Review Summary: “Magma” solidifies the fact that Gojira are in a league of their own.
Over the course of a decade, France’s Gojira have grown to represent the next stage of heavy music’s evolution. If you’ve seen them live then nobody can dispute the fact that for all the technical brilliance of their peers such as Mastodon and Lamb of God, there’s something so emotive and soulful about whatever the Duplantier brothers do that makes it seem like Gojira are in a complete league of their own. With their sixth album, “Magma”, they continue to traverse to further lands that are so eloquently dominant over the ocean of modern metal bands out there.
Just like the layered tectonic structure of the Earth, “Magma” has been crafted upon foundations of varying emotions. On the surface you've got Gojira simply evolving their hammering sound into more simplistic rhythms, like ‘Stranded’, while sounding just as heavy as before. But, beneath the surface is a natural ebbing progression that lies deep in the roots of the Mt. Gojira. On ‘The Cell’ and title track you’ve got Mario’s inevitably stellar technicality on drums but it’s the wisps of guitar from Christian Andreu on the title track or Jean-Michel Labadie’s murky bass in the previous song, ‘Yellow Stone’ that boils the intensity towards the special, heated captivation that only Gojira can conjure.
With “Magma”, the relationship of music and melody is solidified by the sad passing of the Duplantier brother's mother in 2015. Compared their brazenly heavy catalogue, this loss has impacted the mood of this album greatly. The intense emotions contort from a slow kindling fire to blazing infernos of rage that characterize the title of the album: something boiling and ready to erupt. The serene intro, ‘The Shooting Star’, with its longing lyrics of “When you get to the other side, please send a sign” and pensive riffs exemplifies the calmer and reflective side of the album while transitions between imposing vocals and explosive guitar slides on ‘Pray’, plus the screeching whammy hooks on ‘Only Pain’, identify the extreme and severe cascade of emotions from the same tragedy. Having been immortalised within this album, “Magma” feels more like a celebration rather than a mournful eulogy of Patricia Rosa Duplantier.
Though far from accessible, the music on “Magma” is just as diverse as ever. Mario’s drumming is endlessly meandering round each guitar hook that his brother, Joe, can throw at him and the sound of the bass lines-when exposed- can only be described as the echoes of the Earth’s plates grinding. Joe Duplantier also maintains the elasticity of his own riffing with death metal influences on ‘Silvera’ and progresses the flexibility of his tender clean vocals in various occasions throughout “Magma” with success, particularly in ‘Low Lands’.
Would Gojira be the same beast that they are now without the conviction behind the music? No. Their ferocious environmental beliefs and maternal spiritual guidance on “Magma” are matched only by the sophistication of their instrumentation. Here, the music acts as a medium to which their messages are conveyed in a way that only makes Gojira’s songs all the more compelling. Music and passion: one cannot live without the other.