Review Summary: Intimidating, heavy as hell, and way too lengthy.
Gojira are something of an anomaly in the metal world; they've influenced countless new extreme metal bands in their wake, and yet very few artists have been able to successfully replicate their style. To the newcomers of the band, they may initially come off as Meshuggah with a more emotional (and of course environmental, when referring to the lyrics) side to them. While this can be true at times, the ambient interludes (such as "Torii" or "The Silver Cord") and moments that showcase the brutality of their classic death metal roots suggest more influences beneath the surface. Additionally, each album has its own personality and sound: Terra Incognita was more akin to the band's demos, containing more full-on death metal than their later releases; The Link had both a more tribal and progressive feel; The Way of All Flesh is extremely grim and focuses on the relationship between life and death; L'Enfant Sauvage has a tighter sound and the songs are less drawn-out. So where does From Mars to Sirius fit in? Well, it's a giant sprawling mess of a record, that's for sure.
The longest album by the band at this point, From Mars to Sirius focuses on longer compositions while increasing the guitar distortion and heaviness to the highest degree. Also worth mentioning is this record's special attention to an environmental message, even going as far as making an album cover that looks eerily similar to the logo of the organization Sea Shepherd, which aims to preserve marine life. The typical Gojira trademarks are all present; you've got the low-tuned chugs, a nice variety of tempos, and melodic guitar lines that cut through the wall of distortion. Unfortunately though, the record also emphasizes one of the band's trademarks a little too much: the repetition. Repetition can be fine if it's executed tastefully, but here it just sounds like it was incorporated to fill up the running time. While songs such as the aptly titled "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe" and the simultaneously melodic and harsh opener "Ocean Planet" do an efficient job of trimming the fat, songs like "Global Warming" and especially "Where Dragons Dwell" honestly don't. The latter is seven minutes long, but while the first half holds a nice sludgy groove with some nice vocal variety, the second half is the same riff repeated... over and over and over and over until it fades out. Other songs are guilty of this as well, and it doesn't enhance them in any way. There aren't any subtle changes in the songwriting except for a few different drum fills here and there or some vocal shouts, so there isn't much to invest in.
Luckily the album's strengths do make up for this, if barely. The soft interlude "Unicorn" is a well-paced break from the constant heaviness, and the songs that combine heaviness and frequent instances of melody (like "Ocean Planet" or "Flying Whales") balance the two elements very nicely. "Flying Whales" is certainly a standout in general, with a peaceful clean-guitar interlude setting the stage for the bludgeoning distortion and overall intensity that follows. In fact, "In the Wilderness" ends up being a great follow-up as well, despite returning to the one-dimensional heaviness and having an overly long ending. Luckily, the chromatic riffs and higher-pitched vocals during the chorus are effective and evoke a sense of chaos, saving the tune from the same fate as some of the other ones on here. The lyricism is well-done too; while the environmental message can occasionally be a bit overbearing, it's evident that the band really care about their cause and put a lot of thought into the poetry being sung (or growled/screamed) here. In songs like "Flying Whales" or "Where Dragons Dwell," fantasy themes indirectly provide symbolism related to the environmental theme and are sung with just the right amount of conviction.
There's nothing really terrible about From Mars to Sirius, but it really would have benefited from being pared down. Many of the songs feel a bit directionless because of weak, unnecessarily repetitive endings and their overall length. The album constantly seems to tread the fault line between being resonant and being completely uninteresting. While not a bad record by any means, I can unfortunately call it the band's worst.