RMR just covered the 2021 Gojira edition, and – in truth – we felt a bit underwhelmed by one of the most overhyped records of this year. And yes, we know that a friggin’ gazillion of fans paid that band money to fuel life and projects. But this crew here likes to be that lone screamer from the proverbial mountaintop, whilst all others follow da master like them famed lemmings of bygone times.
But unimpressed as we were, the piece gave us an appetite for moar of those Frenchmens’ fare. And the logical choice fell on Magma of 2016. Because, believe it or not, that’s one record that stamps its message into you right from the beginning. Mercilessly, totally metallic, and delivered with an almost manic energy. And that’s just how we like our steel.
At first, you’ll notice this dark aggression that borders on despair. This is genuine sentiment, not that fake rage so prevalent on Fortitude that hit us over the head like a wall of bricks. Don’t believe me? Just try Joe Duplantier‘s screams in Stranded. And all that emotion is brought about – as the lore tells us – by the passing of the Duplantiers‘ mother, which turned the creation of this album into an emotional affair.
Magma is also the one album that doesn’t boast Joe Duplantier‘s very own album art. Again, and by his own admission, the difficult circumstances surrounding the making of the piece made him choose an independent artist. And the result is pretty impressive.
Now, with 20/20 hindsight, there’s a precision to Magma that its future sibling lacked. Gone is the creaky production of L’Enfant Sauvage, and in comes that ice-cold arrangement that takes no prisoners. The songwriting is razor-sharp like those lava rocks that will flow from the magma it so aptly describes. In many ways, this record paves the way for what is to come in 2021. Only on their 2016 piece, they got it right.
Joe Duplantier’s caustic screams together with Christian Andreu‘s often raspy and scalding guitar work do the heavy lifting on Magma. As to the vocals, I mostly don’t quite fancy shouted clears on metal productions. It’s often a lazy application of a very unique art, and just yelling away is always slightly offending. Yet, here Duplantier‘s vocal musings fully align with the rage, grief, and despair you’re hearing.
And that goes hand in hand with Mario Duplantier‘s enraged drumming. However, it’s not that the drums take over, much to the contrary. Aggressive and wild as they may be, they always perfectly align with the many themes that play over the length of the record. Now, what I always appreciate on Gojira‘s records is the bass. Jean-Michel Labadie‘s action on this one is pretty much outstanding, though. That’s how the bass should be played. Check out Only Pain, for starters. That’s where you’ll hear it best.
Magma features a whole bunch of excellent tracks, albeit that on the second half of the disk, things flatten out some. There’s one dud – Liberation – that the band should have sent to eternal damnation. It’s neither well done nor does it make a lot of sense.
Yet, apart from that mishap at the end, there’s not much amiss with the rest of the tracklist. Take the gritty Silvera, for instance, that incidentally was nominated for the Grammy Best Metal Performance in 2016. Alongside Magma itself as best rock album1) of the year. Or move over to the emotionally charged Stranded that continues to take our breath away. Hells bells, the fun starts straight at the beginning with The Shooting Star. There is no shred of sugary-sweet sentiment in there, only fury and trepidation.
To wrap this up, things started to change for Gojira once they hitched their wagon to Roadrunner back in 2012.2) So, lo and behold, L’Enfant Sauvage started to chart seriously all over Europe and the US. And whilst not all was great in greenish paradise, the band got a lot of praise for that record. Even if the production was a bit frazzled around the edges.
Now, using that momentum, Magma truly impressed a growing fanbase. The record is authentic, gritty, spiky, painfully honest, and often mean. Yet – in a way – it’s highly personal, too. On the other hand, it is also a pretty outstanding example of stellar songsmithing and top-notch musicianship. A piece full of ideas, flavors, and styles. And it contains almost manic energy that relentlessly permeates the full 44 minutes of airtime.
Gojira were on a mission back in 2016. And Magma turned out to be that perfect megaphone. A record that should live in every metalhead’s music collection.
Go for it.
|1.||And that’s an oxymoron. There’s a difference between a rock and metal album. So, how can a track be metal, when the album is classified as rock. But never mind the Grammy folks, right? For them, metal stops with Metallica anyway. And since they let Ice-T win in 2021, they pretty much became a laughingstock. -Ed.|
|2.||And that means some 11 years after the band started.|