4F de Télérama
This sixth album by the French extreme metallers is a bold step forward into new territory. Having already cemented their place as one of the best technical death metal bands in history, here they broaden their horizons considerably, experimenting with melody, groove, shorter songs, more straightforward structures, and actual singing. This shift from complexity toward accessibility has seen Magma draw comparisons with Metallica's black album, which Gojira have welcomed. Although they have toned down the complexity a bit, the music is still incredibly heavy, and there are still more ideas in this album than most bands manage in an entire career -- from the Middle Eastern soloing of "Silvera" through the brutal, syncopated drum tattoo that drives "The Cell" to the almost liturgical, monastic vocals on the title track and the incredibly harsh, shrieking, industrial guitar effect that shows up periodically. Opener "The Shooting Star" sets the stage for the rest of the album with a sludgy midtempo groove, multi-tracked vocals, a minor-key melody, clean singing, and a veritable wall of guitar. The title track is one of the most progressive on the record, harking back to the band's old-school days with at least five different sections, and is followed up immediately by the one-two punch of a couple of the album's heaviest tracks -- "Pray," blasting along with grinding, djent-inspired riffage, and "Only Pain," where Joe Duplantier roars into the void over a cyclical maelstrom of guitar. But there's almost a pop feel to some of the material here. Both the music and Duplantier's singing style have a '90s vibe, and the chorus on "Stranded" could almost have come off something by one of the sludgier grunge bands, like Alice in Chains or Tad (who were, incidentally, once described by a British music journalist as "the Metallica it's OK to like"). The album ends in stately near-silence with the acoustic instrumental outro "Liberation." The bulk of the lyrics are inspired by the untimely passing of the Duplantier brothers' mother, a subject that has obviously been the cause of much pain but is also handled with grace, sensitivity, and good taste. This album is not going to give Gojira any big pop radio hits, but it will certainly broaden their appeal outside of the death metal ghetto to more general fans of metal and hard rock.
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo