Review Summary: Refined brutality.Part IV: Perfecting the Formula
Gojira have always been quite an anomaly in modern metal. Where the hell do they even fit in comparison to other bands in extreme metal today? Do they cater to the progressive metal crowd? The death metal crowd? Groove metal? Thrash metal? The answer is that all of the above are core components in the French outfit's sound, and yet Gojira are still distinctly Gojira. In spite of their influences, they've given such fresh spins on the death metal genre that it's hard not to appreciate their existing contributions. Whether it's the oddly tribal atmosphere of The Link
, the thick layers of distortion permeating From Mars to Sirius
, or the group's growing knack for making thoughtful lyrical observations about the environment and the human condition, Gojira aren't afraid to experiment with different sounds and redefine them in their own musical mold.
However, when The Way of All Flesh
was released, it came out at a time in which the band genuinely had something to prove. From Mars to Sirius
was the band's first album that really bubbled up on the metal world's collective radar, garnering critical acclaim and essentially being their breakthrough record. Luckily, in a very logical progression, Gojira managed to utilize a much darker and more melancholic sound on Way of All Flesh
; it's also very different from a production standpoint, abandoning the sludgy and murky feel of From Mars to Sirius
for something a bit more mechanical and cold. That may almost sound like an insult, but it works perfectly with the overall atmosphere. It also gives heavier songs like "Toxic Garbage Island" and "All the Tears" a lot of punch, especially in regards to Mario Duplantier's drumming. But the melodies are more prominently featured here (something that would apply to their subsequent albums as well), and while some older Gojira fans may be turned off by this, I believe it was the right move for the quartet. The brutality is still present in full force, but simply adorned with more focused songwriting and tighter compositions.
As one would expect with each subsequent Gojira album, there are plenty of interesting musical experiments to sink your teeth into here. Between the melodic guitar tapping in "Oroborus," the highly-layered clean vocal segment in the title track, and the absurd Meshuggah-esque drum part underneath the main riff in "The Art of Dying," the band expand upon their sound in all the right ways. Balls-out metal tracks are still as heavy and punchy as they've ever been, but the more adventurous songs are what seem to win out here. In fact, I'm pretty sure many Gojira fans were shocked when they first heard the electronic elements and vocoder singing in "A Sight to Behold"! But of course, the song still goes into a groove-death metal frenzy during the energetic bridge section. What makes The Way of All Flesh
such a quality album is the balance between variety and straight-up intensity; if there was anything I'd criticize about its predecessor From Mars to Sirius
, it was that the heaviness and distortion seemed to overpower the album's other features a bit too frequently. The songs are a bit more well-rounded, and much of fat (in this case, sheer song length) was trimmed for leaner songwriting. Sure, the ending of "Adoration for None" may go on for a bit to long (being the same riff with little variation), and the silence at the end of the title track was completely unnecessary, but moments like these aren't overly frequent. And it's not like the longer songs are bad by any means; "Art of Dying" is probably one of Gojira's best songs to date because of how well a simple one-note guitar riff can build up such an epic piece of progressive death metal. Speaking of progressive, the prog elements are much more pronounced here as well. The ambient interlude "The Silver Cord" is a beautifully-played guitar piece that sets up "All the Tears" perfectly, while "Toxic Garbage Island" packs a staggering amount of variation and intricacy in just 4 minutes.
I'll wrap things up by saying the atmosphere is also wonderfully on-point in The Way of All Flesh
. The whole experience is dark and brooding, but in a subtle way that allows for a lot of reflection when hearing the poetic lyrics. Frontman Joe Duplantier said the album was supposed to be the band's meditation on death, and the powerful feeling of immersion ensures that he isn't kidding around. The Way of All Flesh
is progressive, brutal, poetic, distorted, and magnificently written. If any of those qualities catch your eye (or your ear), get this masterpiece if you haven't yet.