Old Slayer and Fresh Fruit: Gojira Frontman Joe Duplantier’s Metal Musts

Joe Duplantier of Gojira

Joe Duplantier of Gojira

On October 25 in Las Vegas, French metal beasts Gojira kicked off a North American tour they’ll spend tenderizing audiences as the opening act for their heroes, Slayer. “It’s amazing to be on this tour,” says the band’s elated frontman, Joe Duplantier. “It’s Slayer!”

At this point, Duplantier shouldn’t be surprised to find his band opening for the thrash legends. Gojira’s 2012 release, L’Enfant Sauvage, was both sublimely technical and utterly brutal. Filled with unrelenting beats, neck-snapping speed, and throat-shredding growls, the effort made SPIN’s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2012 list.

The Frenchmen will be on the road until November 30, but on his day off, Duplantier chatted with us about some of his favorite things.

Slayer’s South of Heaven
It’s the first [Slayer album] I listened to. I was in high school at the time and I had to take the damn bus every morning. Listening to this album, it’s so evil and dark, punk and thrash at the same time. It was very helpful for me to face the day. Going to school was torture for me, and listening to Slayer at this moment was very helpful.

Slayer Bassist-Vocalist Tom Araya
I learned a lot from Tom. I’m very impressed by his charisma and how he communicates — he doesn’t care, he is just himself onstage. He doesn’t need to play hard to be metal. He doesn’t need to try. He can just be himself. He’s not scared to talk about love — for example, several times already during the shows, he talks about a Slayer show being all about love.

Death
I think [Death guitarist-vocalist] Chuck Schuldiner was a genius. The way he put words together was very mystical and interesting. The way he cut a sentence, a line is just one half of the sentence, and the second line is the second half of the sentence. That signature I really love, the images that he is using and the way that he is talking about modern society. Death was always a one-man band, it was all him. The way I work, the way I compose riffs and put my voice on it and stuff, is heavily influenced by Chuck Schuldiner.

Lowlands Music Festival
We played Lowlands in Holland this summer. When I saw, the bill I didn’t know half of the bands: I was like, “What is this — it’s going to be a shitty festival.” And I was blown away by the vibe. Nick Cave was headlining, Bonobo, Slayer, it was huge and very interesting, very eclectic. Sometimes [eclectic] doesn’t work — the crowd is not really open-minded because the bands playing are too mainstream, so we’re not really welcome. We feel like the crowd is watching us like strange animals or something. But this festival, it was very artistic and good quality; people were open-minded, and we had a blast.

Metropolis
I’m pretty fascinated with Metropolis by Fritz Lang. It’s a very old movie, but it’s a masterpiece. It’s about modern society, and it is very ahead of its time. The music is incredible, and it was actually an inspiration when I was writing the lyrics for L’Enfant Sauvage. There is something really magical and beautiful about old art in general, paintings and drawings. This movie is very symbolic of the older times, with a lot of magic. I like to be inspired by older art.

Fruit
It’s so difficult to eat on the road. We eat so much shit, you know? We stop somewhere, and that’s our only opportunity to eat on travel days. We have a very hard time to digest, and we’re always a little sick with food on the road for some reason. We don’t really choose when and what we eat, so each time I eat an apple or banana, I feel great.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
It’s my bible! It’s about reincarnation and the process of dying. It’s something that is not morbid for me. The last step of our life in this body is when we leave this world. It’s something very sacred. Almost everyone is scared of dying. It’s taboo to talk about death; when someone is going to die, we don’t know how to react, what to say to this person — we kind of try to avoid the subject. In reality, it is something really beautiful, like a birth, but it’s just the other way around. I’m not saying we should all die right now and it’s going to be a great party, but the most common thing on this planet is dying. This book, it’s mostly about life at the end of it. It’s a beautiful book — I love it.

Gojira, metal Land(es) + Dates de la tournée

008-Gojira-2013-vancouver_with_logo

Né en 1996 à Ondres, dans les Landes, le groupe des frères Duplantier a atteint une renommée internationale qui l’emmène pour un mois de tournée aux Etats-Unis, de Las Vegas à Boston, en compagnie des mythiques Slayer.

Qui aurait pu imaginer qu’un petit groupe du sud des Landes, deviendrait un jour le plus international des groupes de rock en France ? Après dix-huit ans d’existence, Gojira, né à Ondres (40) d’une fratrie (Joseph et Mario Duplantier) et d’une bande de copains est devenu une pointure de la scène metal internationale. Gojira joue partout dans le monde, avec les plus grands (Metallica pour ne citer qu’eux) et bénéficie d’une aura et d’une respectabilité en acier trempé. Comment peut-on en arriver là ? Éléments de réponse avec Mario Duplantier, 32 ans, le batteur du groupe.

« Sud Ouest Dimanche ». Vous jouez partout dans le monde. Vous avez encore du temps à consacrer à vos terres d’origines, les Landes et le Pays Basque ?

Mario Duplantier. On ne vit pas tous à Ondres, mais le QG du groupe reste à Ondres, dans les Landes. On s’y retrouve pour préparer les tournées et ensuite on part sur la route. Mon frère a un appartement à New York où il passe du temps. C’est une ville qui l’inspire énormément. Et puis, le statut et l’emploi du temps du groupe le permettent. Nous sommes devenus un groupe international et nous tournons autant aux États-Unis qu’en Europe. Prendre un avion pour sept ou dix heures, maintenant c’est devenu la routine. Lorsque l’on rentre, le temps consacré à nos familles et à nos vies personnelles est devenu de plus en plus important.

Il faut bien s’entendre lorsque l’on est toujours ensemble, sur la route…

Il y a une sorte de fluidité entre nous qui est très précieuse et qui fait beaucoup pour le succès du groupe. On essaie de ne pas avoir la grosse tête car il y en a toujours un pour ramener l’autre sur terre. Je suis avec trois amis en permanence. Un frère et deux très bons amis et mon frère est aussi un ami. Et on a cette chance de voyager dans le monde tous ensemble.

Vous avez déjà joué aux États-Unis, mais la tournée que vous allez entamer en première partie de Slayer semble encore un niveau au-dessus…

Tourner avec Slayer, qui est une légende du metal, c’est jouer dans des salles prestigieuses. Donc oui cette tournée fait rêver. Surtout quand on vient de France et que l’on sait que l’on va jouer à Las Vegas, à Los Angeles, dans des salles de 5 000 places, que l’on va jouer au Madison Square Garden à New York, pour nous ça reste incroyable et on est émerveillés par ce qui nous attend.

L’an dernier vous avez joué avec Metallica, cette année avec Slayer. Comment un groupe français se fait repérer par ces légendes du rock américain ?

Metallica est un groupe très observateur. Ils sont à l’affût de ce qui se passe dans le milieu. Ils avaient constaté qu’il y avait quelque chose autour de Gojira, donc ils nous ont appelés et nous ont proposé de jouer en première partie. Peu avant notre tournée avec Metallica, le bassiste est venu nous voir jouer à San Francisco. Il était dans le public et sa présence m’avait marqué. J’ai l’impression qu’il était là pour voir si vraiment notre groupe tenait la route. Donc c’était vraiment un coup de cœur de Metallica.

Vous êtes aujourd’hui presque plus connus à l’étranger qu’en France. Nul n’est prophète en son pays ?

On a fait nos armes en France et il y a eu une période où l’on ne tournait qu’en France et où nous étions très populaires. Je me souviens de la sortie de notre album en 2005 où l’on a fait quasiment 40 000 ventes, ce qui est bien dans le metal. Il y avait énormément de critiques positives et nous étions une sorte de fierté nationale. Maintenant, le fait que l’on ait percé à l’étranger, qu’il y ait moins d’exclusivités pour la France, ça titille pas mal de gens, mais je trouve que l’on a quand même beaucoup de soutiens en France. On l’a vu notamment au Hellfest (NDLR : qui a réuni 100 000 festivaliers en 2013) où nous avons joué sur la grande scène. Les gens étaient là. Du moment où l’on s’expose, on est critiqués, mais je trouve que le public nous respecte.

La musique que vous jouez, le metal est parfois montrée du doigt, mal comprise. Comment le vivez-vous ?

Je pense que tout ça c’est une apparence. Il y a pas mal de tabous dans notre société. Quand quelqu’un dit qu’il va mal, ça embête les gens, quand quelqu’un parle de la mort ça embête les gens. Et puis beaucoup de ce qui est diffusé à la radio ou à la télé est assez médiocre. C’est de la musique easy listenning pour ne pas déranger les gens, pour ne pas rajouter des tracas à leur quotidien. Le metal, c’est une musique particulière et il peut y avoir des amalgames car on entend des hurlements, il y a une violence sonore donc physique aussi, mais c’est dommage parce que beaucoup de gens qui ne s’intéressent pas au metal pourraient adorer cette musique en grattant un peu. Il n’y a pas de tabous avec le metal. En tant que batteur, cela me permet de lâcher de la joie, de la peine, de la douleur. Pour moi c’est vraiment une expérience.

Savez-vous qu’une pétition circule sur Internet pour demander que vous représentiez la France à L’Eurovision ?

J’ai entendu dire ça. Mais pourquoi pas, si on veut bien de nous à l’Eurovision, je suis d’accord. Mais je n’ai pas envie d’avoir comme mission de faire connaître le metal à la masse. Sinon ça pourrait être marrant si on nous faisait cette proposition.

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How to Appreciate Death Metal

Gojira - L''enfant Sauvage - 2012

Gojira – L’enfant sauvage  album – 2012

Listen beyond the tearing guitars and unusual vocals. Although the rough guitar sound and guttural vocals that permeate much of death metal can take a little getting used to (especially if your ears are accustomed to softer sounds), it’s more than just idiotic noise. There are melodies, patterns, and complexities to be realized and appreciated if enough time is spent soaking it all in.

Watch a live death metal performance. Observe how the group members manipulate the instruments. It can be quite an experience especially since the shows are often small and you can walk near or behind the stage to observe the musicians up close. If you’ve ever tried to play those instruments yourself, you’ll probably be amazed with how skillfully they play. It takes practice and dedication, which challenges the stereotype of metal heads being lazy and careless. You might also be surprised about how energetic some of the performers are.

Remember that in death metal, unlike many other genres, each band almost always writes their own music.  That includes the riffs, drums, solos, and lyrics. Writing your own music demonstrates another dimension of instrumental mastery and talent, as well as making the music more personal and less manufactured.

Don’t take the context and subject matter personally. Death metal lyrics and themes aren’t intended to be taken literally. They document the outer extremes of human experience which other genres don’t dare touch, such as the motivations of serial killers, the activities of the walking dead, death itself, and isolation. Also, many bands will cover other topics not usually associated with death, such as Norse mythology. Many bands explore political and religious issues, and write about historical events.

Keep in mind that some death metal lyrics, especially the gore and brutal varieties, often, but not always, elaborate on the details of extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, rape and necrophilia. Use your best judgment, including independent online band and album reviews, as well as skimming lyrical content before buying, if you are particularly concerned about the issue.

Be careful not to completely rule out a listening test based solely on lyrical content. Many online music stores have thirty-second clips that can demonstrate the groove of a song, and if the musical content sparks your interest, perhaps the lyrics can be taken more lightly.Look up the lyrics. A common misconception of heavy metal is that all heavy metal bands lyrics are very vulgar, using a lot of bad language. You might be surprised by the complexity and large vocabulary found in the lyrics in some death metal bands.

Look up the lyrics. A common misconception of heavy metal is that all heavy metal bands lyrics are very vulgar, using a lot of bad language. You might be surprised by the complexity and large vocabulary found in the lyrics in some death metal bands

Learn about the sub-genres. Not all death metal is the same. The genre contains many sub-genres that can frequently mix and intermingle with each other. As a result, it may be difficult to ascribe a band under a single sub-genre. Here’s a general guideline to get you started:

  • Blackened – adopts thematic and musical elements of black metal: Akercocke, Behemoth, Belphegor, Dissection, God Dethroned, Firdous Angelcorpse, Sacramentum, Zyklon, Crimson Thorn and many others
  • Brutal: Aborted, Cryptopsy, Blood Red Throne, Deeds of Flesh, Degrade, Deranged, Disavowed, Disgorge, Guttural Secrete, Hate Eternal, Immolation, Internal Suffering, Origin, Skinless, Spawn of Possession, Suffocation, The Genocide Architect, Wormed and many others
  • Death/Doom – slow tempos, melancholic atmosphere, deep growling vocals double-kick drumming: Anathema (earlier works), Asphyx, Autopsy, Disembowelment, My Dying Bride, Swallow the Sun and Winter.
  • Goregrind/Deathgrind – intense, brief, rare guitar solos, more prominent shrieked vocals: Regurgitate, Carcass (earlier work), Terminally Your Aborted Ghost, Dead Infection, Anal Bleeding, Decomposing Serenity, XXX Maniak
  • Melodic – Iron Maiden-esque guitar harmonies and melodies with typically higher-pitched growls: Children Of Bodom (earlier work), Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, The Black Dahlia Murder, At Odds with God, At the Gates, Carcass (later work), Dark Tranquillity, Desultory, Dethklok, Disarmonia Mundi, Ensiferum, Hilastherion, Hypocrisy, Immortal Souls, Kalmah, Norther, Souls, In Flames (earlier work), Sacrilege, Wintersun, Scar Symmetry, Insomnium, Noumena, Rapture, and Daylight Dies.
  • Symphonic – Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Nightsleep and Septic Flesh
  • Technical/Progressive – dynamic song structures, uncommon time signatures, sometimes includes clean vocals and acoustic guitars, atypical rhythms and unusual harmonies and melodies: The Agonist, Amoral (earlier work), Arsis, Beneath The Massacre, Brain Drill, Cryptopsy, Cynic, Death, Decapitated, Gorguts, Immolation, Job for a Cowboy, Necrophagist, Nile, Ominous, Opeth, Origin, Pestilence, Psycroptic, Sleep terror, Spawn of Possession, The Faceless, Visceral Bleeding, Meshuggah, PsyOpus.
  • Deathcore – Low-tuned guitars, Pigsqueal (bree) vocals, Breakdowns, Includes Metalcore/Punk Elements: All Shall Perish, Betraying the Martyrs, Born of Osiris, Bring me the Horizon (earlier work), CARNIFEX, Chelsea Grin, Cryptopsy (later work), Dr. Acula, Emmure, In Dying Arms, Job for a Cowboy, iwrestledabearonce, KING CONQUER, Knights of the Abyss, Oceano (later work), Suicide Silence, Thy Art is Murder, Upon a Burning Body, Veil of Maya, Whitechapel, and Winds of Plague
Respect the artists. The greatest death metal musicians almost can’t make a living with what they do, and yet the musicians in these bands continue on in spite of their obscurity. Death metal is so non-mainstream that its musicians have to work incredibly hard for their career sales to reach even a million copies (which very few death metal musicians have actually done). Many death metal musicians are highly intelligent people with comprehensive musical training.

Tips:

  • Keep in mind that all genres and sub-genres are under heated debate, so do not adhere to a single definition too seriously.
  • Many excellent death metal bands never had a big record company behind them to support and promote their music. They are hidden treasures. Look around and discover what’s mostly ignored.
  • Many people call Death Metal and other genres with guttural vocals “Screamo”. It is not. Screamo is a sub-genre of Punk.
  • If you’re still convinced it’s just a bunch of noise, and you call yourself a guitarist, download a tablature of just about any Vital Remains song and try to keep up.
  • Another great reference is “Metal : A Headbangers Journey.” It is a great documentary and really shows you how metal has evolved.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey OFFICIAL TRAILER

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2011

Banger Films, 2005
dir: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen & Jessica Joy Wise
dop: Brendan Steacy
by: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen & Jessica Joy Wise

Sam Dunn, a 30-year old headbanger-turned anthropologist, sets out on a quest to explore heavy metal’s origins and cultural impact. His mission? To get to the bottom of one burning questions: Why is heavy metal music so beloved by its devoted fans and yet so controversial?

This ground-breaking film examines the history of heavy metal stereotypes and illuminates the truth behind the music. Witness performances and candid interviews with metal icons and members of legendary bands including Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Twisted Sister, Motley Cure, Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ronnie James Dio, Rage Against The Machine and Rush, as well as extremists like Slipknot, Cannibal Corpse and more.

Shot on location in the UK, Germany, Norway, Canada and the US, this documentary is an exhilarating tribute to metal’s dark side, and an outsider’s window into a complex spectacle and fascinating subculture.

 

Black metal documentary from METAL a headbangers journey

Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage album –  playlist

Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage – video

Music: Gojira
Director: Anne Deguehegny
First Director Assistant: Mario Duplantier
Scriptwritters: Joseph Duplantier, Mario Duplantier, Anne Deguehegny
Video Assistants: Rafaële Deguehegny, Laure Etcheverry, Léa Casagrande
Actress: Anne Deguehegny
Model Maker: Guillaume Minvielle, Claire-Sophie Viot

Vote For Gojira At The 2013 Golden Gods Awards!

Gojira

Gojira

 

The band Gojira are nominated for L’Enfant Sauvage – “Best Album of the Year” and Mario Duplantier for “Best drummer” by the metal music magazine Revolver which is celebrating their 5th anniversary on May 2, 2013 with a LIVE WORLDWIDE BROADCAST.

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If you agree with Gojira’s nominations, please vote for the band. Here are the links:

BEST ALBUM – L’ENFANT SAUVAGE:

http://www.revolvermag.com/goldengods2013/?p=63

BEST DRUMMER – MARIO DUPLANTIER (GOJIRA)

http://www.revolvermag.com/goldengods2013/?p=51

 

Related posts:

Gojira’s latest interview:
“We want our music to be beautiful and moving”

Gojira: Mario Duplantier Drum Solo @ Babelec Festival

The band Gojira – archives

 

 

Gojira: “We want our music to be beautiful and moving”

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[Update: Gojira’s concert at Irving Plaza, NYC, originally scheduled for tonight, has been postponed due to the blizzard. It’s been rescheduled for February 19.]

 

Interview: Gojira
New York, NY

No one sounds like French metal band Gojira–or, rather, they sound like no one else. They bear the European death metal hallmarks of speed and rhythmic trickiness, but instead of reveling in the blood, guts, nihilism, etc., that characterize the lyrics of their peers, Gojira concern themselves with saving the whales. (Yes, literally.) In the brootal world of heavy metal, it’s, well, weird.

Anchored by brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier (on guitar and drums, respectively), the four-piece band retain their original lineup now 11 years since their debut. (No drama? Also kind of weird.) We spoke to Joe about the odd upbringing that continues to influence his music–and about how to explain metal to your grandmother

You’ve said you and Mario grew up in an old house that was considered kind of strange in your town. Could you talk about that a little more?

It’s pretty striking when you go in this family house where we grew up. It’s not like normal houses. It’s very raw. It’s open to the wind. There’s dust and leaves everywhere, but it doesn’t matter. It’s an old house…It was very free. That was a big influence on us, I think.

Our parents were artists, and my mother was born in the United States, so she had a different attitude and way of expressing herself. She was…louder than other moms. [Laughs] You know how in France, people talk super quiet. So, we had this American mom, and our dad is a painter, and they’re not the kind that teach you how to be polite and to live properly. Our house was a happy mess, without heat. Just with fire in the winter. It was tough, but a very happy childhood. I couldn’t understand sometimes other kids because they were very different. They would play rugby and do stuff that was really common in our area when we were doing theatre, music, and stuff like that in the house. The house was also far away from the village, and it was surrounded by trees, with forest animals. For me, it’s kind of normal to be not like everybody else.

It’s interesting that you grew up feeling different from others, like an outsider, because your music is so unique among heavy music. People call it death metal, but you don’t sing about gory, bloody things. You have a more uplifting message. How would you classify your own music? What kind of metal would you call it?

It’s hard for me to classify. I like to say it’s music. I know it sounds cliché, but I like to say we’re just playing music. But of course it’s metal. It comes from the gut, really. We don’t have so many influences from other bands. For example, growing up, we were not part of a larger group of several bands. There wasn’t really a scene. So, I think that’s helped us to be more ourselves, and we were not in competition with another band, for example, trying to go faster than them or heavier. We were really on our own, and I’m really glad because we didn’t have too many influences. And concerning the lyrics and the theme, we don’t need to exaggerate the difficulties of life and how “gore” it is already. It’s enough to talk about your emotions, and it’s gore enough. You don’t need to add all these clichés, you know, bloody images and stuff like that.

The title of your most recent album, L’Enfant Sauvage, suggests the idea of a feral child, kind of a Kaspar Hauser theme. Do you identify with that?

Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a statement. It’s, “This is what we are: a feral child.” When we express things through music and lyrics, we don’t talk to the metal community. We talk to people in general. That’s why also, probably, we don’t use all these clichés. If I were to explain to my grandmother what we are, I’d rather say that we’re feral children than vampires or monsters, you know? It’s a softer way to present ourself. We don’t need to exaggerate. Being a feral child is already strong enough.

Something about Gojira’s music that stands out to me is that, although it’s heavy, it’s also very beautiful. I honestly can’t say that about most metal. Is beauty in music important to you as a songwriter?

Yes, absolutely. We are actually obsessed by this. We want our music to be beautiful and moving. We all like our different kinds of music. Myself, I like Radiohead, Portishead, Massive Attack, and things like that. They have very strong, moving melodies, and there’s also a very naïve aspect to it. We like to keep it simple and naïve and something that will move you. Very simple melodies, very simple themes. The drum patterns are often very tricky and complicated and sophisticated, but the melodies we want to keep simple. It creates a kind of natural balance. Because if the melodies were complicated and tortured, it would be a nightmare. But, it’s just what we want to express. We want to be moved. I guess we’re very sensitive people–like all metalheads, probably.

Thank you for your time, Joe.

You’re very welcome.

 

Related posts:
VOTE! Gojira are nominated for L’Enfant Sauvage – “Best Album of the Year” and for “Best drummer”
 

 

The 10 Top Metal Albums of 2012

The french titans

French metal titans Gojira have a huge feature in Metal Hammer

Stolen Babies photographed in Los Angeles on 06/11/12.

Stolen Babies photographed in Los Angeles on 06/11/12.

Stolen Babies
It’s that time of year again. Time to cozy up ’round the fireplace, crack open a brewsky, and duke it out over who had the Best Metal Album of the Year. Without further ado, here they are:


10. CVI, Royal Thunder
The music of Royal Thunder, from Atlanta, GA, is almost not metal — and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a welcome reminder that music can be emotionally resonant without being sonically violent or lyrically graphic. The songs on CVI aren’t any of the things metal fans usually revere: they’re not “complicated” or “fast” or “brutal.” In that sense, this might be the most “challenging” album on this list. It’s more classic psychedelic rock than modern metal, and singer MLNY Parsons is like a dark siren from the ’60s reincarnate. She’s the crown jewel in a band that’s unafraid simply to be themselves. Trends be damned.


9. Resolution, Lamb of God
For over a decade, Lamb of God have been the “it” band in American heavy metal. Resolution is their seventh studio album, and it debuted at number three. At this point in their career, LOG are only competing against the bar they’ve set for themselves. Their groove metal is as powerful as ever, and they are terrifyingly strong live. Much has been said this year about singer Randy Blythe’s manslaughter charges in the Czech Republic; after seeing his astonishing command over the NYC audience at the Roseland Ballroom last month (where there were no fans onstage), we can only say: maybe unstable governments should be afraid.


8. Dethalbum III, Dethklok
Here’s the thing about Dethklok: the lyrics are ludicrous, but the music is no joke. Renaissance man Brendon Small takes on songwriting, guitar, and vocal duties — as though masterminding an animated series on Adult Swim wasn’t enough work already. Add Gene Hoglan (Death, Testament) on drums and Bryan Beller (Steve Vai) on bass, and it doesn’t matter that you’re singing about ejaculating fire: you’re going to sound badass. It’s likely no one in human history has or ever will again compose lyrics containing the phrase “epididymal retention” — except Dethklok.


7. Naught, Stolen Babies
Six years after their debut album (with four of those years spent in indefinite hiatus), Los Angeles band Stolen Babies have arrived back on the scene with more of their wonderfully bizarre cabaret metal. Here’s a fun riddle: what sound do you get when you take twin brothers who’ve played with The Dillinger Escape Plan, a reluctant theatre starlet, and an accordion and mix it with the Talking Heads and Edward Gorey-style illustration? Stolen Babies — and Naught lives in a whimsical world of their creation.


6. Yellow & Green, Baroness
“Beautiful” is a word you don’t often hear used to describe heavy metal, but in this instance, it’s totally appropriate. The third studio album by the Savannah, GA, band, Yellow & Green transcends metal, venturing into folk and psychedelic spaces. While Baroness have always explored genres outside of the “sludge” moniker that’s never done them justice, this record finds them pushing beyond their past efforts into musical territory that’s — gasp! — pretty. The instrumental “Green Theme” — with its shifts from a weeping, atmospheric guitar verse into a blossoming, harmonized guitar chorus — is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music you will hear this year.


5. Years Past Matter, Krallice
Dense and intricately composed, Years Past Matter, by Brooklyn’s Krallice, takes the listener on a journey through six songs, most of which run longer than 10 minutes each. The tracks are titled only by increasing repetitions of the letter “i”, as though someone’s cat applied paw to laptop key, and the results became the song names. (How does one distinguish between songs onstage when reading a setlist of tunes like “iiiiiiiiii” and “iiiiiiiii”?) The album pummels the brain with constantly changing time signatures amidst a wall of multi-layered guitars. Even if we can’t pronounce the songs, we admire the craftsmanship therein.


4. Harmonicraft, Torche
Here’s another metal anomaly: happy metal that’s not power metal. Harmonicraft seems infused by sunshine from Torche’s hometown of Miami. The band have been mislabeled sludge, perhaps due to their Southern origins, but there is nothing swampy about their up-tempo tunes with ample use of major chords (shocking!), which lend a cheerful mood to the album. Somehow it’s heavy and sunny at the same time — a surprising musical juxtaposition that’s refreshing amidst the doom and gloom of typical metal fare.


3. Son of Perdition, Wretched
The chilling, classical-style organ and chorale on “Oblivion,” the opening track of Son of Perdition, sets an intellectual tone for this third album by Charlotte, NC, death metal band Wretched. Yes, we just used the words “intellectual” and “death metal” in the same sentence. Now get this: the main chord progression of the punishing second track follows that of the choral opening. And then there’s a jazz outing in “The Stellar Sunset of Evolution,” a trilogy of instrumentals revealing the breadth of styles these musicians are capable of. It’s a stunning album.


2. Illud Divinum Insanus — The Remixes, Morbid Angel/various artists
Illud Divinum Insanus, the 2012 studio album by Morbid Angel, sucked. Inconceivably, the two-disc album of the same songs, remixed by electronic and industrial artists from around the globe, is fucking phenomenal. It’s as though inserting guitarist and vocalist Trey Azagthoth (one of the OGs of death metal in the ’80s) into electronic subgenres like dubstep has not only transformed one of Morbid Angel’s worst albums into a work of collaborative brilliance (with most of the credit going to the remixing artists); it’s also elevated electronic music into novel realms of darkness. We’d even venture to say it’s created a new genre (deathstep?). There may be metal purists reading this who think we’re kidding. We’re not.


1. L’Enfant Sauvage, Gojira
French technical death metal band Gojira are some of the most highly skilled musicians playing today. Brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier (rhythm guitar/vocals and drums, respectively) write elegant compositions with mind-bending song structures. In performance, their precision and athleticism are elite, rivaling classically trained professionals. The title track alone on L’Enfant Sauvage renders it worthy of this list. Have a listen to the contrasting themes just in that one song — the impenetrable rhythms in the beginning followed by the space created by the lead guitar. No one in metal writes music this complicated yet so perfectly balanced. From beginning to end, this album is peerless.

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