Written by: AP on 08/03/2017 22:14:13

Upon listening to “Magma”, the sixth studio album by Gojira, on the day of its release last summer, it felt so at odds with my own interpretation of what makes the French progressive metallers so electrifying that I was discouraged from giving it room to breathe and evolve and as a result, it drifted out of my conscious and eluded the wrath of my pen. A tired showing at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival two weeks later only exacerbated the issue and lead me to decide that it was best to lay the album aside for a while. And returning to it now with fresh perspective, it has been much more difficult to entertain the rash conclusions that nearly made me demolish what is really a quite enchanting record.

Gojira’s desire to transcend the realm of extreme metal were expressed with some clarity on the preceding “L’Enfant Sauvage” in 2012, so the fact that “Magma” turns the brutalism of the quartet’s early work down even further and substitutes it for an airier, esoteric style does not come as a surprise. Instead of dense and mechanistic, Gojira now sounds vast and ethereal, with songs like the opening track “Shooting Star”, “Pray” and “Low Lands” all marked by their generous application of echo and reverb effects and Joe Duplantier’s effervescent singing. The heavy, syncopated chugs that most people associate with the band are thus at a premium, but on the other hand, the additional space enables Mario Duplantier to showcase his mastery of drumming like never before, through a plethora of subtle fills and tempo shifts rather than just precision and speed — he actually sounds human and emerges as the star performer of these songs more often than not.

Until the new innovations are sink in however, existing fans are likely to descend on the trifecta of familiar cuts that comprises “Silvera”, “The Cell” and “Only Pain”. Built off the back of a caustic chug-riff, “Silvera” synthesises cold, ruthless technicality and oceanic grandeur in a manner not unlike 2008’s “The Way of All Flesh”, while the mathematic double-pedalling that fuels “The Cell” while ambient notes shimmer overhead, keeps with the spirit of the aforementioned “L’Enfant Sauvage”. And if one thirsts for a proper bludgeoning, the dissonant staccato riffs thrusting “Only Pain” into a groove should do the trick. But although these three songs are equipped with the tone and atmosphere to be consistent with Gojira’s present ideology, it is admittedly a bit disheartening that “Magma” should find the brunt of its highlights in them. Certainly, the songs that embody the dreamier, more ‘post-metallic’ form have their merits, too — the mystique and psychedelia of “Pray”, for instance, has an addictive magnetism about it. But while the figurative sensation of floating through space that listening to “Stranded” or the titular “Magma” evokes, those distinctive eruptions of violence are too far apart to perform the role of anchor points. One simply floats, without being riveted.

More than anything else, “Magma” thus feels like a transitional piece; rigged with sufficient carrot to keep the long-standing disciples aboard, but also presenting them with a vision of Gojira’s future. An artist pipped as one of the torchbearers of contemporary metal cannot afford to rest on its laurels, so in that sense one must tip the hat at these Frenchmen for continuing to push the envelope. But nonetheless, “Magma” leaves you with a nagging sensation of unfulfilled potential — hopefully to be realised on its successor within the next few years.


Download: Silvera, The Cell, Pray, Only Pain
For the fans of: Hacride, Meshuggah, Strapping Young Lad
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.06.2016
Roadrunner Records

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