#9: GOJIRA – FROM MARS TO SIRIUS
SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER D.X. FERRIS, AUTHOR OF 33 1/13: SLAYER’S REIGN IN BLOOD
We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #9 album, coming in with a total of 166 points…
Gojira, From Mars to Sirius (Listenable/Prosthetic, 2005)
Joe Duplantier – Vocals/Guitars
Christian Andreu – Guitars
Jean-Michel Labadie – Bass
Mario Duplantier – Drums
Produced by Joe Duplantier
In modern metal, water is the new fire. Mastodon, Isis, Gojira. Especially Gojira. Who knew that environmental concerns could be metal as fuck? Sure, Kreator, C.O.C., and others grazed on some eco-friendly themes back in the day. But these four French dudes make a full meal of it. And it’s not feel-good hippie shit. In Gojira’s threatened world, nature’s green is splattered with red blood. Metal is best when it’s elemental. From Mars to Sirius is a concept album that – if I follow correctly – relates an interplanetary quest to resurrect a dead planet. We’re talking life, death, and rebirth on a grand scale.
Released in 2005, Mars was Gojira’s breakthrough album, the band’s third LP, and their debut for the always-reliable metal foundry Prosthetic Records. Nearly a decade into their career, the group was ready for the world. They weren’t just another prog metal sqaud with blazing chops and nothing to say. From Mars to Sirius established them as a band of substance. And contrary to stereotypes, us metal doodz like some substance. As they’ve continued growing, Gojira now represents a dizzying postmodern mythology, an amalgam of classic pagan images like the self-swallowing snake Oroborus, unicorns, dragons, and goddamned Godzilla (or, as our Japanese cousins call the radiation-spawned beast, Gojira). And flying whales, too. To me, it all comes down to “Flying Whales.”
Here’s the problem with metal in this day and age: Everybody can pull off what used to be skill tricks. Everyone can ride double-bass kicks for a solid minute. Everyone can shred. Everyone’s mastered the same default vocal styles that excuse you from actually singing. Everyone can kick ass. All most bands do is kick ass. But that’s like pro wrestling without promos and plotlines. Metal’s better if you can slow down, take a breather, and actually say something. Which is what Gojira do in “Flying Whales.”
The eight-minute epic opens with a full two-and-a-half minutes of simple, resounding notes in a virtual call-and-response with whalesong. Then the tune kicks in with some real dramatic tension that’ll make you bang your head. By the time drummer Mario Duplantier – great name – explodes into the mix, forget about it. Your average trigger-happy drummer’s double-bass kicks are like so many uzi rounds fired aimlessly into a dark jungle. When the brothers Duplantier let loose, they take you somewhere. Like, all the way from Mars to Sirius.
Sure, there are groups that can out-tech Gojira. Who cares? For my money, what distinguishes a band now are its quiet moments. Like the Frankenstein-monster stomp that leads into the seven-minute “In the Wilderness.” And Christian Andreu’s bluesy solo in “World to Come.” And singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier’s deep, throat-rending vocals that – like the band’s music – generally stop just short of the death-metal extreme zone (but can totally go over the edge into it, too). You can tell what he’s talking about. And, hell, you can feel what he’s talking about. Gojira presents metal with emotional content that’s not pure rage. And unlike most metal that strives to show a side that’s softer than steel, there’s nothing sissy-fied about it. Real content, real style.
Most of Mars’ songs are over five minutes, many closer to eight, but they’re all real songs. Songs that stick in your head. Songs that don’t feel like they’re lasting eight minutes.
From Mars to Sirius represents metal’s new evolutionary peak, a damn-near-perfect confluence of extreme musicianship, thrash-style epic songwriting, narrative coherence (well, narrative content), and genuine dynamics that contribute to propulsive structures – all shot through with feeling. As a longtime metalhead, I spend a lot of time wondering whether it’s possible to do anything new in the genre. But under Gojira’s reign, the kingdom is fertile once more.
D.X. Ferris is the author of 33 1/3: Reign in Blood, the first English-language book about Slayer. Learn more at MySpace.com/SlayerBook, or e-mail slayerbook [at] gmail.com for a free chapter.
THE LIST SO FAR:
THE PANEL OF VOTERS
Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair, Shadows Fall
Leo Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly, Metal Injection/Hails & Horns/Freelance Journalist
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds, Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani, Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/Universal Music Group
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist