Posted on December 7, 2009 -
At some point between Bolt Thrower’s grindcore, Godflesh’s industrial-grind (circa, say, “Hymns”), Nile and/or Grave’s death metal, and latter-day Sepultura’s thrash, Meshuggah’s math, Mastodon’s prog, and High on Fire’s doom metal lands Gojira’s second record, “The Link.” Sophisticated songwriting, unorthodox song structures, lengthy instrumental sections, meaningful, Fear Factory-ish lyrics, and eclectic/foreign culture-inspired experimentations are all some of the unique tools Gojira used here, on the follow-up to 2001’s debut “Terra Incognita.” Oh, and did I mention excellent musicianship? Guitarists Christian Andreu and Joe Duplantier are entirely capable of crafting riffs on top of great, inventive, and unforgettable riffs — both of the acoustic and thrashy, downtuned variety. (The former is used effectively as a contrast, making the latter sound even more mean and punishing.) The riffs are also laid on top of a rock solid rhythm section: Jean-Michel Labadie lays down steady, grooving bass lines, and the drumming of Mario Duplantier (Joe’s brother) is pretty impeccable. Sure, Mario can play thrash beats and blast beats like no one’s business; but he also keeps things interesting by frequently tossing in original and complex fills (including melodic percussion, odd time signatures, snare runs, and well-placed cymbal crashes). All of which makes “The Link” one very dynamic, complex, interesting, and epic album which simultaneously manages to be both an amalgam of all things heavy AND quite a few IQ points more intelligent than probably what the average metal fan is used to hearing. How’s that for an original idea?
These eleven tracks are the sound of this band hitting on all cylinders, and no two of them sound the same. The eponymous opener kicks things off, and in a very compelling fashion, too! It begins with an industrial-lite fade-in intro (with foreboding feedback) before segueing into a bit of Soulfly-esque, South American — or some other foreign-sounding — percussion. (The best way this reviewer can describe it is by saying it most closely resembles tribal drums and African rainsticks.) But like many a great Gojira song (and many a great metal song, in general), the tune builds off of its own momentum and gains speed, energy, and force, and it eventually slams into a wall of heaviness. The guitars and bass thunder on and deftly pound out hefty, angular riffing while Joe Duplantier (who is also the vocalist) does his best Jens Kidman impersonation with harsh, atonal yells. “The Link” is also of note for its choruses, which are arguably the song’s climax, and feature distant, melodic vocals. Following that, “Death of Me” starts out with a mid-tempo pace and catchy, staccato, gut-punching guitar licks, then suddenly (but smoothly nonetheless) morphs a blistering, full-on thrasher with uber-chunky, machine gun riffage and pounding, rapid-fire grindcore blasts, and it concludes by slowing things way back down again, and even descending into doomy territory. As a result of these three very different speeds, “DoM” bristles with a great friction and push/pull contrast.
“Connected” is a tranquil melodic interlude, but the brutality returns in full-force with “Remembrance”, which blindsides the listener and grabs you by the throat. And aside from a few well-placed choral interludes, every band member goes nuts and thrashes around on his particular instrument throughout its 4:35 playing time, thus making it a monstrous riff-fest with tons of banging drums, too. In similar fashion, the cool, key-peppered “Torri”, is another oasis which is immediately offset by “Indians”, a super doomy and discordant number that overflows with ginormous power chords. “Embrace the World” is highlighted by an ominous, humming bass line, tight, forceful double bass slamming, more very abrasive and rock-solid guitar chops, and a memorable, visceral, chant-along vocal refrain near the end. Song number eight “Inward” is a heavily Meshuggah-indebted piece of almost pure doom metal. Here, booming drums are the anchor for huge, crashing, churning rhythms that lumber out of the speakers like a bunch of logs going down a mountainside. “Over the Flows” is the record’s last interlude, and it may also be its best. It is sounds positively divine and features a docile mood and colorful acoustic guitar strums. But like always, its subsequent track unleashes a furious, crushing wall-of-sound. Plus, “Wisdom” is even arguably this French quartet at their absolute most brutal and uncompromising. Finally, “Dawn”, a heavy, doomy, droning, and almost trance-inducing eight-and-a-half minute long instrumental, wraps everything up, and is the perfect way to end this set of songs, thus also making it the pinnacle.
“The Link” was originally released back in 2003, and it was re-released (in 2007) only because Gojira’s next album, “From Mars To Sirius”, became very popular. In fact, “FMTS” was the band’s breakthrough, so it is safe to assume that most fans heard that album before this one. As such, some listeners may initially be disappointed that “The Link” is substantially more progressive and not quite as viscerally satisfying as what they had heard before. But further inspection will prove that it is just about every bit as great as that 2006 release. Highly recommended.