Sound — 9
During the hype prior to this record's release, one thing kept me pumped and eager for this one to drop, and that was the promise that Gojira was coming back even darker, heavier, and more pissed off than ever. After repeatedly spinning The Way Of All Flesh into the ground to satisfy my hunger for more Gojira, it's clear to me that this promise has held its weight. Gojira's staple sound is still very much intact, only filtered through an even more cynical and fatal lens of environmental destruction. From second number one, Oroborous hooks the listener with it's off-kilter melody, chugging riffs, and even some pleasant clean vocals from Joe Duplantier. However, the true brutality doesn't kick in until track 2 when Toxic Garbage Island knocks you on your ass with the most convoluted, squeel-ladden groove in recent memory that is sure to get the head pumping. Yama's Messengers sounds like the bastard child of Ocean Planet and Backbone, with it's tortured mid-tempo triplet riffs, and a pulverizing breakdown where the band cuts loose and fells all in its path like a harvester clear-cutting a forest. I half-expected Esoteric Surgery to be some kind of tribute to Carcass, but the track juxtaposes lumbering rhythms with the swooning melody the band is so good at delivering.
Lyrics — 8
With that said, there are a few curve balls thrown in to keep the band's style from stagnating. A Sight To Behold is perhaps the album's tamest number, resembling a hybrid of electronica and funk, with an almost Cephalic Carnage vibe, if it weren't so heart-felt and anguished. The nearly ten minute long The Art Of Dying opens with catchy tribal drums, before launching headfirst into a dense typhoon of pulsing rhythms, cacophonic walls of guitar, and Duplantier's soaring screams as it progresses organically from section to section, making it a glorious example of the band's next leap in songwriting. Lead single Vacuity relies on simple grooves and an anthemic, headbanging chorus to bring the track home, and though the ultra-cool breakdown sounds suspiciously close to the one on Backbone, it still elevates the song, making it one hell of a ride. Other highlights include the tempo change to bone-crushing sludge halfway through Wolf Down The Earth, as well as the unparalleled aggression of the title track as it rabidly storms out of the gate, only to close with a hypnotic chanting outro. Adoration For None simply sounds f--king evil and shiver-inducing as it transitions from a pounding black-hole of noise, to an emotional, soaring effigy, to a drawn-out and discordant outro. The track is so heavy and bleak that it effectively paints the future of our planet to the listener, and therefore embodies all the themes prevalent on the record. Having Randy Blythe guest-starring on the track also doesn't hurt, and will hopefully garner the group lots more well-deserved attention.
Overall Impression — 9
After From Mars To Sirius, I was sure this album would be strong, though I was sceptical as to whether it would surpass. For all intents and purposes Gojira has delivered a more concise and elemental record than its predecessor (which was as phenomenal as it was drawn out). It manages to progress, yet retains all the qualities that made the band great in the first place. It's exceeded my every expectation, and at this point there should be only one question on everyone's brain: With an effort this strong, where on earth do they go from here.