So, in case you have been under a rock lately GOJIRA’S new album Magma is arriving on June 17 via Roadrunner Records. This was arguably my most anticipated release of 2016 and having had it in my grubby little paws for almost a week now has caused a near permanent ear-to-ear grin. It’s been a long four years since L’Enfant Sauvage, which is still my favorite album from them no matter what negative things any self-important critics may have to say about it, and I’ve been chomping at the bit for new material. So, the question on everyone’s mind right now is: Was it worth the wait? In a word, “YESSSSS!!”
In a total change from the in-your-face openers of albums past “The Shooting Star” opts for a more thoughtful and introspective approach, with a very deliberate riff, tempo and tone. Even more surprising is Joe Duplantier’s use of clean voice to lure us into a trance as we hang on his every word. This bleeds right into “Silvera”, which is bone-crushingly heavy and mines the eco-friendly subject matter prevalent on all GOJIRA albums. Seriously, if you’re not hitting REPEAT 16 times, screaming along to this chorus, and pounding your steering wheel along to Mario Duplantier’s drumming on this one, you may as well be dead inside.
Oh, and speaking of drumming, man alive, Mario once again goes nuts during “The Cell.” He was already one of my favorites after seeing the band live twice, but here it reaches “King Kong Banging on His Chest”-level intensity. And Joe once again delivers a sharp vocal ready to cut glass. First single “Stranded” damn near made me wet myself the first time I heard it, and with each successive listen I only love it more and more. This is probably the hookiest number, but in no way, shape or form is it softer or any less hard-hitting than the rest. It will stay with you long after it’s done, though, so be prepared for that.
From here we have a bass-heavy interlude in “Yellow Stone” that breaks the album up nicely before getting into title track “Magma”. This is unlike anything I have ever heard before, and in a good way. On the verses, comparisons to PINK FLOYD’S “Astronomy Domine” come to mind, with an eerie guitar lead behind the vocal, and then on the rest of the tune it’s a deep, dark, nasty riff. “Pray” starts out with a tribal feel then turns into an all-out headbanger, while “Only Pain” takes the sonic sledgehammer to your noggin once again, the guitars dropping out hither and yon to let the bass smack you around a bit from time to time. At other points Joe’s screams mirror the guitars, something I found to be very unique, and highly enjoyable.
“Low Lands” is very atmospheric, and like the opener, is definitely out of the box for GOJIRA. Honestly it wouldn’t sound out of place in a Michael Mann film like Heat or Collateral. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to it instantly. That and the fact that it showcases another side of the band. The last two minutes are truly spectacular as well. Closing the disc is “Liberation”, a soft, plucky instrumental with acoustic guitar and some percussion, nothing more, nothing less. I was puzzled by this at first, but then I just let it wash over me.
The bottom line is that GOJIRA have without a doubt delivered an album that is at times both wildly different from past works while still delivering their trademark brand of heavy. I think Magma will be on many a year end Top Albums list including my own, and I can’t wait to see which of these tunes they hit us with on tour this fall. Hopefully everyone will embrace the band’s desire to grow and evolve without cries of, “Sellouts!” or whatever. And for every one old fan who jumps ship, good riddance. I guarantee two or three new ones happily take his or her place. ~dc
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM