Disclaimer: Let me anticipate possible criticisms by saying that I have absolutely no problem with metal bands making albums that are less heavy. The problem I have is when that move is fueled by unjustified pretension which leads to the music sounding stale and aimless. This is definitely the case here (spoilers!), so before you sit down to write the obvious “you’re just a metal elitist” comment, please think again. That is, I most definitely am a metal elitist but it’s not relevant here. Onwards.

Gojira. Let the name roll off your tongue. What does it mean to you, to us as a community? Maybe you picture a kaiju and smile in self contentment at your knowledge of cinema trivia. Perhaps though, like most of us, the name is synonymous with countless, important streams within metal today. Modern metal, groove metal, pick sweeping, impossibly thick bass, environmentalism and so many more themes currently in operation within the metal community owe their widespread popularity (if not their very genesis) to Gojira. To some of us, not the majority but not the minority either, it is a name embattled: L’Enfant Sauvage was, for us, not exactly the heir we looked for to the amazing The Way Of All Flesh. Indeed, some would say that it’s that album and not its predecessor which first planted doubts in their heart. While this reviewer disagrees, it is not a position without merit, since the album saw them move to the sleek, more accurate sound that introduced many fans to the band.

So, a name embattled. Wherever you place the first cracks in the wall, it is without a doubt that the eyes of the metal community are all focused on Magma, the band’s next release. Will the walls hold? Will Gojira return, cloaked in the flames of a semi-needed phoenix to reclaim a throne that they had never completely abdicated? This reviewer stands before you today and is forced to cry out “No!”. Like the proverbial messenger, dodging unjustified bullets, we are forced to bring you bad news; Magma is a mess. It is an album which is un-grounded, completely unclear as to where it’s going, why it’s going there, and how to get there. Gojira did some of what we had hoped they would do: they’ve reconfigured and re-calibrated what makes them move and act. But, they’ve done very little of how we had hoped they would do it.

Instead of approaching a new store of primal, immediate and guttural power, a power which had animated them earlier in their career, they seem to have instead built castles and minarets of grandiose, artistic ideas and musical aspirations. They then proceed to tumble down every single step of those edifices, only once or twice (near the beginning of their stumble) catching their balance and saying something of coherence. Let’s start there, as good a place as any. After the wholly unremarkable and inoffensive “The Shooting Star”, whose weirdly effect-tinged vocals should already raise a red flag, our spirits might be lifted. “Silvera”, one of the leading singles for this album, is great. It is cohesive, straight-forward and well written. The chorus is moving and satisfying, calmly gathering the energies along the track for their eventual release.

Anyone craving some complexity will find it right after it with “The Cell”. It’s a classic Gojira track, leaning on an initial, heavy riff steeped in weird time signatures and a basic wrongness that sinks hooks into your heart and ear. But now, right when our hopes were high, is where things get hairy. You’ve already heard “Stranded” and some of you like it and some don’t and that’s fine. It’s not a bad track, but it makes very little sense within the context of the album. Following on the heels of “The Cell”, is it a definite downgrade in energies and excitement, a simple and somewhat bland track which capitulates very little on the energies of the tracks before it.

What’s more, having crossed the nu-metal trappings of “Stranded”, the listener lands right in the energetic abyss which is “Yellow Stone”. This is an instrumental interlude which would have been a better fit on a stoner album. It completely robs any momentum the album had so far. It doesn’t “speak” with any other theme or moment before it (or after it) and thus makes absolutely no sense. It doesn’t even fade into the track after it; it just fades out with no statement, no addition made to the album, via interesting composition or a grander scheme.

This duo, from a band known for its tightness and album cohesion, is worrying in and of itself. But, my friends, with Magma you can always fall further. Half of the album has gone by and we’ve had only two meaningful, interesting tracks, but an avid fan might still have hope. “Magma” is here to dash that hope to the rocks and send the crows to eat its liver. The main guitar lead is the very epitome of try-hard, “art” rock, screeching and supposedly discordant without accomplishing anything with it. The vocals are once again drenched in redundant effects, which leave what is otherwise the best part of this album stale and without punching force. Thus, the chorus which was supposed to be an energetic counterpoint to the verse is rendered impotent. The whole track just gets lost in the pretense, the deep desire to be “cool”, “artistic” or “mature”. In that sense, “Magma” is a perfect title track since it captures the essence of the album: an effort to make things work instead of them actually working.

By the time the second half of “Magma” (album and track alike), emerges, too much time has been wasted on nothing for it to make an impact. Is it even worth your time? They have some good moments, alongside some actual riffs, but they have no place to grow, no ground on which to gather momentum after the failed attempts at expression that came before them. So, we would really like to say that this part of the album salvages some remnants of the energy we expected from a Gojira release, but we can’t.

While these last three tracks are again inoffensive and nothing more, they pale in comparison with the closing track, “Liberation”. This is an acoustic track, an extremely odd choice for closing off an album. Everything that has passed isn’t a counterpoint and there’s nothing to come; the track hangs in void. That would be excusable if the track itself was any good but it really isn’t. Once again, the attempt to appear “soulful” has left it barren; barely heard, hand-played drums whittle into nothing (with faint hints of “tribalism”, for the orientalists among you). The acoustic guitar sounds like random warm-up exercises one would play as a jam is getting off the ground at a local, hipster joint.

To sum it up, who knows why the drive has been lost. Looking at the band’s recent interviews and the artistic choices made with the album’s release, one develops the suspicion that Gojira have accepted the strange and powerful allure of artistic ego. Talks of saving the planet, mysterious videos and booklets, black and white studio videos or music clips that paint modern humanity as drones are not a substitute for making engaging music. In fact, focusing on your composition, honesty and hunger is a much better way of getting your point across. Don’t believe me? Try to get excited and pumped when listening to this album. Now listen to The Way of All Flesh or Terra Incognita. Do you feel that lightning running down your hackles? Do you hear the hunger in the band’s music, the actual rage which doesn’t need to be articulated in words? That’s where great metal lies and pompous speeches and vapid, artistic drives are its death. Sadly, it seems as if we must add Gojira to the tally of bands who got caught up in their own manifestos and forgot to make music first.

Gojira’s Magma gets…

2/5

Comments

18 Responses

  1. Stephen Payne

    I can understand and loosely agree with some of the points being made in this review. I feel its a mixture of great, concise songs such as Silvera and The Cell, let down with some frankly boring tunes i.e. the opening song The Shooting Star and Yellow Stone. I’d personally give this 3/5, but appreciate the honesty of this review unlike so many of the overhyped reviews elsewhere.

    Reply
  2. The Shockmaster

    These are my exact thoughts on this album. I’ve been listening too it for the past week really trying to enjoy it and, aside from the parts you mention, the entire album bores me. This band definitely lost something, either songwriting or drive, but after this album it seems they will never get it back.

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  3. Shakira's Pelvis

    Fukk Gojira! This band sucked balls all the way! 16th one-string rolling and whale moaning is way too outdated! FLLLLLLUUUUUSHHHHHHHH

    Reply
  4. karlo

    whilst im not a huge fan of the opening track, i thought the record as a whole was going really well (im a big fan of stranded, and i dont feel it’s out of place at all) up until yellow stone started. together with magma it’s really jarring for the listener and, as you say, robs the album of the momentum it had acquired. from there we have solid tracks, but nothing as good as, say, silvera to bring it back to the level it was on. and the last track is just completely out of place and, again, makes absolutely no sense.

    i would probably rate it a 2.5 – i feel like the good parts are too good to deserve a 2, but at the same time it’s too inconsistent to be rated as an above average album. disappointing considering how much i love their previous records, so one can only hope this is a blip before they get back to their best (i thought L’enfant Sauvage was excellent, so i see this as their first misstep)

    Reply
  5. GonzO Rodrigue

    Wow. I disagree with almost all of this, somewhat strongly.

    I knew from the first two minutes of listening that someone was going to complain about the clean vox. I also knew what would follow would be a puffed-up version of “they aren’t as ‘Heavy’, so they aren’t as good.”

    And I was not disappointed, that went exactly as I thought it would.

    The problem with this criticism, however, is twofold: harsh vox are not necessarily Heavier than cleans, and music that isn’t as heavy isn’t music that isn’t as good.

    About the first: I do not find the cleans to be less heavy: if anything, they make the music heavier, in _subject matter_ if not in _sound_. When out in public, it can be scary and threatening when someone is screaming and yelling within range of you. But I find that more often than not a person suddenly becoming calm, going quiet, and becoming unemotional is what *really* triggers a sense of unnerving dread — especially if that person were the same person who was just screaming. This dread sticks to you, weighs you down… is _heavier_ than someone who’s just raving on a street corner, and more threatening than someone who is merely angry. I think this effect comes through wonderfully on this album, and I argue that their older albums are lesser for lacking it, as it is not something that can be effectively conveyed with their more typical ~60 minutes of monotonous yelling.

    About the second: The additional tempos, changes in pacing, more pronounced use of acoustic instruments… all of the oddities pointed out as _misfires_ in this review give the album much-needed depth and maturity that previous releases cannot boast. There are a few extra dimensions present now that I think are being completely overlooked or understated — perhaps both — by the reviewer.

    For example: the idea that “Yellow Stone” is out of place belies an ignorance of how this record is structured — that is, as a _record_. It is very clear that it is meant to be taken both in sequence and as two sides, with each side having a bookend. “Yellow Stone” is a healing salve applied after a pummeling: a sip of water and wipe-down in the corner of the ring before you go another round. And “Liberation” is the cold beer you get to drink when you get through the fight.

    There is an order and a flow and a whole _range_ of things being expressed, as one stream, instead of merely a collection of Angry Songs… and, rather than drive me away, this is the very thing that’s kept the record on repeat since I got it.

    Truth be told, I really do love this band more than most. They’re one of my go-to’s when I want to demonstrate to someone what creative, precise drumming sounds like, I typically love the lyrical content… the groove is undeniable.

    But I’ve never loved one of their _albums_. Not all the way through. Not most tracks, in fact, because Gojira pre-Magma was — let’s face it — rather something of a one-trick pony. You got frenetic, angry, uptempo songs, lyrics dripping with righteous indignation, the now-characteristic “Gojira slide” on the guitars… and not much else. From each album I only keep listening to 2-3 of the tracks, happy without the rest, because I don’t need to sit through an additional 7 songs that don’t make the point as well as 1 or 2 of the frontrunners.

    Magma is weird. It works, but only in order. I had this on shuffle and didn’t like it at all, but when played in sequence I felt as if every element, no matter how strange or atypical, appeared exactly when it needed to and took me on more of an emotional roller-coaster ride, rather than being their more typical all-angry, all-the-time hammer fest. “The Shooting Star” only works as a first track. It’s a warm-up, an appetizer that takes the edge off, but only just. “Stranded” does not sound nearly as good if not preceeded by “The Cell.” “Low Lands” is one of the more amazing compositions Gojira have put together but I think it’s a bit much to lead with it, and is probably best served last.

    And OK, I can grant that it isn’t as “heavy” sounding. Certainly it is not. But the record feels as heavy as it _needs_ to be, instead of as heavy as everyone else _wants_ it to be, and that’s a better compliment than it already sounds. I think this album would have been ruined by attempting to make it something it isn’t and being as hackle-raisingly brutal all the way through as previous offerings.

    I think the only problem the reviewer — and doubtless more than a few others — could have with this record is one of unfulfilled expectation. And hey, I get that: it would be shocking to walk into a Taco Bell only to be seated and treated to a five-course candlelit French culinary delight. Caviar can be disappointing to a person who just wanted a fucking Bean Burrito Supreme™. Really, I can’t be too hard on anybody who feels deflated by it.

    But I would argue the rating. It’s not a 2/5 album. It doesn’t hit what the reviewer thought it should aim for, granted, but I think above all we should judge a work by what it intends to do, and this record had other intentions than what was expected.

    So I would suggest, maybe, that you, Dear Reviewer, revisit this place when what you _are_ in the mood for is a five-course French culinary delight. I think if you did that, and ingested the record then, I think you would come away from the table with a sense of surprised delight and a full belly. I think this is certainly the most fulfilling and varied album Gojira have ever created, and certainly the only one I’ve wanted to listen to repeatedly in its entirety.

    I think time will end up telling a different story about this record than is told here.

    Reply
    • karlo

      i don’t think the reviewer’s issue here is that there are clean vocals, or that the music is not as heavy as their previous records – i think the issue is the fact that the songs themselves simply aren’t as good.

      i wont put words in eden’s mouth, so ill speak from my own perspective. i dont have a problem with a band changing their sound – im really open minded with that kind of stuff – hell, i even liked the last two opeth records because i feel they were pretty good at what they were going for. but in order for the execution of a new style to work it needs to a) make sense in the context of the album and b) needs to actually be good at what it’s trying to do – and i feel gojira have failed in both of those aspects here

      usually im a big fan of using acoustic instruments in heavy records – but i feel like it was executed terribly here. the closing track simply doesnt make sense in the context of the record for me, and the same goes for yellowstone. my problem is not that they’re soft, it’s that i don’t feel they’re well written and i don’t feel that they fit within the context of the album. if anything i feel like joe shouldnt produce their next record, as they need an outside voice to say ‘you know what guys, this is not a good idea’

      even when focusing on the heavy stuff though, i dont feel like the songs are as good as what has come before. silvera, the cell and stranded are great, but the songs that come after magma i would only classify as solid – and gojira is better than that. unlike yourself, i’ve thoroughly enjoyed full albums of theirs, especailly terra incognita, mars to sirius and l’enfant sauvage – and there are only 3 tracks here that i think are worthy of their past discography

      Reply
    • Karl Jenkins

      I had listened to the album two times through in my car, during my daily commute, and liked it. I’ve listened to Eden and Noyan’s podcast discussions and read through this review a few times. And finally, I just sat down and gave the record a careful listen with headphones. And I must agree with GonzO: I really enjoy this record all the way through.
      My introduction to Gojira was with From Mars to Sirius, and I don’t find anything here too far removed from the majority of what I liked on that effort. There are no moments as heavy as the heaviest moments of From Mars, to be sure, but there are satisfyingly heavy sections nonetheless. If anything, I find that they’ve successfully replicated some of the catchier moments from their past work on this album, without necessarily replicating the heaviness. And I can certainly understand if “lighter, catchier Gojira” might not appeal to those that cut their teeth on their Morbid Angel-ish, aggressively progressive phase.
      But it also doesn’t mean that those of us that enjoy it are delusional or going through the “5 stages of grief” or whatever Noyan was describing in the podcast. And if you didn’t “get” this record or any other record, it doesn’t say anything about you intellectually or taste-wise – it just means it doesn’t appeal to you at this point in time. Aren’t all artists on an evolving creative arc of some sort? And our respective tastes will either follow along perfectly with that arc (in the case of one’s favorite band of all time) or eventually one’s tastes will diverge (and maybe re-converge at some point down the line) with the artist’s. This is natural and expected. If you jump off the Gojira train and I don’t, it’s fine – I may jump off at some other point and others may jump on. This is the risk/reward process that an artist goes through when they try different things.

      Reply
      • Nayon

        Hey, thanks for listening to the podcast, I sometimes shitpost on there so don’t take my dumb abrasive comments too seriously :P

      • Karl Jenkins

        Thanks for the comment. I really, truly enjoy the podcast – and honestly, this was the first time in 35 episodes that I felt like I was on a COMPLETELY different track than you guys. I can understand how much a massive letdown based on expectations can color one’s comments. With the upcoming ID4 sequel coming out, I can recall how MASSIVELY let-down I was by the original. I still refer to it as a horrible, horrible movie not so much because it’s uber-cheesy, pandering, and overly jingoistic, but because of the disparity between my super-hyped expectations and what was actually delivered. There has not been a movie in my lifetime with THAT level of disconnect. So, to me, it will always be a horrible abortion of a movie, even though I will admit in private that it’s not really that bad for what it is.

        I don’t think this is a perfect analogy, because neither of you was that impressed with Gojira’s previous record, but your comments seemed to indicate that you were still hoping for something harking back to your favorite Gojira moments and there was a chasm between those expectations and what you received.

  6. Jm from nj

    I just listened to it for the first time, in my car, and i was bored to tears. It’s plodding. Obviously, I will withhold full judgment until I listen to it more, but as someone who has thoroughly enjoyed the last 3 albums, this one is just sounds…indifferent. And that, to me, is the worst of all. I will keep trying, but it will have to be forced.

    Like some of the above, I don’t mind if a band changes sound. I’ve stuck with Katatonia every step of the way, even enjoyed Opeth’s “pale communion”. I’ve sung the praises of early and late Anathema, and even Mastodon. This…this better get better, or else my interest in Gojira has ended.

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  7. Eliza

    To me, this album feels like Gojira’s Black Album. There are some good songs, some filler, some weak songs, and I can’t help liking it. It’s definitely my least favourite Gojira album, but I still enjoy it a lot, even though I admit its flaws. I’m curious to see what Gojira’s next album will sound like.

    Reply
  8. Petrus

    Finally! A review that stops blowing sunshine up the ass of metal royalty and calls this album to task. I really thought I was the only person left scratching their head, wondering what it was that everyone else was listening to. Allow me to elaborate on a few criticisms.

    I am not the kind of metal head who hates clean vocals, but these clean vocals are simply not good. They are almost as “effected” as Burton Bell’s clean vocals on early Fear Factory. (Quick digression: if you want to hear Burton Bell without effect check out “Cycle of Sixty” from Geezer Butler’s album “G/Z/R”, it’s awful). The critique of Gojira’s clean vocals are not a criticism of ALL clean vocals, just these. They’re bad.

    The album is too “lean” sounding. The bottom end is barely there, the layers are gone. The “weight” of what should always be plenty on heavy metal albums is simply not there. It is very possible to have “airy” and “roomy” songs, with plenty of crushing weight and brutality; it’s part of what made Way of All Flesh and Mars to Sirius so good. If you want a great example of a “lean” sounding album with deftly crafted songs and weight, check out Leprous’ “Congregation”.

    I also think the idea of having Joe Duplantier produce this was a big mistake. Having someone not in the band, an outside ear who doesn’t think every idea is great, someone not afraid to say “this is sub-par” or “the momentum hear is lost”, etc., is vital to producing a good album. I think Joe should have produced a few more albums with other bands, or been a co-producer, before even considering tackling his own band’s releases.

    All in all, thank you for a great and honest review. The sickeningly sweet reviews gushing all over the internet seem disingenuous and short-sighted.

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  9. michalR

    this album is extremely beautiful, full of heart-touching melodies and emotions, even for a long-term fan of the band i am.doesnt matter whether its softer or heavier than previous releases, whether there are harsh vocals or not, this is music, not calculations, flowing from the soul, with a tragic background. thats why it is quite different, but it is still characteristic and eclectic Gojira style. cannot complain, go to listen again. cheers.

    Reply

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