Monday, March 5, 2007

Gojira - 'From Mars To Sirius'

Rating: 9/A

Gojira gets compared a lot to Mastodon (having a whale on the cover might be one reason), and listening to this, their third full-length album, I can hear some of the reasons for that. This is pumelling metal with a solid death influence, but also progressive aspirations, and vocals that alternate between a hoarse yell and a more clean shout. For all I know, Mastodon is an influence on these French metalheads, but I'm personally reminded as much of bands like Meshuggah, and maybe a touch of Fear Factory. But all this is a little beside the point, in your quilt-oriented reviewer's downy opinion. I was given both Mastodon's much-vaunted breakout, Leviathan (which I've reviewed here too, and I liked just fine) and this album at the same time and I have to say that Gojira received just as much repeated spinning on my CD player.

The reason for this is twofold - groove and feel. For all their bludgeon, and the crisp, blitzing drumming (a real highlight), Gojira have a real sense of groove underyling their compositions - and groove, my friends, is the underlying ingredient that will get me nodding along unthinkingly to a band, opening the way for the songs to insidiously embed themselves in my mind. And that's where the feel comes in. I like metal bands where there is an atmosphere to the sound - something large and tangible that I can loose myself in. I get that from bands as diverse as Nevermore (RESPECT!) and My Dying Bride, Clutch and Cannibal Corpse and I get that here. This is all very subjective, but heavy music seems to be where my opinions are most governed by subjective attachments.

To be honest, I'm even a little more drawn to Gojira than to some of their more famous contemporaries because there just seems a stronger songwriting instinct at work here - the individual parts, interludes and bridges really build together into gripping pieces of music that carry distinctive moods and images with them. While the over-60 minute length of the album can seem a bit much for someone used to the days of 45 minute or at most 60 minute albums on tape, there's no denying that Gojira have used all this time well, giving the heavier moments (the majority of the album) enough space to breathe amongst melodic or mid-tempo sections, notching up the cumulative impact that much more. Gojira knows when to hit you over the head with a ten-tonne sledgehammer, and when to lull you with an arpeggiated melody or momentarily pacify you with a more sonorous, ringing medium-paced riff. These are very simple heavy metal dynamics really- you can learn them by listening to Black Sabbath's 'Master Of Reality' a few dozen times, or even just the 'Embryo/Children Of The Grave' sequence, but it's a lesson that can get lost in the rush to be huge and heavy and stomp your way by sheer force of decimation and ambition, and I'm glad to see these relatively young musicians have their sensibilities as firmly in place as their chops and their hunger for heaviness.

I haven't even commented on the ecological theme of this album - I'll just say, yes, bugger, I agree, but if you don't it's okay - you can't make out the lyrics so easily anyway. Just let that music wash over you like a sonic Ocean Planet.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline: Technical, super-heavy modern metal with solid songwriting values and a really engrossing feel. God, that drummer is great. Does he use triggers? No matter, this is great stuff anyway. Metal is alive and well in this 21st century of ours.


forgottenmachine said...

Great review. These guys deserve as much promotion as they can get.

Like you, I see far more of Meshuggah and FF than I do Mastodon in their sound.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

this was another of my year-end finishers....great review, great album

JP said...

Thanks, and thanks. I've been listening to their first album too. Solid stuff, I should review their whole discog at some point, especially as it is still of handleable size.