A Heavy Metal Acid Trip
Listening to Gojira’s newest full-length album, Magma, can feel like briefly entering an altered state of consciousness. This is due to the subtle and creative ways they morph their sound to fit riffs and ideas taken from genres from across the heavy metal spectrum and beyond.
The album’s opening track, “The Shooting Star,” is slow and spacey, with hypnotic vocals reminiscent of stoner metal legends Sleep. The following three tracks, which include lead singles “Silvera” and “Stranded,” are the closest to classic Gojira as the album gets, featuring chugging guitars and urgent vocals characteristic of the band’s earlier work. Major key melodies and treble-y lead guitar lines are sprinkled in throughout these tracks, contrasting against heavy guitar riffs, like the introduction to “Stranded,” which sounds like a lead-in to a 90s nu metal groove. Already Magma is a captivating listen, but “Yellow Stone,” a doom metal instrumental that essentially divides the album in half, is a transition into a weirder and more experimental sound that lasts until the album’s end.
“Pray,” for example, begins with flute, tribal drumming and pounding, industrial guitar, which leads into a back-and-forth between sections that are alternately psychedelic and mosh-worthy. The heavy parts are great on their own, but thanks to the weirdness that surrounds them, they sound heavier and more innovative. As the album approaches its end, Gojira’s experimental approach takes center stage. Penultimate track “Low Lands” is practically a grunge song up until a heavy outro riff, which is suddenly dropped to make way for a new age-sounding acoustic guitar part. This continues into the final track, which is solely tribal drumming and acoustic guitar noodling.
Describing the album with words makes it sounds quite a bit more peculiar than it does while actually listening. This is a testament to Gojira’s experience as a metal band, knowing exactly how to expand their sonic palate to incorporate a wide variety of new ideas without any of them feeling distracting, all while maintaining a characteristically dark and brooding vibe. It’s this level of mastery that makes even the closing track feel like it belongs on a metal album. Acoustic guitar outros are nothing new, but the one on Magma, like such a natural culmination of everything else presented in the album up until that point, that it makes lesser bands’ acoustic guitar tracks feel forced by comparison.
Listening to the album can feel intoxicating at times, due to how seamlessly the familiar is intermingled with the new and bizarre. It presents such a wide pallet of ideas that a larger variety of emotions will be evoked in most listeners than solely the primal excitement incited by traditional metal bands. There’s plenty of that too, though, thanks to the band’s new and forward-thinking approach to metal.