The weight of expectation, it seems, has gotten to Gojira. It would be hard to blame them, having been thrust to the covers of magazines and hailed as saviours of an underground metal that still retains its soul. They’ve demonstrated commendable persistence with their vision over the last few years, pursuing it with no gimmicks and some indcredibly above average songwriting. This success has brought demands, and ‘The Way Of All Flesh’ is the sound of a band at the crossroads.
For many, ‘From Mars To Sirius’ was Gojira’s entry into the metal consciousness. It was rightly lauded as a forward-looking mix of extremity and taste, and it was always going to be hard for them to follow it. In essence, they’re slightly, subtly redefining their sound here. The choice of Logan Mader as producer speaks volumes, and you can hear his influence all over this. Roadrunner have looked Gojira up and down, seen that with a good scrub they could appeal to a vast amount of people, and done their darndest to make it happen.
The result is tracks like ‘Adoration For None’, which sounds as if band and producer sat around pondering the exact manner in which to sound like Pantera’s ‘Trendkill’, then as if by magic, did precisely that. It sticks out like a sore thumb on this album, and is hard to take as anything other than a deliberate concession. Maybe that’s being harsh, but the parallells are there to be heard. Elsewhere, ‘All The Tears’ sounds as if it was an outtake from Morbid Angel’s ‘Gateways To Annihilation'; again the band seem to have forgotten who they are and tried to be someone else. It’s a decent track, but it’s hardly Gojira.
When the band regain their dignity and start being themselves again though, this album soars above its contemporaries. Album highlight ‘The Art Of Dying’, despite its silly title, is an absolute masterclass in powerful, driving, punishing underground metal that grows from Meshuggah-like mechanoid barbarity to the most exquisitely human closing motif. Even at ten minutes long, you never want that final riff to end. It’s utterly brilliant.
Similar praise can be handed to opener ‘Oroborus’, and most certainly to the album’s real singalong winner ‘A Sight To Behold’, during which their tree hugging tendencies meet gargantuan metal head on. It’s destined to be this album’s ‘Global Warming’, the highlight of their last.
Both sound and playing are incredible, with the kick drums in particular among the most powerful these ears have ever, ever heard. They sound like artillery fire – just enough click, but with an eminently satisfying thump in their bodyweight. Gradually, Gojira are channelling their live might to record.
Some parts of this album sound distinctly plodding, however. Plus, for all the talk of progression, it’s an audible fact that bands like She Said Destroy were playing music identical to this as long as three years ago – and almost as good as this as well. It’s hard to overlook the duller moments, purely because you know this band are capable of so much better. Were they rushed into this release before everyone forgot who they were again? Possibly: because while astounding in most places, the rest is hardly the sound of them at top flight.
If Gojira are to be the sound of modern mainstream metal in 2008, then good. Influences from both Machine Head and even Slipknot may have worked their way in, but it’s a small price to pay for a decent, hard working and honest underground band (and let’s not forget, a band posessed of real, massive talent) getting to be feted. You would surely choose this band over Children of Bodom, In Flames, or any other of the subsequent musical failures who crossed over to greener pastures. Gojira deserve it, and the best bits of this album should rightly have them at the top of the mainstream. Because that would be a triumph for the underground.
4.1/5 – Earl Grey ::: 09/11/08