Review Summary: Gojira produce a balanced and powerful extreme metal album.
Gojira are one of the oddities of the metal scene today; their style is generally described as unique, even if detractors point to the occasional similarity to Morbid Angel or Strapping Young Lad (another metal oddity). They are possibly the only French metal band to have any kind of success in the Anglophone world thanks to their English lyrics (some say it matters), but they only really got the attention they deserve when their 3rd album, From Mars to Sirius, was released. Many of their fans would argue that this, the Link, their second album, is the best of the three released so far: while From Mars… is a consistent effort, the songwriting on the Link is generally more interesting, and some of the song structures used here are almost recycled in From Mars.
The album is notable for its variation: there are the speed-fests such as the Morbid Angel soundalike Wisdom Comes, the groovy tracks such as the opening track, and the downright stunningly innovative tracks such as Remembrance. The Link opens with cyclical riffs and a pummeling atmosphere which showcases some of Joe Duplantier’s more melodic singing style. A very laid-back track as they go, and not one which one would normally associate with a band (such as Gojira) labeled as progressive death metal. Indeed, straight-up death metal is rarely heard on the album, as the band tends to sink back into mid-paced riffs. However, the speed can be found: Remembrance opens with a tremolo-picked intro, and does not relent until the final, shattering breakdown. Remembrance is a fantastic example of Gojira’s knack of taking a song, applying a fairly simple song structure, and utterly enthralling the listener. The middle, spacy sections (is that a whale I hear? Sounds familiar) need to be heard to be believed, and the breakdown comes out of the blue and leaves my neck sore. Easily one of the highlights of the album.
Wisdom Comes shows the ability of the band to throw out a simple, blast-beat laden track and use them to their best extent. Not a single clean sound to be heard on this track, as Duplantier growls his way through. Death of Me, possibly my favourite track on the album, is a fiercely original track. It switches between a distinctive, swinging riff and some tremolo-picked, blast beat nuggets of goodness, with some interesting slower parts which contribute to make an astonishing track. Embrace the World is another highlight, keeping interest the whole way by the nature of the song changing several times throughout. Its lyrics are also the most interesting here, possibly one of the songs that states the band’s purpose the most clearly. Inward movement is the slowest track on here, and has an almost drone, doom feel, and is one of the more interesting listens here.
The album isn’t perfect, as the superlatives of this review might suggest. There are some utterly worthless tracks, which can be named: the atmospherical Connected, using some rudimentary percussion, sets up Remembrance nicely. However, it is simply tedious to listen to this for a whole minute, and one can only wonder if it’s really necessary. Over the Flows’ main riff is original, to say the least. However, the track repetitively plods its way through, and doesn’t really make an impression comparable to the juggernauts of Remembrance or Death of Me. Indians attempts to make use of a ‘swinging’ riff similar to the main riff of Death of Me, except this one simply seems childish. Dawn also seems unnecessary and drawn out, and does not have the strength of Gojira’s usually epic closing tracks. Any listener in possession of From Mars to Sirius should listen to the track Unicorn from that album. Interesting use of harmonics? Certainly. Now listen to Torii. That’s right: Gojira, for some obscure reason, decided to reuse those harmonics for Unicorns. Well, since this review focuses on The Link, I can criticize this track only for its repetitiveness and, yet again, pointlessness, quite apart from the fact that From Mars to Sirius recycles this track completely.
The Link is able to showcase the talents of the bands very nicely. The Duplantier brothers (Joe on guitars/vocals, Mario on drums) are clearly the brains of the band, and admit it openly in interviews. The second guitar (Christian Andreu) follows Joe’s lead, and one can only feel that his presence in the band is solely to provide extra heaviness and thickness to the band, not to actually provide leads. This is a shame, as Gojira’s cover of Metallica’s Escape shows that Christian can solo very nicely; it would be interesting to see if Gojira can incorporate leads into their future efforts. Mario on drums is one of the band’s stand-out elements; he is fast on double kick, his fills are innovative, he is the master of adding in cymbals and snare hits on unusual beats in order to spice up a normal drumline. Bass, provided by Jean-Michel Labadie, falls prey to the second guitar’s curse of simply following the root. Labadie’s contribution can only really be seen live, where his energy is overpowering. However, on record, he fails to make a lasting impression.
The album is arguably the best recorded by Gojira, and some of the tracks are live staples. They do not often fall prey to the curse of repetition, some of the criticism leveled towards their two other albums. Gojira have managed to produce a very interesting metal album, going against many of the stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas that are packaged with most extreme metal music. One of my favourite albums overall.