By: Phil Weller
Alum Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/06/2016
Label: Roadrunner Records
‘Magma’ is a record that envelopes you with its overtly dark drama, but within its haze, its crushing catharcism makes it one of the most special metal records to be released in some time. It may not be the relentless assault many fans wanted from the album – and that’s not to say it is barren of those moments – yet, as a vehicle for emotional cleansing, as a eulogy and an obituary for a woman who shaped the personalities that drive this act, it is staggering.
“Magma” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). The Shooting Star
3). The Cell
5). Yellow Stone
8). Only Pain
9). Low Lands
3). The Cell
5). Yellow Stone
8). Only Pain
9). Low Lands
Wounded by their mother’s death, the Duplantier brothers have crafted in ‘Magma’ an album that is not only a natural progression of their technical and avant garde craftsmanship, but one that is haunted by dark emotions of loss and turmoil, it is an album choking in its emotional heaviness, haunted by the ghost of a maternal figure.
Surrounded in a thick, foreboding smog, the distinct lack of colour on the album’s greyscale cover bleeds into the solemn tracks presented here. Whether Joe Duplantier is asking his mother “when you get to the other side please send a sign” on sluggish eruptions of ‘The Shooting Star’ or to “tell me what you see in the afterlife,” on the brooding “Low Lands”, it’s clear that this episode of his life has left its scars. Here he vents and find catharsis within his music and lyricisms. For, while the musical highlights are plentiful – and diehard fans will be pleased to hear just how heavy it gets despite the sonic evolution that predecessor “L'Enfant Sauvage” hinted at – the true heaviness and magic comes from the blackened mournfulness that sears through the album. At points meditative, at others painfully vulnerable, ‘Magma’ is emotionally draining and crushing, which only adds further potency to their intrinsic and signature supernova musicality.
‘Silvera’, a song hinged on an off kilter, thumping riff – thrown off course by its discombobulating loop – is absolutely massive. With only two choruses, characterised by the kind of tapped legato guitar lick that we’ve come to expect from the French connoisseurs, they snake their way through the song with an explorative adventurism, throwing riff after riff at you in a barrage of out-and-out heaviness. ‘The Cell’ opens up with gunfire footwork from drummer Mario Duplantier’s ever exceptional double bass, a sharp, syncopated snare puncturing the mix before a riff that sounds like a castle collapsing in the dead of night takes over. Joel’s screams of “Get me out of here, I’ve been lost in the dark,” in it’s simplistic but driving chorus meanwhile shows a growing musical accessibility within their song writing framework. Akin to what Metallica did with ‘The Black Album’, the band are beginning to find more and more inventive ways of injecting anthemic and irresistible choruses into what they do without ever compromising their primal aggression. And this is no better exemplified on the one riff, classic in situ ‘Stranded’. Much of their technicality is here stripped away but the result is stunningly effective, it is a song with a staying power that, long after listening, still lingers in your head and heart.
Elsewhere, the title track is founded upon an obscure harmonic guitar melody that conjures a beguiling sense of unease. But they intersperse the weirdness with a refrain that is uplifting, meditative and spiritual. Only Gojira could have created this and, when it’s swinging, groove infested crescendo comes to the foray, preceded by some gorgeous bass melodies that hide in the mix, it becomes utterly convincing.
‘Low Lands’ however, takes from the blueprint of one of their most revered songs, ‘Flying Whales’. From the instant Mario’s shivering jazz infused beat begins the song is always building to a conclusion of catastrophic and apocalyptic heaviness. Yet they teasingly leave you waiting, each dynamic rise that quickens your heart and heightens your senses only drops once more. Again and again it builds and falls like the lapping of ocean waves. The seismic riff that does eventually greet you a tantalising reward for your patience, a moment of tidal mercilessness that very few bands in 2016 will be able to match.
One major difference to ‘Magma’ is not within the music itself, however. The band has hand built, from the ground upwards, their own studios in
and the resultant Silver Cord studio
has given them total, expressive freedom on the record’s production. The result
is a sound that is crystal clear, every kick drum, every heartbeat and breath
that weaves through ‘Magma’ is
simply unmissable. Vocally, on an album that showcases Joe Duplantier’s vastly improved vocal abilities,
he creates eerie atmospheres with choral backing slotted quietly, delicately
under the rest of the mix. As far as the sound of the album is concerned, to
say they’d found perfection for how to best convey themselves would not be
hyperbole. New York
For Gojira, this surely wasn’t an easy album to finish. They were in the early phases of creating the record when their mother’s cancer diagnosis became a reality, derailing the process for long periods of time. But they have come out of the other side stronger, more emotionally in touch with their souls, spirits and minds than ever before. ‘Magma’ is a record that envelopes you with its overtly dark drama, but within its haze, its crushing catharcism makes it one of the most special metal records to be released in some time.
It may not be the relentless assault many fans wanted from the album – and that’s not to say it is barren of those moments – yet, as a vehicle for emotional cleansing, as a eulogy and an obituary for a woman who shaped the personalities that drive this act, it is staggering.
“Magma” will be available everywhere from 17/06/2016 and can be preorderd here