For whatever reason, I had never listened to Gojira before this album. Well, that’s changing. This is an awesome album and I can’t wait to explore more of their catalog. This album just won them a new fan, which is a pretty good barometer for how good an album is.
I’m going to do this a little backwards from how I normally do it and talk about the sound of the album first. Holy shit this album sounds amazing. The drums are spacious without being thin or losing impact and sound very natural. The vocals sit right where they need to with perfect clarity and balance. The guitar tones are amazing. Seriously, just the right amount of crunch and dirt to be heavy but they retain complete accuracy and tightness. And the bass. Oh. My God. The bass tones on this album or so perfect. I think this album might have the best heavy bass tones I have ever heard. It’s also got phenomenal use of space. Sounds come in and out of the void like specters. This album just earned a spot on my “5 Best Sounding Metal Albums” list I did from awhile back. I just love it.
Onto the songwriting. This is an album, not a collection of songs. That’s something you don’t hear as often anymore, sadly. This album ebbs and flows over its course like a classic rock album from the 70’s. It feels like a good live set list. The run of styles on this album is pretty great too. Not being familiar with the bands back catalog, I can’t comment on the “Gojira-ness” of this album, but this album sounds very distinct. It reminds of Alice in Chains going on a drunken, pissed off rampage while occasionally having LSD flashbacks. On that note, like AIC, sometimes they take a section or idea a little too far. Take the title track “Magma”, it drags just a bit. Not much mind you, but when that main guitar line comes around again, you have to wonder why it needed to be repeated for the 50th time. Again, it’s a very minor thing, as it fits into the overall structure of the album.
Quick special mention to the song that made me check this band out finally – the first single from this album “Stranded.” Man, this track is probably one of the best heavy metal singles I have ever heard. Yes, I realize it borders on hard rock, but whatever. That track is some Metallica Black Album level of radio metal perfection.
Have I said how much I love Joe Duplantier’s voice? I guess the clean vocals are another area where the AIC comparison comes in with the way he layers them. He nails the whole “screaming with notes” thing too. There is a ton of feeling and depth in there. And when he gets angry and deep, it hits just as hard. Somehow, even when he’s just flat out screaming, he manages to get emotions into his vocal takes.
To go further into individual critiques for the rest of the band, well, they are all great. Mario’s drumming is tasteful with some great flourishes. I love the way he plays with the downbeat and syncopation as well as his great use of poly-rhythm as a contrast to the rest of the instruments. When it comes to guitars, I’m not sure what to attribute to Joe and what to Christian, so lets just say the guitar work is pretty damn nice. Everything fits like a glove. Moving from riff to riff and intertwining melodic ideas just feel right. Jean-Michel’s bass is just a massive fucking steel-toed boot to the gut. He manages to peak in and out of the arrangements in a fantastic way as well, so its not as blunt as it seems at first.
I think this just a fantastic album all around. Its also a great album for non-metal folk to check out. If you get into even mildly heavy stuff, like hard rock radio or grunge, you will probably dig this. Who knows, it may be a good gateway to the heavier stuff. Beyond that, if you are just a fan of good music that bucks a lot of modern conventions you should give it a go. This is a highly recommended album and I hope you get a chance to hear it.