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The French are most certainly not pussies. They've provided us with fine black metal (Anorexia Nervosa), brutal death metal (Happy Face), and even symphonic power metal (Fairyland). But in the last decade, progressive death metallers Gojira have really made an impact on the entire genre, bringing the French metal scene to the forefront of our minds once more. The phrase 'progressive death metal' brings to mind big names like Cynic, Opeth, or even "Symbolic"-era Death. But you should really dispel all pretentions when picking up an album by this Bayonne quartet. Their brand of prog/death is certainly unique. Despite being incredibly atmospheric and technically admirable, they're also crushingly heavy. This is Gojira, and they have come to pummel you.
Gojira's uniqueness derives not from individual stand-out performances, but from an overall sound which is simultaneously brutal and ambient. On "The Link", their second full-length release, atmosphere is certainly the key. The music successfully conjures up images of humid jungles and ancient tribal rituals through their de-tuned primal rhythms ("Indians") and occasional use of ethnic percussion ("Connected"). It's a strangely immersive sound which will instantly grasp you, right from the rhythmic bone-tapping of the opening title-track, all the way to the fading forest ambience of 8-minute instrumental "Dawn".
Overall mood notwithstanding, the performances from the individual band-members are phenomenal - and they are clearly masters in their respective fields. Vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier's voice has an interesting characteristic which is rare in death metal; his growls are not just guttural and primeval, they are almost tuned, allowing for a wider range of timbres for this band to experiment with. His quasi-melodic grunts also add to the general humidity of the atmosphere. The twin guitar attack of Joe and right-hand-man Christian Andreu is a combination of detuned aggressive chugs, and sharp, dissonant accents, contributing a portion of the 'evilness' that is expected of death metal. Jean-Michel Labadie's bass rumbles wonderfully underneath the chaos, and Mario Duplantier's (Joe's younger brother) drumming has since become iconic among fans. So there's no doubt that we're dealing with a quartet of expertly-skilled musicians and composers.
"The Link" certainly stands out in Gojira's praiseworthy discography, for having such an odd production quality. The following albums employ a very modern-sounding, yet edgy production which emphasizes the guitar-tone to beyond brutal. But "The Link" almost sounds as if all 11 tracks were recorded in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. The guitars and bass are crisp with plenty of weight behind them, whilst the drums pierce through with an almost metallic quality. Swirling airily around this musical maelstrom, is Joe Duplantiers semi-growled, slightly distant vocals - emanating an aura of eerie mysticism.
The songs themselves utilize irregular time-signatures mixed with savage rhythms - all surrounded by a framework of unconventional structures. There's never a boring moment if you're looking for musical substance - as this band's technical prowess will make even the most die-hard muso shrink in ego. Just take a listen to the outro to "Remembrance", and try memorizing that rhythm! That's the kind of virtuosity Gojira are capable of, and cleverly insert into their compositions to throw-off but greatly entertain the listener.
Highlights include the bone-shattering heaviness of 2nd track "Death of Me", the beautiful ambience of closing instrumental "Dawn", the classic death metal sound of "Wisdom Comes", (complete with some fantastic blast-beats from Mario) and the sonorous chanting of "Embrace The World". However, this album's piéce de resistance (yeah, I had to put a bit of French in here somewhere) is the stop/start exoticism of "Inward Movement". Starting off as a swelling doom/death track, it quickly morphs into a real headbanging groove-machine, before completely letting loose with a torrent of vicious dissonance and barbaric blast-beats (I'm not kidding, listen to the section at 2:51 and tell me that's not musical ecstasy!).
I have seen far too much hatred aimed at Gojira. Hatred which, I'm sure, has come from those who have simply dismissed them as 'mallcore' without even hearing a single ferocious note from this French quartet. Well, shut your fucking mouths, pick up a copy of "The Link" and let the feral turbulence of Gojira dig its knuckles into your face, leaving nothing but a satisfied, skeletal grin. Larry out.
Highlights - "Death of Me", "Remembrance", "Inward Movement", "Wisdom Comes"
For fans of - Hacride, Death, Opeth
French musical phenomenon Gojira’s second effort shows a slight upward momentum from their debut, Terra Incognita, and though it’s still not nearly as compelling as the groundbreaking efforts they’d be creating as early as their next release, The Link continues to establish the unique tendencies that Gojira would utilize to literally explode in pretty short order. Indeed, The Link is a good, if not great, listen that at this point serves more as a curiosity than a chunk of memorable tunes you’ll want to repeat again and again. It feels tighter and more organized than its older brother, though, and is measurably more enjoyable.
The punishing, cyclical grooves are still the focus here, but there are some more expressive sections as well, some tremolo-picked, some atmospheric open chord, some almost tribal in essence, and these are where the record truly feels artistic. This variety of abstract weirdness counterbalances the reliance on the pounding of muted, Meshuggah-inspired rhythms, and this sort of warm, primal atmosphere, working in interesting conjunction with the cold, mechanistic gnashing that dominates these soundscapes, is what makes The Link interesting. I feel some latent Sepultura influence here, and this being the result of a hypothetical hybrid between them and Meshuggah, perhaps with a light suffusion of Tool, is not so far fetched, at least for this release. Joe Duplantier’s vocals also feel like an admixture of Max Cavalera’s gruff shouts and Jens Kidman’s wilder, more gibbering style circa Contraddictions Collapse.
‘The Link’ displays these pervasive qualities right as it steps out of the portal, with an eerie cultish dissonance that immediately adds a strange, surreal nature to the rolling rhythms. ‘Death of Me’ lurches oddly in its choppy, lock-step grooves, which build from a bouncy Neanderthal stomp to a sheering wave of bright, strumming chords, and back again. Connected is a short sequence of light percussive notes that either originates from a Xylophone, or some kind of hollowed out wood, a calm before the storm of Remembrance, one of the best tracks here, channeling Sepultura aggression before breaking down into palm mutes and an odd sequence of boinging sounds. It’s flanked by another short intermission, Torii, a calm oceanic guitar progression, leading into Indians, which feels oddly anemic, but is a touch more accessible than the rest.
Embrace the World is a lot of fun, exuding a very earthy, tribal feeling, like grim-faced, bare-footed shamans doing an enrapturing dance around a roaring fire, high on Ayahuaska, as the chanting voice that rises above the rhythms comes forth like a fire god, central to the stoned, mesmerizing proceedings, then disappearing into the smoke from whence it came. Inward Movement is an interesting journey with some really strong, dense riffs and a good progression of energy, flowing with both grim power and a feeling of melancholy. Over the Flows reprises the funky, Primus-like oddity that manifested as Satan Is a Lawyer last time around, and will in the future be sculpted into much more powerful aesthetics in songs like A Sight to Behold. Wisdom Comes is short and angry, with some hurried, vibrant notation to supplant the usual atonal chugging. The closing song, Dawn, is a lengthy, lightly progressive instrumental that saunters off into the sunset with a meandering grace, a fitting, if not entirely epic, conclusion.
The Link feels more cohesive than Terra Incognita, more skillful, intelligent, and purposeful. The grooves are a bit more complex, the riffing more soulful, and the general slant of the songwriting more mature. Though the majority of its time is spent carving out grooves in the forest floor, it also takes time to breathe, dancing under the stars or staring philosophically into the fire. Drummer Mario Duplantier especially shows a dynamic growth from his last performance, as he seems to do with every release, striking with mechanistic precision, while retaining a very human sense of creativity. The lyrics can be quite poetic and insightful at times (sometimes not so much), with lots of stark, simple statements that belie their innate wisdom, and this aspect continues to strengthen release by release. Spiritual outrage and personal development are strong themes here, though, a common thread for all Gojira material. The production is also improved slightly. In fact, everything is improved slightly, laying and strengthening the foundations for upcoming greatness.
Despite the measure of growth and inherent memorability this exerts over its predecessor, however, I would not call The Link a great album. It is certainly more than acceptable, and conjures some very good ideas, but these ideas are simply not utilized to an extent as to entice me into repeating the performance very often. As I stated in my Terra Incognita review, the value here will be more intrinsic to the die-hard Gojira fan, who wants to inspect the building blocks for the towering spire of spiritual awesome they have become. Certainly, the spirit of Gojira, that special element of feeling persists here, alive and well, and I happen to know a lot of their fans like this album a great deal. I can certainly respect that, and I definitely would not want to dissuade you from checking it out, but for anyone not already familiar with these Frenchman, I’d strongly recommend starting with one of the later albums, because at length, there is simply no reason to listen to this over its successors. The Link is good, but From Mars to Sirius, The Way of All Flesh, and L’enfant Sauvage are amazing, so it sits in a very towering shadow.
-Left Hand of Dog
Where the debut Terra Incognita might have struggled a little in terms of finding an identity, and understandably so, as half the album consisted of re-recorded demo material; The Link is a far more coherent expression of the French band's surreal, atmospheric grooving that falls somewhere between the realms of Neurosis, Prong, Tool, Voivod and Meshuggah without any clear re-iteration of the above. A spacious effort, hardly immediate, it continues to tread upon the mechanical nature of its predecessor, but lacks much of that album's sterility and confusion. Make no mistake, the sounds of The Link can grate upon the soul. Some of its lumbering, muted rhythms feel like an emptiness spread throughout the being, a tinge of paralysis that begins at the fingertips and scalp and then crawls through the capillaries into the organs of importance.
Yes, this is probably the 'coldest' of the band's full-lengths, but cold through the vistas it explores, where the only fractions of warmth must be earned. "The Link" is an early indicator that Mario Duplantier will be continuing to enthrall through his use of wood blocks and other unexpected percussion within the album's bouncing post-metal groove, like you were hearing some refined alternative to Sepultura's Roots, raised on paint thinner, with none of that album's shitty guitar grunting. Joe sticks to his better, tormented vocals, starting at the Roots Cavalera range (or Tommy Victor's sewer-scarred throat) and then howling off into a much more welcoming arena where they traipse like an aurora across the nightline. "Death of Me" see-saws like a pair of rusted golems, splattering itself in grimy death metal breaks and winding down like a mechanized toy that is slowly expending its battery juices in a final ballet. "Connected" is a sweet percussion piece, while "Remembrance" sears across a skillet of post-hardcore drone and bludgeoning old chug warfare.
"Torii" is a peaceful instrumental piece, like a tone poem of scintillating clean guitars and random sound effects that flows quite naturally into the vibrant downtrodden chug of "Indians". Sadly this is one of the most boring tracks on the album, and I have no idea why it was chosen for a single...once you've heard the first 30-60 seconds, there is little to anticipate, and even the mathematical groove bridge does little to light the blood afire. Far better is the factory-line melody of "Embrace the World" (I loved the feel of the bass backing it up), which surges into spasms of noisy grind and crunch. "Inward Movement" is slow, like carefully processing bowels that wish to neatly package their contents for excretion, with a subtle architecture of flagellant noise and dense groove seeking to undulate the intestinal process.
'The land beyond is deep within
I took the path & I cannot go back
I've just connected myself with I
but I don't me that well as you see'
Trippy enough lyrics, though again, a rather boring song. "Over the Flows" is the weird, somewhat out of place song to supplant "Satan is a Lawyer" from the debut, but it's also quite a bit more mesmerizing, with sparse, cyclic moments of nauseous momentum and vocals that hiss off into a field of distortion. "Wisdom Comes" arrives like a brick through a window, and might be the worst song on this album, being the one thing here reprinted from the demo days. As forgettable as much of the songs squealing, dull death metal qualities are, there is the one bristling riff within at :40 which develops nicely before it transforms into awful chug grooving that you'd expect from any neighborhood metalcore band. The finale is an instrumental, experimental pattern of breathing guitar work ruptured through turbulent grooves, called simply "Dawn", and while fascinating in spots, it doesn't provide for many of the album's better moments.
The Link is a step up the ladder for a band on their rise to the stars, but it's a step suffused with some minor pitfalls which make for inconsistent listening. Most of the tracks are worthwhile, and the overall sound is fused together far more than the debut, but those few that are not land the album at a level just above average. Really, with the imminent existence of From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh, this is not something you'd ever reach towards for a fix of Gojira. But it's their first successful recording, speaking reams of potential if not engraving itself deep enough into your cortex for immediate reflection.
Highlights: Death of Me, Connected, Embrace the World, Torii
Gojira are one of the oddities of the metal scene today; their style is generally described as unique, even if detractors point to the occasional similarity to Morbid Angel or Strapping Young Lad (another metal oddity). They are possibly the only French metal band to have any kind of success in the Anglophone world thanks to their English lyrics (some say it matters), but they only really got the attention they deserve when their 3rd album, From Mars to Sirius, was released. Many of their fans would argue that this, the Link, their second album, is the best of the three released so far: while From Mars… is a consistent effort, the songwriting on the Link is generally more interesting, and some of the song structures used here are almost recycled in From Mars.
The album is notable for its variation: there are the speed-fests such as the Morbid Angel soundalike Wisdom Comes, the groovy tracks such as the opening track, and the downright stunningly innovative tracks such as Remembrance. The Link opens with cyclical riffs and a pummeling atmosphere which showcases some of Joe Duplantier’s more melodic singing style. A very laid-back track as they go, and not one which one would normally associate with a band (such as Gojira) labeled as progressive death metal. Indeed, straight-up death metal is rarely heard on the album, as the band tends to sink back into mid-paced riffs. However, the speed can be found: Remembrance opens with a tremolo-picked intro, and does not relent until the final, shattering breakdown. Remembrance is a fantastic example of Gojira’s knack of taking a song, applying a fairly simple song structure, and utterly enthralling the listener. The middle, spacy sections (is that a whale I hear? Sounds familiar) need to be heard to be believed, and the breakdown comes out of the blue and leaves my neck sore. Easily one of the highlights of the album.
Wisdom Comes shows the ability of the band to throw out a simple, blast-beat laden track and use them to their best extent. Not a single clean sound to be heard on this track, as Duplantier growls his way through. Death of Me, possibly my favourite track on the album, is a fiercely original track. It switches between a distinctive, swinging riff and some tremolo-picked, blast beat nuggets of goodness, with some interesting slower parts which contribute to make an astonishing track. Embrace the World is another highlight, keeping interest the whole way by the nature of the song changing several times throughout. Its lyrics are also the most interesting here, possibly one of the songs that states the band’s purpose the most clearly. Inward movement is the slowest track on here, and has an almost drone, doom feel, and is one of the more interesting listens here.
The album isn’t perfect, as the superlatives of this review might suggest. There are some utterly worthless tracks, which can be named: the atmospherical Connected, using some rudimentary percussion, sets up Remembrance nicely. However, it is simply tedious to listen to this for a whole minute, and one can only wonder if it’s really necessary. Over the Flows’ main riff is original, to say the least. However, the track repetitively plods its way through, and doesn’t really make an impression comparable to the juggernauts of Remembrance or Death of Me. Indians attempts to make use of a ‘swinging’ riff similar to the main riff of Death of Me, except this one simply seems childish. Dawn also seems unnecessary and drawn out, and does not have the strength of Gojira’s usually epic closing tracks. Any listener in possession of From Mars to Sirius should listen to the track Unicorn from that album. Interesting use of harmonics? Certainly. Now listen to Torii. That’s right: Gojira, for some obscure reason, decided to reuse those harmonics for Unicorns. Well, since this review focuses on The Link, I can criticize this track only for its repetitiveness and, yet again, pointlessness, quite apart from the fact that From Mars to Sirius recycles this track completely.
The Link is able to showcase the talents of the bands very nicely. The Duplantier brothers (Joe on guitars/vocals, Mario on drums) are clearly the brains of the band, and admit it openly in interviews. The second guitar (Christian Andreu) follows Joe’s lead, and one can only feel that his presence in the band is solely to provide extra heaviness and thickness to the band, not to actually provide leads. This is a shame, as Gojira’s cover of Metallica’s Escape shows that Christian can solo very nicely; it would be interesting to see if Gojira can incorporate leads into their future efforts. Mario on drums is one of the band’s stand-out elements; he is fast on double kick, his fills are innovative, he is the master of adding in cymbals and snare hits on unusual beats in order to spice up a normal drumline. Bass, provided by Jean-Michel Labadie, falls prey to the second guitar’s curse of simply following the root. Labadie’s contribution can only really be seen live, where his energy is overpowering. However, on record, he fails to make a lasting impression.
The album is arguably the best recorded by Gojira, and some of the tracks are live staples. They do not often fall prey to the curse of repetition, some of the criticism leveled towards their two other albums. Gojira have managed to produce a very interesting metal album, going against many of the stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas that are packaged with most extreme metal music. One of my favourite albums overall.
Well, the review title says it all, doesn’t it? “From Mars To Sirius” was the first Gojira album I bought, and I thought it was pretty good. It had a nice mix of death, thrash, doom, and possibly others thrown in there. A good album all-round.
Subsequently, I found Gojira’s “The Link” in a shop and I thought, oh, what the hell, and I bought it. Upon the completion of the first listen I wasn’t gobsmacked in any way, but I thought it was good. After a while, I realised that I was listening to “The Link” more than their follow-up, and that’s when I decided that I liked this album more.
It’s definitely much heavier, with raw production, but everything stands out perfectly. Nothing is too loud or too soft. Joe Duplantier’s voice has a more raspy, deep tone here as well, making the whole experience much heavier, which is more suited to this album than “From Mars To Sirius”.
One aspect that’s noticed is that their writing skills on this album don’t match that on their next album, but ironically, this actually makes the songs better. The reason is because they experimented with different sounds and styles, which make for a nice spread of songs. “Death Of Me”, for example, has some weird soft guitar riffing at the start, which shows that they didn’t quite have the knack for it just yet. But, on the other hand, it’s completely unexpected, which is one of the most important things in music. The end of “Remembrance” is also good, with the guitars and bass drums following the same thing until fade-out. Nice stuff.
What makes the album complete more-so, is the final track “Dawn”, a complete instrumental piece that actually DOESN’T suck! Sometimes, final track instrumental’s are a pile of shit (see She Said Destroy’s “Morituri Te Salutant”), but then there can be really good one’s (see Chimaira’s “Implements of Destruction””). Fortunately, “Dawn” falls into the latter category, and it’s something to look forward to through the album.
So, all in all, this album is definitely some good death metal, with nice vocals and excellent instrumentation throughout. A nice mixture of songs from slow (the start of “Inward Movement” and “Indians”) to fast (middle section of “Inward Movement” and “Wisdom Comes”) to some pure death metal pieces (title track, “Remembrance”). Personally, it’s better than “From Mars To Sirius”, and most death metallers should like this.
Best tracks: The Link, Remembrance, Inward Movement, Dawn
Gojira's newest record was a very impressive mix of thrash, death and metalcore with a bit of doom thrown in, and I was expecting this one to be equally good. While it doesn't have the same huge epic vision of the From Mars to Sirius, it's still a progressive and very solid mix of genres, but a lot faster and heavier.
One of the things I noticed fairly quickly in this album was how much Gojira use techy riffs. Rememberance has a few pretty awesome off beats riff, with a super tight flurry of guitar and double kick. It's pretty damn tight and awesome, and when some weird didgeridoo type effect comes over the top, it fits perfectly. Death of Me has some awesome quick bursts of death metal tremelo, although there's also some weird death metal pirate song (best description I've got for it) bits in that song, which suggests Gojira haven't quite got their song writing honed to the point they had it in From Mars to Sirius.
Still, there's plenty of great bits here, like the sudden speedy bits in the title track, the clean respite that's Torii, the spine-tingling chants and semi industrial riffing of Embrace the World (terrible song title, though). The powerful doomy intro and wall of sound ending of Inward Movement rocks, as do basically all of the unexpected yet totally fitting changes in time signature/speed/mood that happen in almost every song. Gojira don't write with a predictable structure, and a few times in this album, some completely unexpected instrumentation will kick in, and it's always to great effect. Don't get me wrong though, every part flows perfectly into the next bit.
All of Gojira are very skilled at their instruments. The guitars do plenty of dissonant stuff but they are also adept at melody, and they're incredibly versatile, while the rythym section locks in tightly, providing a great backing for the guitars. The drums are really solid. There's plenty of unique drum beats and fills, and there's the occaisonal blast beat too. All of this has been recorded really well too. The guitars are super thick and the vocalist has been mixed perfectly. The only real complaint I have is that sometimes the song-writing gets a bit unfocused, but that's fairly rare. All in all, a really good prog death/thrash album that most metalheads should love.
Edit: Just dropping the score down by a bit. It's still a great album, though.