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Gojira: Converting Rock Dads and New Fans

By Cam Maxwell

No doubt many metal fans — especially those over 40 years of age —had heard or listened to Gojira until they opened up for Metallica in the summer of 2017.

For a hardcore, French, speed-metal band like Gojira to slot onto Metallica’s WorldWired Tour was a huge coup for the outfit consisting of drummer Mario Duplantier, singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier, guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie. Those shows opened up a massive new audience for the band at a time when their latest album, Magma(2016), was a bit slower and less all-out-aggression than their previous efforts. In other words, perfectly suited for Metallica’s main audience. And Magmais arguably the best metal album from 2016.

When Gojira, which formed in 1996, was announced as part of Metallica’s tour, along with Avenged Sevenfold, Joe Duplantier knew, at the time, it was a golden opportunity for his band to showcase itself to a whole new audience.

“I hope they will see something they’ve never seen before; it could be subtle. And the energy and our sound, I hope they will take away something cool and original and refreshing, ‘cause I know Metallica draws a huge crowd,” said Duplantier, who along with brother Mario, write most of the band’s songs. “They have the old-school metalheads, they have the new fans, and then there’s almost like random people that don’t know anything about metal … I hope these people will experience something original.”

Certainly, for those who’d never seen the mighty Gojira before, it was something else to hear them for the first time. It was heavy with a lot of melody, and for this writer anyways, picking up the Magmaalbum was a must after seeing the concert —and what fantastic record it is! With slower tracks like “The Shooting Star” and “Stranded”, Magma is the perfectalbum to showcase for metal fans who maybe aren’t into hardcore or total speed metal. And there is still plenty of high-tempo music as well on Magmawith songs like “Silvera” and “The Cell”.

Gojira, which means Godzilla in Japanese, are noted for creating some of the most bludgeoning and fastest music. One Reddit user noted about 2005’s From Mars to Sirius album that it featured some of the heaviest music (From “Backbone” through “Flying Whales”) ever written. Heavy yes, but all with an underlying melody that’s sometimes hard to find, but it’s there.

As Duplantier said, it was just time for the band to naturally slow down the pace from its previous albums, a move partly brought on by the death of the Duplantier brothers’ mom. Her passing led to more introspective and emotional lyrics, which no doubt led to slower-temp tracks.

“We never sat down around a table and decided, ‘Okay, it’s time to do new stuff or to change or to calm down on the music.’ It was just like a completely natural, organic thing. And we still argue a lot in the band; we bring up ideas and sometimes the rest of the band doesn’t like them,” said Duplantier. “So, there’s always this common ground that we have to find between all of us, and Magma is the common ground between the four of us at that particular time. So that’s what it is — it’s like being spontaneous and being natural and trying to find the common ground in the band. And we’re lucky enough to have that same desire — to be more mellow, I guess, and more melodic too, and more emotional.”

Gorira

One thing that’s been steady with Gojira all these years is how Mario Duplantier’s drums are front and centre in the music. While most drummers provide a backbeat with some fills to round out a song, Duplantier’s drumming is often the instrumentthat’s at the forefront of a Gojira track. Often with metal bands, it’ll be the guitar, but there’s no doubt the drums take front and centre with many Gojira tracks. On Magma, for example, the title track and “Low Lands” are two shining examples of the drums being the dominant instrument.

To show how far the band from Bayonne has come, they were nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2016: Best Rock Album and Best Metal Performance for “Silvera”. Gojira didn’t win in either category, however, as Ghost took Best Metal Performance with “Cirice” and Dronesby Muse won for Best Rock Album.

If you’re a metal fan and haven’t heard of or listened to Gojira, do yourself a favor and check this band out. You’ll be blown away.

For more great articles on all things rock and metal, check out Cam’s blog here.

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