Review Summary: Heavy, beastly, but unoriginal, and tedious at 66 minutes long.
Just looking at the cover art and the naming of the album and songs explains a lot about this album. The cover features a whale floating among a planet, presumably Mars, and and a satellite, presumably Sirius. Already invoked is Mastodon's 2004 album Leviathan
who's cover was dominated by a giant whale. In the background are planetary structures, which brings to mind tons of imagery from Cave In albums. Similarly the song titles have that similar spacey motif that is used heavily by Cave In. "Ocean Planet" or "From Mars to Sirius" could be lifted from any Cave In album, metal or alternative. Gojira would love to have you think that they're a little bit spacey and open, and a little bit beastly and huge, but I doubt they'd go as far as cite Mastodon and Cave In themselves as the specific teats they're milking. So, what do we have on our hands musically? It seems that in a lot of ways From Mars to Sirius
is just one part Mastodon, one part Cave In, like judging the book by its cover implies. The songs shift from being fast, quickly changing, with some good shredding a la Mastodon, and at other times take their time and have effect-pedal-filtered, big-sounding chords resounding over a slower beat in the vein of Cave In's older "alt" metal from Until Your Heart Stops
. So maybe Gojira isn't "[f]iendishly original and disgustingly heavy" and "everything that a metal band should be" with a 4/5 rating like the sticker on the cover of the album would lead me to believe. But short of just instantly discounting Kerrang's 4 star ranking on the virtue of the influences, let's look at this further.
First, the positives. When Gojira wants to be powerfully heavy, they do so. Gojira alternates between thick, resounding chords, and really quickly chunked out power chords. This alternation can yields some pretty brutal results when coupled with pounding drums. Part of this heaviness is their use of noise. There are some really cool pick scrapes and cymbal strikes that are distorted in a particular way that yield an unusual and noisy result that suits the sound very well. Also, there are some songs on this album that are great. "Flying Whales" begins with an eerie, albeit, cheesy sampling of a whale song, while beginning a very ambient opening, building up to the heavy meat of the song, which last for the last five minutes of the song, excepting the sweet bridge that allows the crushing weight of the ending metal section. "World to Come" operates in a similar way, building in an almost maudlin of the Well-like fashion with weird vocal melodies and harmonic choices, only to prompt another savage metallic ending. I really like the pairing of the songs "From Mars" and "To Sirius." They remind of "Phoenix in Flight" and "Phoenix in Flames" from Converge's Jane Doe
, by having a particular building section and then a really heavy, chaotic breakdown of the initial gesture. "Global Warming" is a cool song too and the tapping in the verses represents an anomalous moment for Gojira who prefer to sit on heavier, thicker sounds for most of the album. Overall, there are a few keepers on this album.
However, with about 66 minutes of content, and influences being warn rather outwardly on the sleeve, From Mars to Sirius
is more tedious than anything else. The heaviness, yes, is quite heavy, and satisfying if only at a meatheaded level. The problem is that Gojira tend to feel like a one trick pony by employing this heaviness without rest. It completely saturates the album such that it's hard to appreciate their power. They don't really earn it at all. Think of the emotional impact of Isis, building a theme over a few minutes and them using their trademark heaviness to ram the motifs of the song home. They really earn it. Gojira doesn't. Instead, they just deploy their brutality and it saturates the whole album, leading to an overall mushy feel. This feel of course is broken later on in the album with more interesting harmonies and guitar techniques, but by then, it's too little, too late.
Fiendishly original? Not so much. Disgustingly heavy? Hell yea. But that's not enough. Overall, Gojira's From Mars to Sirius
feels too one-dimensional and too derivative to satisfy anybody other than the most desperate, 14-year old metalhead, or alt-metal bandwagon jumper. It's one of those albums that pains the listener with its mediocrity. It's not terrible. They're biting off of bands that themselves are fairly original and interesting so they're not bad, but they just missed the mark, and their synthesis of styles is lesser than the sum of its parts.