France is not well known for her metal. That could change if Prosthetic Records has any say. The U.S. label that brought us Red Chord and Lamb of God saw fit to release long-running French metal titans Gojiraís latest opus. Such a move could prove quite the boon for U.S./France metal relations, or at least bolster Gojiraís career. With over a decade of existence, theyíve proved their mettle/metal with two prior albums. Both garnered lavish critical praise and sowed the seeds for the bandís flowering following across Europe.
Now itís time for the band to prove themselves on our shores, and as we know, it isnít easy to persevere around here. From Mars to Sirius explodes upon hitting play with the immense ďOcean Planet.Ē Cooing sounds begin, perhaps the mating calls of whales or dolphins or some other sea-faring creature. This is quashed by a walloping riff and careening drums. Itís off time in that mechanical Meshuggah way, with a delicious guitar squeal like that of a stuck pig. The vocals arrive triumphantly like a Viking of yore traipsing upon and pillaging faraway lands and peoples. They roar in a keenly Neurosis fashion, yet it still sounds distinct. Throughout the song, the tempos shift and sway, as if the tune was a vessel lost on a stormy sea. Yet the band never lets up, hitting home hammering riffs layered atop lurching beats. Itís a tremendous opener.
ďBackboneĒ continues the crunching majesty of Gojira. They play it a bit more routine in a Machinehead mode. The opening riff is chugged beautifully. This crashes into speed-of-light drummed parts. Again, the music evokes images of medieval warriors stampeding in some pastoral setting, legions of men pounding into one another. Hints of a tamer Strapping Young Lad can be detected, though again, Gojira manage to manufacture a uniquely Gojiran twist on the form.
Just when it seems like the metal album of the year, the rest of the songs play on. And they keep playing on. Nothing holds a candle to the blaze of the first two burners. Gojira fails to infuse a healthy chunk of the album with any definable hooks. Thereís nothing to grasp onto. Instead weíre caught sliding into a quagmire of repetitive, hulking chords and shouted vocals.
Itís the bane of both ends of the metal spectrum. The crazed, three-dozen-riffs-to-a-song bands lack any hint of cohesion, while the stoner rocking bands bow at the altar of Sunn O))) and just bore the fuck out of us lesser weed-minded individuals. Gojira dip their toes in the waters of both, and prove they can crank out their own satisfyingly brutal hybrid when they want to. The band also deserves credit for the save-the-environment theme of the lyrics (which has always been their cause). Letís hope Gojira catch on around here and inject much-needed consciousness in the meathead metal scene.