Released: Jun 17, 2016
Genre: Progressive Metal, Groove Metal
Number Of Tracks: 10
After doubling down on the blackened energy in their fifth album, Gojira tone their prog metal down to a stoner-like trance in their sixth album, "Magma."
MagmaFeatured review by: UG Team, on june 24, 2016 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Wearing their metal inspirations on their sleeves early on, from classic metal staples like Slayer and Death to heady acts like Meshuggah and Tool, it didn't take long for Gojira's brand of metal to become one of the next well-lauded sounds by both fans and critics. With their earlier albums showing off their instrumental prowess (see their debut album "Terra Incognita") and their technically-stressed song structures (see their 2003 follow-up "The Link"), their progressive-minded qualities of thematically-recurring riffs, measurements and experimental sounds grew stronger in 2005's "From Mars to Sirius" and 2008's "The Way of All Flesh," making for an arguable tie between which is regarded as the band's magnum opus.
After an emphasis on their blackened side in the fleeting darkness of their 2012 album, "L'Enfant Sauvage," Gojira's sixth album, "Magma," takes a sharp turn away from their extreme expectations as prog metal songwriters. At face value, one can hear the noticeable drop in Gojira's previous sonic levels, from the lack of blatant blastbeat/tremolo sections, clean vocals outweighing the harsh vocals, and songs being constructed to be much more concise. In short, Gojira are aiming for a more digestible and accessible sound in "Magma," which is perhaps the last thing that avid fans of techy prog metal want to hear.
But even in this case that many would, to put it lightly, consider a self-imposed handicap, Gojira still achieve the things they've been able to achieve before on "Magma." Along with riffs and sounds calling back to their classic form, like the Gojira-gallop of "Stranded," the noisy slides in "Only Pain" and the tribal percussion in "Pray," Gojira also continue their prog-minded songwriting tropes by way of thematic measurements (a penchant for 6/4 and 12/8 recurs in "Silvera," "Stranded" and "Only Pain") and sonic arcs (the penultimate "Low Lands" simmers to a boil, then parlays into a forlorn acoustic interlude before going into the freeform acoustic finale of "Liberation"). And with much of the lower energy in "Magma" bearing an ominous stoner metal quality to it, where the plodding likes of "The Shooting Star" and the simple, ambiguously triumphant melody in the eponymous song are paired with an eerie vocal output of cult-like chants, Gojira's breakneck moments pop out on the album with much more impact, like the tapping flurries in "Silvera" and the stark stampede of "The Cell." // 7
Lyrics: Having written about the concepts of death, absolution and rebirth in previous albums, frontman Joe Duplantier's wrestling with the subject of death once again in "Magma" carries a more considerable weight to it, given the fact that his (and his brother's, drummer Mario Duplantier) mother died in the midst of recording the album. With this influence, a number of recurring lyrical themes stem from this grief, but rather than drumming up the standard Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, Duplantier's narrative that manifests in the album plays on one's own fathoming of transcendence from mortality into the next stage of existence. With the basis of such detailed in pilgrimatic imagery ("Headed north, frozen lands where tigers go to die / Don't fear the cold it will numb your memories out" in "Shooting Star"), Duplantier's early laments of the ubiquity of death ("Time to open your eyes to this genocide / When you clear your mind you see it all" in "Silvera") and misery over a lack of control of how to process it all ("No control over anything / I'm dying to learn / I'm dying to forget" in "The Cell") possesses him to strive for a godlike immortality and omnipotence despite being impossible to obtain ("The solution is you / Becoming a god / Only pain / All in vain" in "Only Pain"). But as the eponymous song carries over the age-old symbolism of accepting the light in the darkness first established in "Shooting Star," the ending lyrical installment of "Low Lands" finishes things with the natural arc of acceptance and renewal via ascendance, relieving the narrator of his aforementioned pain and suffering ("All the voices trapped in my head / Let them all scream in the night... Let it all go in the sky"). // 8
Overall Impression: It may not have been a tough choice for Gojira to compose "Magma" with less aggression than their previous albums, but knowing the basic discrepancies faced when easing back from a stronger energy, it's tough to execute. Almost entirely abstaining from extreme blastbeat/tremolo sections and limiting its dazzling riffs, "Magma" isn't made to try superseding the blatant power of "Terra Incognita" or "L'Enfant Sauvage," but in the lower gear it takes, "Magma" serves to be a fresher offering in Gojira's catalog than another record of pedal-to-the-metal riffing could offer. And with Gojira still keeping a grasp on some of the riffs and songwriting tropes from before, "Magma" keeps itself from being too much of a black sheep. // 8