#18: Joe Duplantier (Gojira)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Frontmen, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! Writers were asked to consider vocal ability, lyrics, and live presence when casting their votes; the only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) be a frontman or woman (double-duh), and c) have recorded something AND performed live in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Gojira’s Joe Duplantier…
I would argue that no vocalist in metal sounds more French than Joseph Duplantier. It isn’t that he has a particularly intense accent or an air of snootiness about him; rather, by the likely uncommon understanding of what French metal is, and what it has become on a world stage, he best epitomizes the vocalist identity associated with his country.
It’s old news at this point to drone on about the impressive scene France has drawn up for itself, and Gojira’s role within that scene. So I’d like to turn away from the general blandishments to focus in on the dynamics that make Duplantier’s work unique, and his impact undeniable.
Gojira’s landmark release, From Mars to Sirius, came out in 2005, an ideal time for some fresh blood to trickle into the world metal scene and cleanse it of many of the clichés that had, by then, taken hold. The whole “good cop-bad cop” business was in it’s prime, and the way your band operated if you were a group that integrated vocal melody into the heaviness was to cram these smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom choruses into your three-to-four minute tracks in the most contrived and predictable fashion imaginable. And metalcore bands, to be very clear, were not the only offenders.
Joe Duplantier, with his frantic screams and roars that gave way to gruff blow-out-your-chest borderline-melodies, bucked this trend in a big way, shifting the paradigm for a number of current bands that followed in Gojira’s footsteps. Now, obviously, Gojira did not coin the novel idea of delivering vocal melody in a violent way, as anyone who has ever listened to Pantera can certainly attest. But they brought back the clever style of pitched yelling in an a unique manner that actually enhanced the oppressive intensity of their sound, and I have a feeling that the further development of Duplantier’s talent played a large role in the very strong buzz From Mars to Sirius and The Way of the Flesh created for the band.
I’m a melody guy — I don’t buy into the argument that real metal bands are unequivocally better off without the “sissy vocals” or concessions to the listener. If groups like Cattle Decapitation, Septic Flesh, Intronaut, and Car Bomb, for all their extremity, can integrate clean vocals really well into their respective sounds, any great band should be able to — provided that they can find the unique and fitting approach that is consistent with their music. I still can’t help but wonder where Meshuggah could have gone had they found a way to work some form unorthodox singing into the equation.
Needless to say, Joe understands the fact that playing pretty extreme metal with any sort of consistent replay value makes the necessity for a tuneful presence in the music stronger. His melodic roars in “Toxic Garbage Island” (“IIIIIIIIIT IS KILLING MEEEEEEE!!!“) and “Vacuity” are some of the most vein-bulgingly intense vocals you’ll hear from any frontman today in metal. And looking at Gojira’s peers in Hacride, Dagoba, Klone, and Trapalium, this power he has conjured up has made a serious dent on the way many metal singers actually approach singing. Being melodic doesn’t make you a wimp — it can give your music major nuts. And Joe Duplantier has a serious pair of those.
THE LIST SO FAR:
#19: Oderus Urungus (Gwar)
#20: Nergal (Behemoth)
#21: Jens Kidman (Meshuggah)
#22: J.R. Hayes (Pig Destroyer)
#23: Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed)
#24: Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct)
#25: Chino Moreno (Deftones)