Review Summary: The most unusual Gojira album, and all the better for it.Part II: Now Comes Fire, Left and Right Connected
Something I’ve always found a bit perplexing about The Link
is that there’s not much backstory behind it. Gojira’s debut Terra Incognita
has plenty of interesting tidbits to its name, such as how frontman Joe Duplantier lived in a secluded cabin for two years while coming up with inspiration for the record, or how the interlude “04” was intended by Joe and his brother Mario to be a birthday present for their mother. But The Link
is… just The Link
. Even the cover art - while indicative of the more tribal elements on the record (we’ll get to that) - is very unassuming. As such, its popularity and significance are often dwarfed by the records that sandwich it. Terra Incognita
is the brutal and aggressive fan-favorite debut, and From Mars to Sirius
is the breakthrough album that brought them significant acclaim in the wider metal community. But that doesn’t mean we should be forgetting about The Link
Not in the slightest. On top of being a necessary stepping stone for Gojira’s progression, it’s also quite possibly the strangest and most experimental record of theirs to date. You’ll find the usual helping of groovy chugs and double bass worship, but it’s all topped off with the aforementioned tribal elements as well as a more “mystical” overall vibe. Right from the title track, you’re thrown into an otherworldly environment full of droning vocal inflections, hypnotic grooves, and wood block percussion; suddenly, the world crafted by Terra Incognita
has expanded and become an even more diverse place to explore. Death metal sections are still present on The Link
but they’re used much more sparingly this time around to make room for an expanding palette of influences. Whether it be the beautiful ambient interlude “Torii”, the doom metal-inspired riffs of “Inward Movement”, or the lengthy post-metal mini-epic that is “Dawn”, the unpredictability of The Link
’s tracklist goes a long way in describing its appeal to anyone who’s a bit bored with the current iteration of the band’s sound.
Yet the surprise comes in just how well the songs flow into each other. You’d think so many disparate elements being put together would cause some massive consistency issues, but such is not the case with The Link
. Even at this stage, Gojira were great at knowing what transitions and dynamics to use at the right times. A perfect example would be the one-two-three punch of “Connected”, “Remembrance”, and “Torii”. Technically, only one of these is a full-length song; however, all three of them flow into each other so well that you’d might as well treat it as one single eight-minute track. “Connected” opens up with some light tribal drumming that opens the gates for the death metal fury of “Remembrance”; in turn, the amazing breakdown of “Remembrance” fades out to set the stage for the lovely “Torii” to take place. Meanwhile, you can perceive “Wisdom Comes” as the band letting out their final blast of death metal aggression before the expansive and slow-moving “Dawn” moves in to bring The Link
to a fitting close. While I’d argue From Mars to Sirius
is even more well-constructed because it uses a concrete narrative to tie the songs together, this album is no slouch either.
As one would expect from a Gojira album, the performances here are absolutely stellar. Joe and lead guitarist Chrisian Andreu have wonderful chemistry together, especially on the heavier tunes. “Wisdom Comes” is especially noteworthy, as the duo perform dual tremolo-picked harmonies to create a sinister vibe that compliments the intense riffs nicely. Mario and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie are also perfectly locked-in on The Link
, providing just the right balance of groove and technicality for those heavy songs while showing incredible restraint on the softer ones. In a 2005 interview with Hard ‘n’ Heavy Magazine
, Mario said the sessions for the album represented “a period during which I wanted to play fast: I was starting to master well the grind parts and the double bass pedal”. This is definitely evident in fast cuts such as “Remembrance” and “Wisdom Comes”, which feature the most impressive double bass work and rapid-fire blastbeats that he’d ever played up to this point; the fact that the rest of the band could keep up and hold their own so well against his drumming is pretty damn impressive.
Admittedly, I’m quite tired of The Link
being considered the red-headed stepchild of Gojira’s catalogue (well, according to the fanbase, it’s either this or Magma). It has a plethora of fantastic songs, a unique atmosphere, the most experimental writing of the band’s career, and some of their most technical and intricate playing to top it off. It set the stage perfectly for Gojira’s heyday, and it remains an incredible record in its own right.