It still astonishes me that one of the top bands in modern metal is fronted by a man who could quite possibly be Keanu Reeves’ angry French brother. Since forming together in 2001 (or even before, if you want to count when they were called Godzilla), Gojira has risen to become one of the best bands in music across all genres. They’ve been described by many as one of the most important bands in modern metal music, and one of the saving graces for a sometimes uninspired genre of music.
Meaningful lyrics that tackle very real issues, insane drum work and mesmerising guitar riffs all creating a distinct sound that not many others have done before or replicated since. The brothers Duplantier (drummer Mario and frontman Joe), Jean-Michel Labadie and Christian Andreu make up one of the most consistent bands in a genre that has become more and more of a niche as time has gone on, taking elements from countless places and blending them together to create a distinctive sound that has put them in the upper echelons of the metal world.
Their evolution from technical death metalists to a broader, more progressive sound has been near-seamless, with a journey that has seen exponential growth in popularity and commercial success—most notably being nominated for two Grammys in 2017: Best Rock Album for Magma and Best Metal Performance for “Silvera.”
With this evolution in style and with everything they do having some sort of significance, it’s much harder to trim the fat from a list of Gojira songs and get down to just 10. Having to spend four and a half days making amendments and reconsiderations made that abundantly clear. But hey, let’s not dwell on that; let’s get to the list so people on the internet can comment after about how I’m most definitely wrong in one way or another.
Here’s my Perfect 10 for Gojira:
Track 1: “Explosia” (L’Enfant Sauvage, 2012)
“Explosia” holds some sentimental value which did influence my choice in song arrangement. It was one of the first songs I listened to when I first discovered Gojira and was one of the main songs that got me hooked. Mario’s choppy, erratic drumming combined with squealing guitar work and Joe’s melodic growling throughout creates a six-minute burst of organised chaos. I remember listening to it for the first time and feeling like I’d been slapped in the face—there’s no real opportunity to try and guess what’s going to happen. It ramps things all the way up to 11 and stays there for pretty much the entirety of the track.
The song remains heavy and incorporates many Gojira trademarks (most of which have been mentioned), which hooks the listener in for the rest of the album that presented a refreshed sound—something that an album opener should be able to do. Out of all the album openers that Gojira have produced, “Explosia” is my personal favourite, so it makes sense for it to kick things off.
Track 2: “Toxic Garbage Island” (The Way of All Flesh, 2008)
While it is a bit of a mixed bag of quality, The Way of All Flesh is easily one of Gojira’s boldest efforts. From the lyricism to the guitar riffs and drum work, the album set a foundation for Magma and L’Enfant Sauvage. It was the start of a fresher, newer sound for Gojira. One that wasn’t as lengthy, one that was more accessible for new fans. This was a necessary move after From Mars to Sirius, which saw the band rise significantly in popularity.
Due to this creativity and offering of something entirely different to anything they’d put out before, Gojira made the simplest things work. See “Toxic Garbage Island” as an example of this. In any other song, the line “plastic bag in the sea” would be just another part. But Joe’s vocal delivery gives the line something extra, something that ingrains it into the mind of the listener. It’s a real testament to their talent as composers and musicians that they could get something so simple to work so well.
“Toxic Garbage Island” also has sentimental value of sorts. I remember turning 15 and wanting to find out more about world issues. The work being done by Boyan Slat was one thing that stood out to me, so I asked one of my school teachers for some more information. Knowing I was under the impression that the issue of ocean plastic pollution was a new concept, this song was recommended to me. It made me realise how big the issue was and encouraged me to do more research and change aspects of my lifestyle to help the cause. Everything about the song created a sense of urgency about the issue. It more than earns its place among the best of Gojira.
Track 3: “The Cell” (Magma, 2016)
“The Cell” encapsulates nearly every great thing that Gojira has produced throughout their career in a much more accessible way compared to past releases—clocking in at a smooth 3:18 runtime.
The lyrics cover the issue of mental health, primarily the downward spiral that often accompanies depression. This is an issue that I and many others have experienced, so to see a group like Gojira highlight them in their lyrics is great to see. The raw emotion in Joe’s harsh vocals is authentic and creates a feeling of loss and grief for the listener. And with the song being written around the time that the Duplantiers’ mother passed away, it’s pretty easy to gauge that that was what they were going for.
We have a simple but effective ABCABCA song arrangement, a catchy chorus that listeners can sing along to and an intro that slaps you in the face with its three low bent guitar notes. If you’re looking for somewhere to start as a new listener, I highly recommend “The Cell.”
Track 4: “The Gift of Guilt” (L’Enfant Sauvage, 2012)
“The Gift of Guilt” is probably the most applicable song to the current world landscape that Gojira has produced.
With portions of the song using harmonised tapping to create an almost hypnotic backdrop, “The Gift of Guilt” perfectly creates a message of being taught a damaging lifestyle from a young age by those that have come before them. That’s definitely something that practically all of us can relate to, right? As young children, we’re heavily influenced by our elders and we have to try and break that destructive cycle as we get older. Everything about it is done right, from the scarily accurate lyrics to the rest of the aspects of the song that set the tone perfectly.
The song ebbs and flows perfectly, using faster drums and switching up riffs to create different emotions. It is the zenith of the L’Enfant Sauvage album, which more than earns it a place on this list.
Track 5: “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” (From Mars to Sirius, 2005)
Ah yes. The middle of the tracklisting. The magnificent peak of many albums, the song that the whole album could be built around. When I was planning this list, I knew that only one song could be put into this slot: “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe.” It’s by far my favourite Gojira song, which is saying something when we take a look at their near-flawless back catalogue. Everything is constantly changing gears, which poses the constant risk of the song going off the rails. But the song remains controlled and keeps Gojira’s technical precision, all while remaining crushingly heavy. A true masterpiece.
Track 6: “Ocean Planet” (From Mars to Sirius, 2005)
Oh look, it’s another song out of From Mars to Sirius!
“Ocean Planet” is one of the most important Gojira songs ever released. While it’s not typically talked about in the same way as “Flying Whales,” “Heaviest Matter of the Universe” or “Backbone,” it’s arguably more integral to the success of From Mars to Sirius. It’s an extremely strong opener that tells a story in its own right while beginning the narrative that the rest of the album follows, which is what sets it apart from other songs that may be stronger when looked at individually. I really enjoy storytelling and direction in everything I consume—“Ocean Planet” was one of the first songs that proved to me that it could happen in music. That makes it a top-10 calibre song, in my opinion.
Track 7: “Clone” (Terra Incognita, 2001)
The first song from the very first album can sound extremely different from what we’re used to from a band. But even back when they were more of a death metal group in 2001, the foundations for modern Gojira were certainly there from the start, with “Clone” being the best example. Double-tapping melodies, blast beats, super fast double bass work from Mario and powerful vocals from Joe. Talk about a first impression.
Track 8: “In the Forest” (Terra Incognita, 2001)
“In the Forest” is one of the most authentic songs in Gojira’s entire music catalogue. It delves into the tranquillity and wonder of nature and was written when Joe Duplantier was living in a cabin without any income or electricity.
But it isn’t just the authenticity of the lyrics which have put this song in the upper echelon of Gojira’s song catalogue. It’s one of the saving graces of the Terra Incognita album and it sounds amazing when played live. The intro alone creates an ambience akin to what would be found in the forest—and then we get to the actual song. Slower guitar work which builds to a quicker tempo later in the song. Mario’s drum work definitely carries the song in the first part, but it eventually becomes complemented by erratic guitar riffs from Joe and Christian. Everything comes together brilliantly to create a musical manifestation of a forest setting. Absolutely outstanding stuff.
Track 9: “Silvera” (Magma, 2016)
“Silvera” is probably the most all-around accessible song in Gojira’s catalogue. While the leads and chorus are easy enough for new fans to get into as well as an easy runtime of 3:33, the more orthodox (yet extremely heavy) riffs are more than enough to satisfy much older fans. Despite really switching things up with Magma, “Silvera” doesn’t stray too far from the Gojira song model. We still see the lyrical themes keep in line with the eco-friendly mentality that the group have always advocated in their music. We still get the technically sound drum work of Mario Duplantier. We still get more emotionally driven portions of the track—both sonically and lyrically.
If you’re used to more mainstream music, I’d highly recommend “Silvera.”
Track 10: “Flying Whales” (From Mars to Sirius, 2005)
“Flying Whales” is widely considered one of the best songs in Gojira’s song catalogue for a reason. It’s a near-eight-minute song bordering on epic. Mario’s drums combined with whale noises and smoother guitar work create a brilliantly unique, almost mythical intro before we get to some groovy riffs and lyrics about…you guessed it, whales. The whole song swirls around in your head, creating an almost other-worldly experience. There are changes in pace in the appropriate areas, with an insane breakdown towards the end.
The song really differentiates itself from nearly everything else, which makes it even better. Not only do we get the extended intro (which gives the listener some time to breathe), but we don’t get rushed into the main song. We get a tune which carries some major tension and gets the headbanging started. Then we get the actual song, which still has space for things to be taken in. It’s proof that nearly all music is better when it is more deliberate, when it has time to say something and build a story—kinda like how promos are used in the world of wrestling to help the story of the match.
The lyrics could be interpreted as a message regarding the issue of climate change, something which is made more plausible by the themes of tracks elsewhere in the album. It’s one of the main highlights of a stellar release in the form of From Mars to Sirius (which turns 15 this year), just one of many epic songs that run long without any dull areas.