–by Brendan Reid, Editor–
When Gojira released their single “Stranded,” I will admit, I was a bit concerned. The song had some awesome riffs and catchy hooks, but seemed to lack the oomph that I always look forward to in new Gojira material. Its mix seemed too light, it was overly repetitive, and some even proclaimed it as nu-metal (anything but that, please!).
But now that I’ve listened to the entirety of Magma, I can say with confidence that my fears were unfounded.
Magma is an exceptional work. It covers entirely new ground, but retains the distinctive Gojira heaviness that fans know and love. While not as crushing as their older albums, Magma has countless powerful moments, and is confidently progressive in its own way, as all progressive albums should be.
The brothers Dulplantier were dealing with a lot during the recording of this album. The death of their mother played a large roll in the songwriting process, and their catharsis is evident as you listen. Many of the lyrics deal with the inevitability of death, the fragility of the mind, and the profundity of the spirit. Gojira has always embraced these ideas in their songs, and Magma explores them with more poignancy than ever.
The moment “Shooting Star” kicked in, I was hooked. This song shows a side of the band that is contemplative and vast, and not afraid to utilize clean vocals. Many metal fans eschew the use of clean vocals, but here they keep things from becoming one-dimensional. Buried low in the mix you will often hear a bellowing scream, like the wailing of some far-off beast, and then Joe’s crushing vocals will come in full force. It’s an awesome dynamic, and his two vocal styles work beautifully side by side.
Once “Silvera” starts, we get a taste of the classic Gojira. Thunderous riffs, powerful melodies, and Gojira’s unique heaviness are all present, and this carries over into “The Cell.” These songs are concise and digestible, and do not overstay their welcome. We are then led comfortably into “Stranded,” the song I once fretted over. Nestled neatly in the first half of the album, it makes sense in the context of the songs, and is a prelude to what the rest of Magma has in store.
After a base-driven interlude, we are gifted with the title track. “Magma” is lead by an ethereal motif, one that was heard in the album teaser many weeks ago. This song shows an experimental Gojira, a Gojira that makes you think. It evokes feelings of wonder, a sense of the sublime, which, no doubt, is exactly what the band wanted. It is a whole new sonic direction for Gojira, and one I hope they continue to explore.
After that, we are given back to the heaviness that Gojira is so well known for. The opening of “Pray” immediately made me think of The Link, the band’s sophomore effort. There is a nostalgic quality to it, one that long time fans will eagerly devour. “Only Pain” continues this trend, and is a pummelling excuse to mosh the hurt away. No doubt this will be a crowd favourite in the pits.
Finally we arrive at the album’s dénouement, and are presented with “Low Lands” and “Liberation.” “Low Lands” is another of the albums shining moments of progression, and rises slowly from contemplative riffs and rousing vocals to a head-banging conclusion, then slowly fades off in an acoustic epilogue. It is a wonderful journey, and a great way to tie off the album, which is why “Liberation” feels a little out of place. It consists of moody acoustic guitars and hand drums, and makes one feel as though they are lost in jungles of thought. It’s a nice way to ease out of the rollercoaster of heaviness we have just experienced, but its impact is somewhat lessened coming after the wondrous groove of “Lowlands.”
All in all, Magma is a great album. Heavy yet melodic, familiar yet new, and deeply entwined with ideas of life, death, and the spirit, it covers just about every base a Gojira fan could hope for. It is a worthy addition to Gojira’s ever growing catalogue, and will undoubtedly be a sight to behold when witnessed live.
Brendan is an avid gamer and music enthusiast. He can often be found hiking through the woods, looking for reckless adventures to embark on.