(Guest contributor Old Man Windbreaker finds a perhaps not-so-obvious connection among the latest albums by Gojira and a group of other bands, and includes some bonus items at the end.)
A little more than a year ago, we read a piece by Andy Synn titled ‘Gojiralternatives‘, describing music by half a dozen bands as an alternative of sorts for those who are not that into Gojira’s music. Old Man Windbreaker decided to catch up to the bands featured in that list, since most of them have released a new album since the date of that article. But, Old Man Windbreaker is lazy. Hence, you have a review of the albums a full 2 months after the release of the latest album on this playlist. By the way, here are the albums on this playlist, in chronological order:
- L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
- Meliora by Eryn Non Dae.
- Vertikal by Cult of Luna
- Possession by Benea Reach
- Back to Where You’ve Never Been by Hacride
You might notice that Burst and Oceans of Sadness are not in this playlist. That is because they both split up; before the publishing of the original ‘Gojiralternatives‘ article, I might add. So, they will not be revisited, despite having produced amazing music. You might also notice that Eryn Non Dae. is here on this list. That is because of Double Panda. One happened to be playing Double Panda while listening to the album the first time, and One thought they sounded somewhat like Gojira at the time. This eventually led to One revisiting the other Gojiralternatives as well.
One now begins reviewing the albums. You may skip to the end of the article for the bonus, because One only recounts opinions about the albums anyway.
L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
Looking back at Gojira’s discography, this album certainly feels more accessible – there aren’t any whale songs for starters. The production sounds crisper and clearer than earlier albums. But, that might just be One’s own perception, because the songs on this album are more straightforward – almost too much so. One does wish for the kind of ethereal ambiance that is present in From Mars to Sirius or the kind of brooding atmosphere induced by The Link. But, the catchiness of the songs makes them deliciously satisfying on their own. [Although, “The Fall” had an odd Cult of Luna-like feel to it.] One can’t think of any other band (apart from Strapping Young Lad and Gorod) whose every single song can compel One to move.
In the end though, One feels this album is just the transition, from the kind of music on From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh to what could be this decade’s equivalent of Strapping Young Lad‘s Alien for Oneself.
Now, look at this dog. No, don’t listen to the music! Just stare at the dog!
…for a minute or so. Do listen to the music afterwards.
Meliora by Eryn Non Dae.
Listening to this album is like listening to Meshuggah. One has an overwhelming feeling it will be mind-blowing while listening the first time; but, One tends to doze off or stare vacantly at One’s pandas very often, catching only brief moments. On the other hand, listening to this album is also a lot like listening to Cult of Luna. It requires quite a lot of patience, to wait through the ambient interludes, take in the constantly haunting and brooding atmosphere, observe the building up of each song, and to listen to the album multiple times until One can properly appreciate or criticise it.
Seriously – the average song length is over 8 minutes. One listened to the whole playlist a dozen times only because of this album. [ (-_-#) ] Although, One is probably biased towards this album – it is usually raining whenever One happens to listen to it. So, the gloomy atmosphere that One perceives isn’t just from the music. [ ( ._.) ]
“But, how are they they like Gojira?”, you ask. They’re not. But, their music has the kind of heaviness and intricacy a Gojira fan could appreciate, though painted from a significantly different sonic palette.
Anyway, here is the last track off the album, with 2 minutes edited out.
Vertikal by Cult of Luna
One listens to anything by Cult of Luna with comparisons to Isis always in mind. In many ways, this comparison makes more sense to One than comparing them to Gojira. The ever-present melodic elements are certainly reminiscent of that in Isis‘s music. The music is atmospheric and slow-paced, but not nearly as discomforting as that of Eryn Non Dae. or early Benea Reach. And the riffs aren’t the kind of heavy One finds in Gojira‘s or Hacride‘s. Still, One likes them more than Isis and any other Post-Metal or American Sludge Metal bands. While Cult of Luna don’t feel like a ‘Gojiralternative’ to One, the other bands mentioned in the original ‘Gojiralternatives‘ article do feel like, uh, ‘CultofLunalternatives’.
Anyway, the music on this album is fairly typical of Cult of Luna – long, slow-paced songs, building up to the end; dark and heavy-but-not-too-heavy riffs, layered with compellingly melodic guitars and synthesized elements; comfortably dense atmosphere, with pleasant interludes; and sparse vocals in a metalcore-like harsh style, occasionally switching to clean singing. But, it does feature an Industrial influence, making the atmosphere somewhat darker, but cleaner, than on other albums. Apparently, the album follows a concept loosely based on Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis. Well, it must be very loose indeed, because One can’t seem to make out much of the relation. Would anyone care to enlighten One?
One can’t really say whether One likes this album more or less than their last two albums. But, it feels like an excellent addition to the discography.
It is not One’s favorite song off the album, but here is the music video for ‘Passing Through‘.
Possession by Benea Reach
This band is somewhat odd to listen to for One. One always feels like One is listening to another band – Byzantine, Extol, Cult of Luna, or Eryn Non Dae.. That they still sound different from those bands, and that One often prefers Benea Reach‘s music over theirs, is baffling to One. Maybe it is like how Linkin Park is easier to listen to and still recognisable, when compared to Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot or other Nu Metal bands… No, that can’t be it – Linkin Park is more boring than the others.
Benea Reach‘s songs, on the other hand, make One want to learn them and play along, like Gojira‘s songs. This album takes the melodic and hardcore-influenced elements in their music further than the last album, perhaps taking even greater influence from Extol and Refused than before, and toning down the Meshuggah and Neurosis influences. This results in an even more melodic variant of the… um… atmospheric-melodic-groovy-fidgety metal style they played on Alleviat; which itself differs from the style on the first album, Monument Bineothan, which was much more dark and brooding. There are a couple of songs with clean vocals by a woman on this album, as on the previous. [One still isn’t sure whose it is though.]
On Possession, the band essentially furthers the identity established on Alleviat, and keeps it interesting while doing so.
Here is the music video for ‘The Mountain‘. The band appear to be performing the song, in the midst of what appears to be someone’s vision quest.
Back to Where You’ve Never Been by Hacride
Hacride is another band who require considerable patience to ‘get’ – inducing a mixture of the feelings One gets from Meshuggah and Cult of Luna – like Eryn Non Dae.. The music is darker and slower than that of their fellow countrymen, Gojira. They also tend to have keyboard and synthesizer layers in the music, like Cult of Luna. The music on their previous albums is also somewhat less compelling than Gojira‘s or Cult of Luna‘s.
But, this album is a more straightforward, less experimental work than their previous album, making it a more enjoyable listen right from the first time. While the songs on Lazarus were distinct from each other in dynamics and structure, and vastly different in length, the songs on Back to Where You’ve Never Been are more uniform, both in style and length. This does take a little away from the distinctness of the songs though. The album also benefits from better production, giving the guitars and bass more clarity.
Back to Where You’ve Never Been might seem like a step in the wrong direction for Hacride, or a step back of sorts, after Lazarus. On the other hand, you could say… [ ( •_•) … ( •_•)>⌐■-■ … (⌐■_■) ]… they’re going Back to Where They’ve Never Been. YEEEEEEAH! … No? OK, No. Anyway, One means to say that it is a new direction of sorts for Hacride, and One thinks it is promising.
Here is the only song from this album featured on Hacride’s YouTube channel.
Gojiralternatives vs Gojira
Having listened to this playlist of albums a few times, One now tries to pin down how these bands are like Gojira, or at least how their latest albums are like Gojira‘s latest.
- They play some style of metal with progressive elements.
- They all play intricately composed songs with unpredictable structures.
- They place an emphasis on the rhythmic aspect in some way, and often play music with polyrhythmic parts.
- The drums and bass are always audible and play a recognisable part in the sound.
Of course, these are just reasons One makes up to sort of pigeonhole the bands as Gojira-like, and not very good ones at that. [One blames Andy Synn for this.] But, in truth, they do not sound like each other. Not even these albums sound like each other. Put them in a playlist like One did, and you would notice the jarring transitions between each of the albums. Even played on shuffle, you could make out that these songs don’t belong together. They are each as memorable as another, and for good reason. They were written with great passion, and the passion flows through to your mind when you listen, and draws you like a starved zombie to adolescent flesh… or to a McDonald’s if you’re lucky. Cooked food is better than raw food, even for a zombie.
Perhaps in that sense, the music of these bands, and the now disbanded Burst and Oceans of Sadness, is similar – it’s memorable and distinct. And listening to an album as a whole is even better than listening to the individual songs. The albums are not very fun in continuation though – the 5 albums together are 4.5 bloody hours long.
Oh wait… That is precisely why their music is similar – groovy, intricate, passionate and memorable. So, yeah…
Bonus – The Most Metal Music Video of the Year with Un-Metal Music
Moving on from Gojira, Old Man Windbreaker declares that the most metal music video of the year with un-metal music is…
One is joking, of course. They might not be the most metal band, but they’re certainly not un-metal. One just felt they deserved a mention in this list. Extol‘s music is also passionate, memorable, and intricate in a way that reminds One of Gojira or Cult of Luna. One finally listened to their new album last week, and later decided to dump it at the end of One’s ‘Gojiralternatives revised’ playlist because One wanted to listen again.
Extol‘s Extol turns out to be a much better end to the playlist, the perfect end, with Gojira‘s L’Enfant Sauvage being the beginning. One had expected something along the lines of Becoming the Martyr‘s Celestial Completion. But, One is pleased that this comeback album was the follow-up to The Blueprint Dives both in spirit and style.
Actual Irrelevant Bonus – The Actual Most Metal Music Video of the Year with Un-Metal Music
Old Man Windbreaker declares, fo reel naow, that the most Metal music video of the Year 2013 with un-metal music is, and forever will be…
Yes, indeed – Muse! In case you are inclined to ask why One says this metal, One tells you to watch the video first. If after watching the video, you still hold that question, One questions and derides your notions of Metal-ness. It is a video showcasing the daily life of Black Metal Fans who participate in Extreme Sports. And if that’s not metal enough for you, there’s the music by Muse – a befuddling and uncomfortable mashup of Alt. Rock and Classical Music, featuring vocals that rival Vitas‘ in dolphin-ness.
Anyway, here are the earlier NCS reviews of these albums, where there are reviews. Go read those. Those are by the staff, not a Giant Panda in India wearing 3D glasses.
Bonus Irrelevant Bonus – Farting Pandas Don’t Hunt
Speaking of Pandas: So, Giant Pandas eat 30-40 lbs of bamboo a day, and do little apart from eating and sleeping because of the low calorie diet. Oh, they also poop & fart a lot. And did you know that Giant Pandas, and Red Pandas for that matter, are not actually adapted to eating the giant grass that they do? No mammal, including Giant Pandas, is known to be able to digest cellulose – a major component of cell walls in plants. So, how do they digest something as tough as bamboo shoots, at all?
The answer lies in their gut, and was found in their poop – cellulose-digesting bacteria. Those Panda gut bugs may be responsible for breaking down the tough stuff that bamboo shoots are made of, and letting the Panda have a portion of the broken-down sugars obtained from the cellulose.
More importantly, did you know that Giant Pandas are technically carnivores, and that they are bears? Now, do you wonder why Giant Pandas don’t hunt like bears do? Maybe it’s because of those gut bugs that Giant Pandas stay satisfied with eating mostly Bamboo and other grasses, and the occasional dead bird. Maybe it’s just those bacteria keeping them from chasing down deer and the Chinese for food… You scared now? [ (O.o) ]