Gojira’s Magma was a pretty major release this year, and while it didn’t get any Angry Metal Guy love it got plenty of Huck N Roll love. So much so, in fact, that it landed in my comprehensive, well thought out, Best of 2016 list. Yeah, that’s sarcasm; my list is as meaningless as any others. But nonetheless, my decade-old love-hate relationship with the French masters of heavy precision coalesced into purely the former on Magma. The fact that the Duplantier brothers’ mother passed away during recording sessions is a major contributing factor to all facets of the album, and while undeniably tragic for them it was a creative boon for us, as Magma is a departure from their comfort zone in a number of ways.

The album begins with the ponderous groans of “The Shooting Star,” which polarized fans immediately due to Joe Duplantier’s clean vocals. But you know what, these fit in well with the music, both on this track and a number of others where cleans reside. I’m a fan of bands that push their own boundaries, and combining clean and harsh singing on Magma gives the music an added dimension Gojira sorely needed. More depth is added with some atmospheric touches throughout, including the opener and the closer, “Low Lands,” as well as the title track. These tweaks to the band’s standard sound are all the more effective because of the song lengths. A conscious attempt was made to get right to the point on Magma, and most songs clock in under four minutes. Aside from the odd “Iron Man”- inspired “Yellow Stone,” there is no chaff to speak of on Magma.

Don’t hold the clean vocals, the spacious sounds, and the shortened song structures against them; the band still kills it with their trademark percussive staccato attacks. “Silvera” and “The Cell” both blast out of the speakers with the clinical precision we’ve come to expect from Gojira, and the intro to “Pray” evokes memories of “The Art of Dying.” Mario Duplantier continues to show us he’s a monster on the kit, and with Joe howling in his unique way, those songs, along with “Only Pain,” show that the guys aren’t planning on straying too far off course all the time. Also present are plenty of “you stepped on my cat’s tail” riffs, featured on “Stranded,” “Magma,” and “Only Pain.” In short, there is still a ton of raging heaviness throughout, although Joe’s lyrics are at times tender and wistful. On “Low Lands” he wonders, “Tell me what you see, in the afterlife … when you’re everywhere,” and on “Silvera” he howls “When you change yourself you change the world.”

Produced by Joe at the band’s newly constructed New York studio, the sounds are impeccable. Glistening percussion hammers home, Jean-Michel Labadie’s bass growls and prowls as it underpins Christian Andreu’s and Duplantier’s guitars, and the mix of harsh and clean vocals when they are overlayed is perfect. The brothers’ vision (and tribute to their mother) is beautifully realized on Magma. Their tender acoustic duet, “Liberation,” that brings Magma to a close leaves us feeling rather pensive – and hitting the repeat button shortly thereafter.

Tracks to Check Out: “Magma,” “Pray,” and “Low Lands”

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  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I’m a huge Gojira fan, but I just couldn’t get into this record. One of the bigger disappointments of 2016 for me.

    • Eli Valcik

      yeah, same thing here

    • Same here. Easily my least favorite of their releases. Definitely the biggest letdown of the year.

  • SegaGenitals

    I really dig this album. While I’ve always respected Gojira, I was never really a true fan until this one.

  • Zach Ward

    Was thoroughly dissapointed by this album. 2.5

  • So much evolutionary music in this album, and yet I am drawn the most to “Silvera”. Freaking love that song, one of the best this year (mostly thanks to that crunchy main riff). As for the album, ay okay

  • Kronos

    I still haven’t listened to this because the two singles were so weak.

    • manimal

      If you feel that the singles are weak you won’t like the rest of the album either. I was throroughly disappointed by this.

      Gojira, to me, is one of those very few bands (apart from Tool) that I could forgive for writing the same album every time, just a little better, or, at least a little different than the last attempt. The Way of All Flesh was their peak to me, the one after that started straining it, and this one… meh.

      And to the author – I respectfully disagree on the production. Over two albums, the production values have steadily devolved into a cartoonish snapshot of their former selves. Why bother with building your own studio if every recording engineer with a little experience and a decent ear can pull those drum sounds out of a commercial drum library?

      /rant over

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    I really don’t understand the level of praise this album has received. It has a couple cool songs but the majority of the album is just fluff. Definitely one of the bigger disappointments this year.
    I’ll stick with From Mars to Sirius when I’m in the mood for some Gojira

    • The Unicorn

      M2S was their best.

      • Requiem

        Agreed. Backbone is one of my favourite songs of all time, along with Flying Whales and Global Warming.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    This was a polarizing release. It clicked for me though (obviously), whereas I’m too olde and untrve for their heavier stuff. I liked hearing them stretch out a bit.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I’ll say I didn’t dislike this album, but it wasn’t more than a 2.5-3.0 for me!

  • The Unicorn

    yeah this one was a bit of a dud for me. alcest too. i know, im in the minority. sometimes a unicorn just gotta be a unicorn.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Alcest didn’t really grab me either, we see eye to horn on that one.

    • SlapDatAss

      No you’re not. This album disappointed lots of people. Me included.

  • Vic279

    I was waiting for ages for you to review this album and almost lost faith only to keep a hope for a thing “we” missed review lol. I agree with your review but my opinion hasn’t formed completely yet as I have listened it only four times and usually a Gojira album takes more than that to fully grow. The good things you stated are there but I am not sure the four minute song length format doesn’t take something from the old grandeur. Maybe the songs need more space to breath.

  • tomasjacobi

    Very happy to see a positive review of this here.
    I think this is the first truly great Gojira album.

  • IBlackened

    This album was a huge disappointment for me. I couldn’t even finish it.

  • The band fucked up by releasing Stranded and Silvera and misleading the fans on how the new album would sound (which could be interpreted as un unpredictable move from the band). Well, I know this is not what people were expecting. I also was disappointed at first, but it grew on me. It’s definitely a very good album, just not what people expected from Gojira to deliver. Great stuff though.

  • Chris

    Add me to the “didn’t click at all” group. I adored The Way of All Flesh, but their two subsequent albums haven’t done anything for me at all. Magma had a couple good songs surrounded by a giant pile of ‘meh’. It’s right up there with Opeth’s Sorceress as my Disappointment of the Year for 2016.

    • Yeah, Magma didn’t impress me all that much either.

      With Sorceress, however, have you tried altering the track order? I spotted someone on Amazon suggesting it, and once I changed the order, the album went from “meh” to amazing.

      If you’re interested, try:
      1. Persephone
      2. Chrysalis
      3. Will O the Wisp
      4. Era
      5. Persephone (Slight Return)
      6. Sorceress
      7. Sorceress 2
      8. The Wilde Flowers
      9. A Fleeting Glance
      10. Strange Brew
      11. The Seventh Sojourn
      12. Spring MCMLXXIV
      13. The Ward

      • SegaGenitals

        I find that if I set the album on fire, I enjoy the crackling and popping noises much better than playing it… Seriously though, I’ve heard this track order is an improvement, and will try it out.

        • Haha, I haven’t tried that approach. Considering I bought it digitally, I don’t fancy the idea of setting my PC on fire, but maybe I’ll give it a go one day…

      • Chris

        Thanks Stuart, I’ll give this a try. I really wanted to like Sorceress, but usually just ended up falling asleep while listening to it.

  • Levly

    I found this record very boring. There’s nothing wrong with stretching your boundaries and mellowing out, but this is bland and uninteresting songwriting for the most part.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    This album sucks the big one… Sorry guys…

  • This review captures my thoughts on Magma pretty accurately. Except I really like the bass solo track which sounds like it’s channeling Cliff Burton and think they could have dropped the acoustic outro. That one sounds like the two brothers were jamming alone in a room after their mother died balling their eyes out. But no one else really needed to hear it.

    Other than that I think it’s a fantastic and concise, yet introspective album. The vocals are what really stand out to me. And what I admire even more is that it’s self produced and they kept it focused to a single LP.

  • miradautasvras

    This is divisive. I never liked Gojira till this album. I don’t understand the gripe against clean vocals and what not. This is not boring, which Gojira was always for me. Magma remains one of the best songs I heard this year. I would love them to go in this direction from hereon!

  • madhare

    Gojira is one of those bands that I hear people talking about and everytime I think “I must have missed something great”. Happens here on AMG as well. Then I try listening to them and everytime it’s just “Meh” to me. (That’s exactly what happened with this article and the embedded track.)

    …and then I forget the whole thing until I again hear people gushing about them and the circle begins again. :D

    • Phil Daly

      Exactly the same here. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to enjoy them, but I have no real idea why.

    • SegaGenitals

      That’s what happens to me with Porcupine Tree. Has all the right ingredients, but I don’t respond to it.

      • Same.

      • sir_c

        I prefer their older work, which borders more towards Pink Floyd/Hawkwind/krautrock stuff. E.g. Voyage 34, The sky moves sideways.
        Those are excellent albums to submerge oneself in whilst reading a good book and having a glass of proper scotch at hand.

  • Nick Stoll

    I’m finally giving the b-side of the album (Yellow Stone and onward) a good listen and liking it more and more.

  • Gage

    So I guess I’m not in the minority when I say I thought this album was dreadful. Listening through the whole thing actually felt like a chore. All the songs were so plodding, monotonous, and forgettable.

  • French Metal is not just Gojira… :) Just sayin’

  • Thatguy

    ‘When you change yourself you change the world’ is pretty much the theme of all of Gojira’s work.

    I didn’t love this album but there is enough that is good on it to still love the band and look forward to what they do next.

  • OzanCan

    They are simply awesome. Pure fanboy here :)

  • Lipsy

    I keep waiting for this to finally sink in for me, much like Crack the Skye eventually did, but, it really hasn’t.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Don’t get the praise for this band at all, so dull and nothing special. Least they stopped the fucking string scraping every song.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I love this! It caught me at the right place and time…

  • Requiem

    I hate this album so much that I’m willing to fist fight the author of this review. I adore the cleans, but they’re the only thing I like about this.

    ‘Objectively’ this is probably a 2 for me, but it’s actually a 1. First time since Muse’s Drones I’ve been genuinely enraged by an artistic work.

    It’s gonna make me, it’s gonna break me, it’s gonna make me, a fucking psycho…

  • naoto

    Awesome sound, great personality, great musicianship. These guys, IMHO, are bringing the heavy metal avant-garde to mainstream audience. Amazing.