In a departure from their usual style, Gojira’s 6th studio release ‘Magma’ is a very personal album dealing with concepts of grief and despair over the loss of a loved one. During the recording of this album vocalist and guitarist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier lost their mother and this had a profound effect on the mood and theme of the songs.
Not only is the tone of their songs quite different from the previous work their sound has also changed quite a bit. Everything sounds stripped down, the guitars aren’t as harsh, the bass has a distorted muddy sound, the drum compositions are simpler and there are more instances of clean vocals. If you’re already a metal fan this may sound a bit off putting but all of the changes together really help with the concept of the album. The quality of the songs in no way suffer from the simpler instrumentation. No track feels out of place on the album and they all sound like they’ve had a lot of thought put into them.
The opening tracks of the album ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Silvera’ really set the tone up front with heavy droning guitar riffs. The way the songs meander creates an otherworldly dreamlike feeling that really helps you get into the band’s head space. The main riff in ‘The Cell’ demonstrates this perfectly, the punching guitar and bass build an impressively oppressive sense of dread throughout the track.
The standout song for me is ‘Stranded’. The vocal performance during the chorus is amazing. You can really feel the emotion and the pain, Joe sounds like he’s singing for his life. Pouring every bit of his passion into it, especially when they change the key the last time around.
Some of Gojira’s more classic sound does come back for the later songs ‘Pray’ and ‘Only Pain’. Mario’s trademark double bass pedal drumming is back in full force here. It feels as if this is the band finding themselves a little amongst all the darkness as the album progresses. The lyrics in the song ‘Low Lands’ reads like a message to their mother and it’s heartbreaking. There’s a hopeful theme to this song and it has a strong ending riff that feels like the band is waking from a dream state, ready to tackle the future.
I will admit that it took me a few listens to really get into this album. It is a bit of a change in style from their previous albums which was a shock at first but it’s actually became one of my favourite metal albums of all time. You can tell it’s a deeply personal work of art right from the start, Gojira have expertly translated all the pain and emotion of grief into some of the greatest music of 2016.