Genuine artists often strive for constant change and experimentation. Sometimes these experimentations succeed, while oftentimes they do not. Magma, the sixth full-length from French progressive death metallers, Gojira, is one of these attempts in style-shift. During their over-sixteen-year tenure, Gojira has risen to be among the stalwarts of progressive death metal with a relentless auditory assault that has pushed the boundaries of metal. However, with Magma, we see Gojira, led by vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier, seek to simplify their music and attempt to confine it within a shorter, more accessible package.
Gojira’s goal with Magma was to write shorter songs with more predictable structures. Although this may seem a simple task, or implies selling out, quality straight-forward songs are not necessarily easy to make. Therefore, the goal for Magma should be viewed as a challenge Gojira is willing to accept.
Album opener, The Shooting Star, makes it quite apparent that this is a very different Gojira release. Thick guitar tones march along with slow to medium paced instrumentation, while clean vocals blend into the subdued, gray atmosphere. Silvera, however, returns to Gojira’s trademark metal tone, albeit in a more condensed package. Rapid bursts of guitars and drums are interwoven between sections more melodic guitar and Joe Duplantier’s signature growled vocals. The Cell and Stranded continue with barrages of drums and lumbering, head-nodding rhythms of guitar and other harmonics. Later, the slow, wailing guitars in the title track plod in a rhythmic march, before barrages of heavier guitars and drums incorporate common Gojira-n metal touches, while Pray’s metal outbursts bombard with volleys of double-bass pedals and thick guitar tones. What is noticeably different about this release is how each track revolves around the same riffs, predictably repeating their sections in standard fashion, rather than partaking in an epic journey as on previous albums.
Magma demonstrates that Gojira is indeed capable of writing stripped down songs in a shorter format, yet as the album progresses it loses its luster. Stellar tracks, such as Pray, Magma, Stranded, or The Cell, are found throughout, yet the overall pace and similarity of the tracks makes me yearn for something a bit different. By the second half of the album, there is a lack of energy as much of the tracks trudge along with a similar pace, tone, and structure. The final two tracks—the atmospheric Low Lands and the acoustic Liberation—although quite different from the rest, siphon away the energy of the album, inducing Magma to end with an unmemorable whimper.
As a whole, Magma feels like a tired and hesitant album unsure of itself, not knowing where it wants to go, constrained by the parameters set upon it, despite several standout tracks. Magma is a still a solid attempt to write shorter songs, yet Gojira has much room to improve if they wish to continue this format. Gojira fans should expect to be moderately divided with Magma, while metal fans should still find quite a bit to enjoy from it, although more interesting albums are available from the band. There is plenty metal to enjoy here, just much of it feels flat.
Genre: Metal, Progressive Death Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release: June 17, 2016
1. The Shooting Star
3. The Cell
5. Yellow Stone
8. Only Pain
9. Low Lands