Record #449: Gojira – Magma (2016)

magmaMost of the conversation around Magma record talks about how it’s an artistic shift for the legendary French metal outfit.

But Magma was my introduction to Gojira, so I don’t really have a point of reference for how they’ve changed.

But I don’t need to be familiar with the rest of their discography to recognize that this record kicks serious ass.

When I first found this record, I was enchanted by the primal iconography of its cover art. I wished that the music would be a fraction as captivating.

And I was not disappointed.

It’s been well documented that my taste in metal leans heavy on the slower, doomiermore atmospheric, more melodic side of the spectrum. I’m far less enchanted by the chugs and djents that most metalheads are drawn to.

But Magma manages to find a common ground between these extremes that I didn’t know existed.

Songs like “Shooting Star” and “Magma” ride plodding ominous grooves like they’re crossing the Alps on Hannibal’s elephants. “Low Lands” sets a slow, clean-voiced melody flying over an off-time polyrhythm. Meanwhile, songs like “Silvera” and “Only Pain” tear along rapid-fire palm-muted riffs like jackhammers.

But even at their djentiest, they don’t lose their melodic core. The vocals sway hard to the clean side, breaking into screams on just a handful of occasions. Even “The Cell,” which plays like machine gun fire, transitions to the most melodic section of the record.

Both sides close with instrumentals. “Yellow Stone” is almost doom metal in its droning. “Liberation” is a raga-esque acoustic ballad.

From all of these disparate threads, Gojira somehow manages to build a record with a singular focus. And though it might have alienated their old fans (most of the reviews over at Enyclopaedia Metallum are not thrilled), it gained a whole host of new fans.

And a couple Grammy noms, so that’s neat.

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