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Gojira – Magma album review

Album Review

France's soul-searching juggernaut Gojira evolves once more

Most bands think they’re doing something original. Most are deluded, of course, but bringing fresh ideas to the world of heavy music continues to be among the noblest of artistic aims and, as a result, we tend to cherish the bands that seem to do it as a matter of instinct, rather than design. More than any other band to emerge in the 21st century, Gojira have pursued a course of fervent individuality, turning revered tropes into something extraordinary.

Remember the first time you heard them? You probably do. And you probably said, “What the fuck is this?” with a big grin on your face. The only predictable thing about Gojira’s evolution is that the grinning is set to continue, because Magma is another robust riposte to the notion that modern metal is running out of steam.Where L’Enfant Sauvage was rugged, vicious and taut, constrained by urbanity and yearning for escape, Magma is Gojira untethered and running wild. Few bands would open such a potentially significant album with something as slow, hypnotic and tense as The Shooting Star, but the way the song’s brooding riffs force a palpable heightening of anticipation is inspired; the eventual release of aggression on the pounding grooves of Silvera is nothing short of a pure adrenalin shot.

Even on something as brutal and dense as The Cell, a definite highlight for fans of drummer Mario Duplantier, Gojira sound exhilarated by the concept of limitless space and the freedom to roam. The lyrics reflect that refreshed, enhanced perspective, too: Joe Duplantier’s cry of ‘When you change yourself... you change the world’ would seem overly earnest and a little mawkish delivered by anyone else, but the Frenchmen’s sincerity has long been a major selling point and Magma once again exudes heartfelt rage and a sense of genuine, if cautious, hope.

It wouldn’t be a Gojira album without massive riffs, however, and here they are as strident and bludgeoning as ever, not least on the Dimebag-through-the-eye-of-a-needle crunch of Stranded. This time, though, there’s clear blue sky bursting through chinks in the band’s previously impenetrable armoury and a sense of imperious calm beneath the intensity and noise. And yes, there are plenty of those moments, when Gojira break into some devastating syncopated, unison riff and tectonic plates seem to grind and groan beneath our feet. The lift-off of Pray’s brittle, clattering percussive groove is one of the band’s fiercest money shots to date; that it subsequently and seamlessly morphs into another entirely different but equally mesmerising groove with audacious fluidity says it all about the organic, preternatural power driving this band forward.
This is not wildly accessible music by any means, but it’s hard to imagine any fan of heavy music hearing the lurching Only Pain or the prolonged squall of the title track without once again being forced to remark, “What the fuck is this?” Well, it’s Gojira. They’re one of the greatest metal bands on the planet and, on this evidence, they’ve only just begun to blow our minds.

JOE DUPLANTIER, VOCALS/GUITAR

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EVOLUTION OF YOUR SOUND BETWEEN L’ENFANT SAUVAGE AND MAGMA?

“Less distorted, more contrasted. We worked harder than ever before on these songs, and as a result we feel much stronger about our sound. One of the main things that changed is probably the singing: I’ve been wanting to sing more, and scream less, for a while now.”

HOW MUCH PRESSURE DID YOU FEEL TO MEET EVERYONE’S EXPECTATIONS?

“Not much. When we compose a record, our goal is to relax and play the music we want to hear in that moment, forget about the outside world and the pressure. When we get to the point where we enjoy our jam, we know we’re on the right path. That being said, it’s not always easy to relax with parental obligations and all of the important things in our lives outside the music.”

WHERE DID THE STRANGE RIFF IN STRANDED COME FROM?

“I was jamming with a whammy pedal I’d received from Digitech, and it inspired me. I liked that it reminded me of good, ol’ fashioned Pantera. It’s the only riff like that on the record, every song being different.”

WHAT DOES THE NEW ALBUM REPRESENT FOR GOJIRA? WORLD DOMINATION?

“Not really, but we definitely would welcome it! It’s mostly a representation of the last three years of our lives as
a band and individuals. We toured quite a bit on L’Enfant Sauvage, and learned a lot about the approach to our craft. We put a lot of that experience into it. This album holds a lot of sweat and tears and transcends world domination.”

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