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WOW...I am throughly impressed with this band. WIth minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent effort that moves me. Like the reviewer before me, I first heard these guys opening for Behemoth last month and I was impressed enough to score this album, and I am not disappointed at all.
This is reminiscent of a primo mashup of Strapping Young Lad, Morbid Angel, and even Helmet. You've got the sweeping, dramatic feel of SYL, which includes a plethora of riffs that are equal parts disciplined, structured, melodic, and crushingly heavy; there is the throughly chaotic feel on several songs that evokes MA in their evil prime (the riffs in "From The Sky", "Backbone", and "In The Wilderness" in particular--tell me you don't hear Trey Azagthoth's warped sensibility in their approach on these tunes); and the drumming is the ace in the hole in this album. Like John Stanier (Helmet), Mario Duplantier is the hero in Gojira, his style providing a versatile and swinging feel to even the heaviest riffing moments, the odd blast parts excepted, of course. His is the role that makes the music really breathe and work and groove--yes, groove, and not in the lunkheaded Pantera/Lamb of God wannabe sense. Groove in the elusively funky sense, I mean, a la Van Williams of Nevermore, to cite another example.
The songs focus on swaggering, stomping mid tempos with a palpable sense of forward motion no matter how repetitive the music gets. And they work the repetition angle to its maximum effect, establishing a concrete base and a hypnotic feel that really drags you in. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that they channel the essence of their daikaiju namesake very, very well, menacing and dark yet heroic in an odd manner. The odd blast part surfaces here and there, and while I thought they were gratuitous at first they've grown on me, like the chaotic rush of "Backbone". But yet they also come off as simultaneously relaxed and confident as well as aggressive, an odd-sounding combination that manages to work.
Gojira even incorporate gentle, atmospheric instrumental parts like the short and sweet "Unicorn", which has haunting snippets of whale songs--those, in fact, pop up throughout the album to add a thematic coherence to it--and that takes courage and a firm belief in your music to write something like that and have it fit so well instead of seeming out of place.
Joe Duplantier's vocals are best described as a harsh yet melodic shouting that somehow seems all him. He delivers his deep lyrics with conviction and occasional clean vocals as well as death growls here and there, all the while surprisingly coherent too--his accent is very minimal and he enunciates very well. And the lyrics are heady stuff, intelligent and well-written, dealing with a variety of subject matter of the spiritual/personal order that adds a healthy dollop of emotional resonance. His and Christian Andreu's riffing is tight and makes ample use of pinch harmonic squawks for punctuation and occasional Martian squalls--but no solos. And I don't miss them on this album at all; if there were any they'd seem out of place and disruptive. You do not interrupt a groove this massive and profound for self-indulgence.
The production is perfect, as well; the kick drums only occasionally sound triggered and the guitars are crisp and clear, plus the bass has its own niche in the mix that fills out the sound with gritty Fender tone to maximum effect. Every instrument fits into the whole to create a beautfuil sonic picture, something you don't get too often with metal at all. And I love it!
Standouts for me are "Ocean Planet" (what a great opener), "Backbone", "Unicorn", the crushing "Where Dragons Dwell", and the menacing Morbid Angel worship of "In The Wilderness" and "From The Sky". Overall, the grand and again, sweeping epic feel of this album is breathtaking and will have you gently bobbing your head rhythmically in time witht the music more than headbanging. And this is not a bad thing, to me.
I really hope these guys make some headway in America given that the anti-French sentiments of a few years back may well still be alive in some parts of this country. Forget all about that crap and settle in with this album for some deep listening, you will need to absorb this album over the course of several listens, as I did. Give it time to win you over, I think you will not regret it.