Gojira and I have been having a strange relationship for the last couple of years. When I first listened to their music, I knew that there was something about it I couldn’t really understand and therefore wasn’t able to fully appreciate it. I kept listening to Gojira on a regular basis and gradually started discovering the beauty and the various facets of their music … and eventually became hooked. Their music feels primordial and artless and yet, Gojira manage to express our most hidden feelings in a very straightforward way. This, and their brilliant songwriting and live shows of course, is the reason why I believe they got as well-known and appreciated by metalheads all over the world.
I will tell you one thing straight away: I had no idea what to think about “Magma” after the first few listens. It felt somehow abstruse, almost like an enigma at first. So I played the record on repeat and dived into the lyrics to find answers.
Gojira slowed things down quite a bit this time and Joe (Duplantier; guitars/vocals) uses his clean vocals in a more “obvious” way than before. This could already be one reason why many fans will dislike “Magma”. I do feel the need to mention that although “Magma” is less heavy than their previous albums, Gojira are definitely far away from being mainstream-catchy. You’ll still find harsh vocals, crushing riffs and pounding drums on this record – generally speaking, Gojira stayed true to what they are known for, but also progressed as musicians – just listen to “Stranded” and how they used a tambourine during the chorus. And it sounds awesome.
The contrast between calm and heavy tracks makes every song shine in its own way. “Silvera” and “Pray” are perceived as much more intense because the tracks right before them are slower and calmer. Nearly every song transports a certain feeling, be it anger, despair or helplessness, my personal favorites being “The Shooting Star”, “Pray” and “Low Lands”.
I must admit, though, that I’m not a massive fan of the track “Magma”. It isn’t a bad track, but it feels quite weak compared to other tracks and fails to evoke any feelings. (Lyrically, this is not the case.) It’s also arguable whether the interlude “Yellow Stone” and the final track “Liberation” were necessary. If you are listening to the album from beginning to end, they do fit in, but there is nothing special about them.
“Magma” becomes even more interesting when you have a look at the lyrics. This album is dedicated to Patricia Rosa, Mario and Joe’s mother, who died of cancer in 2015. Additionally, Gojira are playing around with nature related symbols and religious allusions. With this in mind, I’ve been able to make out two main themes running through this record. There are probably different ways to interpret the lyrics on “Magma”; this is just what I think this album is all about.
The first theme seems to be about the process of coming to terms with the loss of a loved one and all the stages that come with it. In “The Cell”, it is described how getting lost in mourning feels like being locked inside of oneself and being “lost in the dark”. After breaking out of the “cell”, one feels disoriented, as described in “Stranded”. The urge to let go and accept what happened is presented in many songs: in “The Shooting Star”, Joe sings the words “everlasting love is ever-growing/hang on to what you have and let it grow/everlasting love is ever-dying/it’s in the past, you have to let it go” at the end, which sums up this aspect beautifully. Lastly, “Only Pain” describes how becoming numb of pain feels like.
The second theme consists of abstract ideas of death and the hereafter in general. Most of them can be found in “The Shooting Star”, “Magma” and “Low Lands”: the spirit flies up into the light, far beyond the sky and the sun (“par-delà le ciel/par-delà le soleil”) and can be observed on the sky at night; it is reborn through the rain and has “expanded to the state of light”, it’s “invisible” and “in everything”. By the way: magma, for instance, seems to represent cancer.
Tracks like “Silvera” or “Pray” don’t completely fit in any of these themes, but seem to be tied up with them. Questioning the “old ways” and finding strength in one’s own beliefs is what “Pray” is all about. “Silvera” could be interpreted in many ways; I assume it describes, similar to “Pray”, the urgency of stopping to blindly believe what we were taught by society or religion.
The lyrics and the music complement each other very well – contrasts like darkness and light or noise and silence can be found in the music, too.
All in all, “Magma” is a very well balanced album with highs and lows which stays interesting even after countless listens. It is obvious that Gojira worked hard on the new songs and added loads of their own emotion to make this record as well as they possibly could – and they have succeeded.
The best approach to this album is probably to dig into it without any expectations. If you’re expecting an album like “L’Enfant Sauvage”, then you’ll be disappointed. But I urge you to have a listen – “Magma”, with all its emotion and hidden symbols, is an exquisite piece of art.
1. The Shooting Star
3. The Cell
5. Yellow Stone
8. Only Pain
9. Low Lands