A rich and sophisticated album about death, overflowing anger, sadness and pain, beautifully crafted by one of France’s most prominent and innovative bands of all time.
Losing someone you love is never easy, it doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. You move on and try to live your life without that person, but you’ll always remember your (good and bad) days with him or her, and true sadness will fill your heart even if it’s just for a single moment. At the same time French brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier had to cope with the loss of their beloved mother, only a few months after relocating from Bayonne, France to New York City and building their own music studio in Queens, they were in the process of writing and composing the music for Magma, the sixth studio album from their Progressive/Groove Metal band Gojira. Hence, those negative feelings became an inner part of their compositions, and as there’s nothing better in the entire world to externalize grief, dismay and anger than heavy music, the final result in Magma is beautiful and intense.
“When you read Joe’s lyrics, for me, I cry right away. They’re very deep and to the point. No bullshit. We recycle our sadness and depression in the music”, stated Mario about the lyrical aspect of the album. In addition to that, the duration of the songs in Magma are designedly shorter than in From Mars to Sirius (2005) and L’Enfant Sauvage (2012), as explained by Joe. “We want a short album. Something less epic than what we usually do. People’s attentions are shorter now. So a lot of the songs are four minutes”, also mentioning their experimentations with some Pantera-inspired riffs, something new to them, to make their music even more impactful than usual. The freakish artwork by American artist Hibiki Miyazaki (you can check the process pics of the artwork HERE) simply complements all the darkness and pain found in Magma, adding an extra touch of desolation to the album.
The somber and heavy atmosphere in the opening track, the soulful The Shooting Star, gets even more profound due to the outstanding work done by Joe and his bandmates Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie with their stringed weapons, especially the menacing bass lines by Jean-Michel. Moreover, as aforementioned we can already witness the most sincere type of sorrow flowing through Joe’s vocals, something that only makes the whole song more captivating. Gojira’s trademark neck-breaking riffs are showcased in the sensational Silvera, obviously boosted by the precise and intricate beats by Mario. Joe invests into angrier vocals and deeper growls, with highlights to the mesmerizing riffs and the violent aura generated by all instruments, all complemented by a passionate solo before the song’s climatic ending.
Following that powerful chant we have another marvelous tune transpiring anguish and pain entitled The Cell, presenting an electrifying start (thanks to the wicked drumming by Mario) and the best elements of Groove and Progressive Metal put together. The bass guitar by Jean-Michel is always thunderous no matter the speed and heaviness of the song, which is not only the case in this exciting tune but also in Stranded, with its direct and imposing sonority led by the band’s strident riff, one of the core ingredients that make the music by Gojira so distinguished. Although this is one of those songs to destroy your neck by banging your head like a maniac, you should also pay good attention to its lyrics, which just prove how sad Joe was while writing them (“A growing sickness in the heart / Defective, lack of control / The cure is somewhere in the silence / But I’m crushed by the noise inside”).
Jean-Michel leads the short and eerie bridge Yellow Stone before the title-track Magma brings forward more of the band’s anguished lyrics (“The poison slowly spreads / Through the body and the mind / Close your eyes and drop your things / Be ready to fly”), flawless instrumental and atmospheric passages. Furthermore, it’s interesting how the music evolves to a darker sounding before getting back to its heavy but serene ambience. Despite beginning as heavy as hell, Pray is by far the saddest of all songs, a journey through Joe’s darkest thoughts and his personal view on what faith is while the rest of the band keeps blasting their complex, metallic and punchy lines. And if that can be considered the saddest track in Magma, Only Pain is the one emanating the highest amount of anger, with its bass and riffs piercing and blacknening your mind. Furthermore, Joe barks and screams “only pain, all in vain” in full force, providing the listener an extra taste of his pain.
The two final tracks in Magma are pure melancholy, starting with Low Lands. How not to start crying while listening to its lyrics (“While you drift away / From all the plagues of this world / You’re put out of misery, giant monster / You won’t have to face it again / Every step of the way gets you higher”)? This is a very introspective composition with some thrilling tempo changes, a song I’m sure Joe, Mario and the others are very proud of having created together. And the somber acoustic outro Liberation feels like a very personal goodbye from Joe and Mario to their deceased mother, with no words being necessary to send the desired message.
Honestly, I have no idea if Magma will please all fans of Gojira, mainly due to the small but significant changes applied to their musicality in comparison to their previous releases. Magma might not be the “evolution in music” most were expecting from such innovative and lionhearted musicians, but it’s indeed a sophisticated album written from the bottom of the hearts of each band member, overflowing anger, pain and distress from every note played. Similarly to what the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.) did with his masterpiece Blackstar, using it as his swan song when his inevitable death was getting near, Magma is the perfect example of how death and high-quality music always walk hand in hand.
Best moments of the album: Silvera, The Cell, Stranded and Only Pain.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2016 Roadrunner Records
1. The Shooting Star 5:42
2. Silvera 3:33
3. The Cell 3:18
4. Stranded 4:29
5. Yellow Stone (Instrumental) 1:19
6. Magma 6:42
7. Pray 5:14
8. Only Pain 4:00
9. Low Lands 6:04
10. Liberation (Instrumental) 3:35
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar, flute, arrangements
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums