The World Ends, Gojira Begins.
Yo, this be Reuben. I love a bit of metal, and I love a bit of prog; assuming they’re both good, that is. French band Gojira (who’s name is literally a micky-take of how Japanese people say Godzilla – pretty good, I know) have been sporting the prog metal genre in generally pretty spectacular fashion since 1996, getting into many people’s best of genre lists and the like. They’ve also been called “technical death metal” a lot of the time, as they predominately play brutal metal with mental time signatures – like Meshuggah? They have often given their music a prog twist, however, and Magma is a perfect example of that. Magma is their most successful album to date in commercial terms, as Gojira have gradually become one of the biggest metal bands in Europe. I would have said biggest and best, but I’m pretty sure they’ve been one of the best since they started back twenty years ago. Get the prog and catchiness of Mastodon, and bind it to the madness of Medhuggah, whilst giving it some extra Lamb of God bite. That’s what Gojira is.
From the word go, Magma is fantastic.
As soon as the first chord is played, you’re blown away by the powerful and bassy mix, as you try to mosh to the crazy time signatures. However, you’re not always in a moshing mood with this one, as the album possesses a slightly less heavy, more atmospheric sound, with a large emphasis on clean vocals; taking the “death” out of their brand of metal. I’m absolutely fine with this, gotta say. It makes for less blast beats and all that noisy stuff associated with death metal. Nonetheless, this is still totally metal, pure and true. Although it takes a more progressive and slightly lighter tone, it can still be very heavy, loud and mosh-provoking. Even so, if there is one qualm I have with the album, it’s that it could be a little heavier, to fully embrace the powerful mix it has, and be that bit more incredible — possibly then From Mars to Sirius is where to go if the heaviness on this doesn’t satisfy you.
But Magma is pretty incredible already, thank you very much. The band’s production value has clearly risen, because the sound quality of the album is the best of the year that I’ve heard. One aspect of the music that this great mix does fully embrace is the atmosphere. It’s full of effects and cool string skillage, to make everything sound that much more unique and, well, awesome. There is not just one coolest instrument on show here, as the guitar and basswork along with the drumming all have their perks. The great basswork is shown off and more by the mix, the guitar twists and turns with different effects every song, and the drumwork is simply some of the best I’ve ever heard – mostly considering some of the time signatures he’s having to play. There is a constant groove in Magma, and the musicality on show is nothing short of immense.
The melodies are spot-on, also. The hook of Silvera, for instance, stays in my head for ages. There are a load of brilliant bass and guitar licks that deliver the main melodies, and if their performances were topped off with a more impressive vocal performance, the album would be perfect — as it stands, we’ve got a solid singer. Even though he isn’t the best singer in the world, his work is helped considerably by some damn cool effects, like in Only Pain.
The fantastic thing about Magma is its ability to constantly entertain. There isn’t one weak song on the whole 43 minutes (which is an appropriate length, by the way). Every song is as amazing as the one before it. I mean, Liberation, the last song, could have been left off the record and no-one would have cared, as it’s just an acoustic epilogue to finish it off, but there I said it, it has its purpose, and I wouldn’t call it a weaker song based on its place on the album. Of course, it can’t be all exactly the same quality. It’s got it’s highlights, particularly Silvera, Stranded, Only Pain and Low Lands. And by no means is every song the same musically either; it’s a proper trip, a full accomplished album, with slower, more progressive tracks (Low Lands, Magma), and faster, melody driven metal powerhouses (Silvera, Stranded, The Cell), and those that blend the two in some awesomely forged atmospheric prog metal tingaling (Only Pain, Pray, The Shooting Star).
Magma is accessible, too. It’s not non-stop, not an unrelenting onslaught – it’s got it’s breaks, twists and turns, as mentioned before. The fact it has these twists and turns makes it constantly engaging, and truly a mighty-morphin’ album not to be forgotten any time soon.
In conclusion, the musicianship, production and atmosphere makes Gojira’s latest effort one of the best progressive metal albums I’ve heard and easily the best album of 2016 – not heard Korn or Meshuggah yet, mind you. It may do this despite a less spectacular vocal performance and less of the brutal heaviness that they have been so good at in the past; but very small flaws, and the brutal heaviness perhaps wasn’t necessary because of the album’s whole shtick (which is awesome), and it’s still an incredible album, lest we forget.
Bringing redundant opinions for scrollers everywhere,