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Review: Gojira’s ‘Magma’ breaks new ground

Posted by on June 17, 2016

Bram: The first time I heard this album was in the Duplantier brothers’ studio in Queens. Even though I was among about 30 or so journalists, label execs and radio peeps, it always feels weird to listen to something for the first time in front of it’s creators, as if there’s an elevated sense of expectation from both of you. We were given an advance of the album when leaving, which was a relief, because the album’s a lot to take in on first listen. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time with Magma, and it’s easily one of the best and profoundly different metal releases of the year.

This might be an album that loses Gojira some old school fans that just want the band to stay heavy/tr00/kvlt. They’ll more than likely be supplanted by new fans, however, as this is the most accessible the band’s music has been. The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s a lot more clean singing than there was before. Throughout the band’s career, they’ve used their heaviness and syncopation to stand out, kind of like a more accessible Meshuggah. However, on Magma, you’ll be more reminded of mid-era Voivod or Killing Joke.

Beginning with “Shooting Star,” you get the sense that leading off with a midtempo song featuring clean vocals is setting things up for the rest of the album. The following two songs, “Silvera” and “The Cell,” quickly dispel that, as they’re two of the shortest and heaviest songs on the album. The rest of the album splits the difference between the midtempo, melodic side of the band and the heavier-but-not-as-heavy-as-old-Gojira sound you might be familiar with. The two focal points of the album are quite possibly the most melodic songs. The title track and “Low Lands” are both hypnotic, and as the lyrics address loss (the Duplantiers’ mother died while the album was being made), you get the sense that this helped with their healing. At 43 minutes, it’s a short album, and two of its ten tracks are instrumentals, both of which are pretty inessential. But it’s a compact and interesting album that stakes out new ground for the band, and there’s no other release this year that will sound remotely like it.

Zach: While I didn’t get to attend said listening party (still jealous about that actually), I was lucky enough to get to hear an advance copy of Magma. After also getting to spend a lot of time listening to it, I can easily say it’s the most unique sounding metal album you’ll hear all year… I know, we’re only half way through the year, but I’m already making that claim!Sure, there are little hints of old school In Flames and Mastodon sprinkled into every Gojira song. Yet somehow Gojira constantly take their influences to a whole new level and create a sound that’s truly their own. They’ve always had a gift at doing this, but Magma solidifies that claim and then some. Seriously, the second I heard the opening to “Stranded,” combining chugging and razor sharp riffs into a singular moment, I knew it was a game changer. And for every moment they bring it down a notch on a midtempo song like “Shooting Star,” they come right back out of the gates again with a beast like “Pray.”

Ok, I know I already mentioned this, but I really can’t express enough how unique of a sounding band Gojira are, and how Magma is definite proof of this. Seriously, I may go as far as even saying that they’ve carved out their own little subgenre of metal… in fact, let’s just go ahead and call said subgenre magma metal, alright? Cool sounding name, right? And it’s a fitting title if you think about it, because as often as they go back and forth between in your face aggression and slowed down eeriness, Gojira have a gift for capturing an element of volcanic energy in every single song, and nowhere does that come through better than on Magma.

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