Review Summary: A heavy and defining metal album...the best Gojira has to offer.
Gojira have existed for quite a while now. The French quartet formed in 1996 as Godzilla, but in 2001, they changed their name to the rōmaji spelling of the notorious Japanese lizard, that is Gojira. Three full studio albums and one live album later, they have released their latest monster release, and by far the most evolved (excuse the stupid pun). I’ve always been intrigued by this act, for they incorporate progressive elements, unique rhythms and riffs, and uneasy atmosphere, encapsulated around a perplexing motif of melodic heaviness. But I will admit, it took me awhile to get into their first couple releases, and it still is a task to listen to full albums in one sitting. They are nevertheless very talented and individual songs will continue to thrill me. But finally, with “The Way of All Flesh,” Gojira manages to supersede all expectations and go beyond the confines of metal, creating a uniquely refreshing, continuously heavy, and ultimately enjoyable album.
The most interesting aspect of this album is their use of consistently repeated riffs creating a rather steady foundation for their songs. Basically, they utilize the same motif or phrase repeatedly that underline an entirety of a song. I cannot use the word monotony because that would bring about a negative connotation, and that is far from correct. These repeated sections provide a constant driving and a consistent upbeat and very catchy push. A random chord, run, or other deviance will be thrown in, sometimes consistently, sometimes sporadically, for amusing change and variation to keep things interesting. I guess the more appropriate word would be ostinato.
For example, the opener “Oroborus” hits you with an extremely catchy arpeggio-into-trill riff followed by dense power chords. It sounds great but then you realize that this will repeat throughout the entire track. Sometimes, these sections will be played with some variation while still maintaining the gist of the riffs. That in no way however makes this song boring. Joe Duplantier provides some powerful shrill vocals changing it three times for its three major sections. I especially love the final section where Joe’s vocals drive into an inspiring conclusion.
This leads into the impeccable precision of the instrumentals. Mario Duplantier is a surgeon with his drumset. Of course for this type of music, the double bass is prevalent and persistent, but nevertheless executed with great precision. However, the main percussion highlights lie in the toms, snare, and bell hits. With the assistance of the production quality, each hit from the aforementioned are crisp and textured, giving a nice balance with all the instruments. One of the major exhibitions of Mario’s playing comes in the beginning of “The Art of Dying.” The track starts with a fast-paced tribal beat that maintains the persistence of a clock on steroids. When the guitar and bass assault blasts in, Mario continues in his driving beats that never falter within the ten minute track. I can only imagine the exhaustion most amateurs would face in attempting to play a full run of this track.
Christian Andreu on guitar is just as incredible. Andreu plays some great riffs and catchy hooks, sometimes accompanied nicely with synth beats such as in “A Sight to Behold.” But where he mostly stands out is the precision of his heavy rolling and power chords that drive as equally as Mario’s drumming. Andreu also manages to occasionally throw in some interesting aspects such as the constant pick scrapes in “All the Tears.” Though a little more difficult to hear, Jean-Michel Labadie on bass maintains the same drive, especially in the rolling riffs. Impeccability seems a ubiquitous necessity within the group.
But let’s not forget Joe’s vocals. Joe utilizes a harsh growl but has an uncanny ability to incorporate intonation and even melody within his vocals. Other times, the melody is there because he is singing in an eerie chanting voice such as in the behemoth closer, “The Way of All Flesh.” He also sometimes has raspy shout-talking moments and staccato up and down moments that aid to upbeat parts (such as in “A Sight to Behold”). But overall, his vocals tend to soar immensely complimenting the rest of the band and making for a very emotive listen. He easily creates those “stand up and raise your fist” moments.
All the instrumentals still maintain the heaviness of Gojira's previous albums. But unlike these albums, “The Way of All Flesh” doesn't maintain it's heaviness as overbearing and repetitive. This may be due to the fact that the album seems to maintain great individuality in songs, where all the songs can distinctly be identified with a few good listens. Before (especially “From Mars to Sirius”), all the songs seemed to eventually mesh together and sound more or less the same. Despite the “monotony” I mentioned within each individual track, the album as a collective creates many changes of pace and emotion, creating for a much varied listen as a whole. That being said, there are unique moments throughout, but selecting the best tracks is rather difficult.
The main point is that the progression of Gojira finally shows, which is the main reason I refrained from name-dropping comparisons. Aspects can be compared to that of Mastodon, Meshuggah, and Darkane, but Gojira have entered a league of their own, creating a new album powerful and compelling enough to tear down buildings like the monster itself.