Few would have trouble recognizing GOJIRA's unique sound from even a couple seconds of listening. The band's cross-pollination of MESHUGGAH's jagged, rhythmic brutishness with the dark belligerence of Steve Tucker-era MORBID ANGEL has blossomed throughout its discography up until now. GOJIRA has always been fearless in songwriting, though never quite as bold as with the band's sixth full-length album, "Magma", recorded at its own Silver Cord Studio in New York, where the Frenchmen have relocated. The band is one of metal's shining stars, and through the process of coming to terms with personal tragedy, it has possibly released the album of the year.
The unfortunate passing of the Duplantier brothers' mother during the album's creation delayed the process midway, and the magnitude of what happened inevitably sculpted the final product. Guitarist / vocalist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier were understandably overwhelmed to the point of shedding tears during recording sessions. That isn't to say that powerful experience invariably equates to quality output, but in this case, the brothers' soul-searching and catharsis successfully translates through each song, twisting through a variety of emotions, which range from sorrow to anger and confusion and back again. It is introspective. It is spiritual. There is ultimately a feeling of hope squeezed out of the Duplantiers' struggle to cope.
The technical avalanche GOJIRA boasted through 2012's "L'Enfant Sauvage" has largely been eschewed for a focus upon simpler, easily digestible numbers that are atmospheric, hard rock-based and the band's most accessible to date. The somber, slow and spacious opener, "The Shooting Star", sets the album's tone with an instantly evocative, detached, dream-like quality revolving around its sedative core riff. Joe Duplantier's melodic voice immediately takes the driver's seat, this tone in place of his gruff, death metal-influenced growl, which was previously at the forefront of the band's songs.
The frontman's clean singing highlights the following, beefier track, "Silvera", during its chorus, and is not unlike Mitch Harris's crooning parts with NAPALM DEATH and MENACE. "The Cell" and "Stranded" follow with nu metal-esque qualities affecting the grooves, and a vocal delivery that while lackluster on the former track, is satisfying on the latter.
Purists who prefer things heavy at all times may be turned off or let down by a bulk of this release, one that is so focused upon controlled simplicity. However, this segment of the band's fanbase has a few tracks to sink its teeth into: "Only Pain" and "Pray". The latter suffering only with the awkward nu metal riff towards song's end. GOJIRA hasn't abandoned its ability to attack, yet here its aggressive element is tempered compared to previous work.
The instrumental lull of "Yellow Stone" makes sense in the context of the whole. The song is a journey through a variety of emotions and introspection, but it offers little value as an individual song. Not unlike the tribal instrumental closer, "Liberation", a song that may not be worth revisiting for most, its spare workings sure as hell means a lot to the album's creators. Seeking a sense of peace reflected in the acoustic guitar's meandering and relative stability of the gentle percussive slapping, the song is a logically calm closure to an album that's a powerful eulogy to the brothers' mother. Sometimes immortality can find itself in art.