From Mars to Sirius, by Gojira
Suggested by Danny Nuttall
I’m not a drinker. It’s not my vice.
My personal rule is that I don’t drink if I’m in Leeds. As I live in Leeds, that means I don’t drink for the vast majority of the time. But if I were to visit you in your home town, I’d happily join you at the pub for a pint or two, and I’m more than happy to prop up any bar while on holiday. I might not be a drinker, but I’m not a joyless tool either.
If I were a drinker, I think I’d like to be a wine connoisseur.
You need a palate to appreciate wine. With a single swill, you strive to ascertain a wine’s delicate flavours, discerning between earthy peat and tones of sandalwood. It’s a rich and visceral tapestry that takes a lifetime to unravel. And it’s ludicrously smug, which is a bonus.
To my uneducated tongue, wine is a four-square chart with the following quadrants: Red, White, Cheap and Expensive. “Cheap” means “tastes of vinegar,” and “Expensive” means “more than a fiver”, which likely reveals the last time I bought a bottle.
Listening to Gojira for the first time, I was surprised to find that the much-maligned Death Metal Growl, like wine, has a texture and flavour. What I thought was a binary switch, a one-step click from Celine Dion to bellowing walrus, has subtleties and inflections, earthy peats and sandalwood tones. I’ve likely done it a disservice in the past.
Still can’t stand it, though.
Gojira are a French Death / Prog Metal band, and From Mars to Sirius is their third studio release. It contains a lot more stylish refrains than I expected, with apocalyptic doom-strewn bass drums to raucous churning guitars. Gojira aren’t afraid to mix it up, while remaining firmly in the heaviest of wheelhouses. At times there’s an intricacy rippling through the composition, while at others the riffs are so meaty that the guitar strings may as well be Peperamis.
I found myself being constantly surprised by the musical twists and turns, and was enjoying some aspects so much that I almost – almost – phased out the Growl. Alas, I couldn’t totally blot it from my mind. But as I’ve mentioned, the vocalist had much more range than I predicted, going from an almost Hetfieldian cantankerous gruffness through an Arayan anger-fuelled scream before periodically hitting the full-on sub-sonic flatulent thunder-bum gauss grenade growlfest. If I drew a line demarking the boundary between excellent metal vocals and ludicrous non-human throat-shredding roil, Gojira would find themselves on the wrong side of it… barely.
So. Interesting music, disappointing vocals… what about the lyrics? The album chronicles the resurrection of a dead planet, and is packed with environmental messages throughout. There’s a lack of lyrical nuance that is always present when written in a second language, but the themes are strong and heartfelt. There’s also a hint of the knowingly ludicrous, with song titles such as Where Dragons Dwell, The Heaviest Matter In The Universe, and my favourite track Flying Whales.
From Sirius too Mars has come the closest yet to converting me into a Death Metal afficionado, as it brings something fresh and intelligent to the table. With a little less bottom-end growl and a little more straight metal singing, Gojira could have scored an eight. Instead, they’ll have to make do with a creditable 6/10. This is an impressive work, vocalist be damned.