slow burning haunt and sputtering groove of “Low Lands” seemingly pays tribute to the Duplantier boys’ fallen mother, with a wistfully crooned “tell me what you see in the afterlife” opening the track.
The song continues on as a brooding blur of spectral delight that erupts into one of the album’s most rewarding groove feasts. On the other hand, the menacing “Stranded” lyrically sounds like the reaction to a volatile relationship—a desperate plea to not be shut out.
Initial listens to the album amount to sensory overload, but that’s merely because the band are not only firing on all cylinders creatively, but emotionally as well. It’s already taken me weeks to appreciate the little things, like the faint traces of what appear to be woodwinds opening “Pray” or the intricate cadence of vocals and squelching guitars in “Only Pain“. It’s a sonic Easter egg hunt that continually offers up new rewards.
Lyrically Gojira have long reigned as champions of earth and mother nature and “Magma” does continue that legacy. But it also sees them opening up the door into their own personal world and exposing more of themselves. On “Pray“, Duplantier in part rages “No faith in your world, create my own…,” well with “Magma” they may have done just that.