Monday, September 17, 2012

Gojira- Terra Incognita (2001)

This is the first tentative step on an incrementally improving spiral staircase of a career that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years into one of the most important in the metal realm. Indeed, most of the defining elements of future groundbreaking Gojira releases like From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh are here in embryonic form, and though Terra Incognita is far from perfect, or even overly compelling or memorable, it contains enough inherent value to be worth a look from both fans of these innovative Frenchmen, and those who by nature enjoy crawling through the darker, heavier depths of groove-laden death metal.

There is a resounding mechanical darkness here, expressed through the pounding, cyclical slabs of notation, that even back in 2001 proved a strong counterpoint to the natural, philosophical slant of Gojira’s blazing spirit. Some moments, like the oceanic tapping in 04, the plunking, bouncy, almost Primus-like funk of Satan Is a Lawyer, and the earthy, lumbering midsection of Deliverance are clear roots from which the distinguished, more avant-garde elements of their present releases have grown. Much of the record, however, is content to chug along in a variety of rhythmic patterning, some sections stronger than others, but with pretty consistent quality overall. I especially enjoy the dark, luminous riffing in Space Time, a nice contrast to the carving, pinch-harmonic sprinkled grooves, a dichotomy they would eventually perfect. A number of songs also provide clean, distinct, simmering choruses that are unmistakably evident as Gojira, even as we know them now, a true compliment.

Truly, there are a number of good ideas and techniques that pepper this release, but they are not to a level of fruition that makes Terra Incognita a great record. Beyond a pretty fair handful of sections, it is not incredibly memorable, though to be fair, neither is it ever in any way bad, or even really average, as it certainly bears its own unique stamp. Certainly, if you desire this kind of plodding, mechanistic darkness in your metal, there is not a lot of quality material to choose from, and this is definitely far more interesting and talented than anything you’ll find from a Fear Factory release around this period. Its mathematical, muscular pounding has more in common than Meshuggah than anyone else, another potential indicator of your enjoyment.

In the end, I don’t think I will listen to Terra Incognita very often, as it’s just so completely eclipsed and out-paced by its successors, but for a debut album of groove-laced death, it is both interesting and long on potential, the grooving tendrils that have encased my life of late already budding, if not lengthy enough to grab a firm hold. This will be of special worth and curiosity for huge Gojira fanatics though, like me, as it’s an interesting history lesson in the evolution and basic biology of a band that’s become so dynamic and important. If you fit into either one of these aforementioned categories, you should certainly hunt this down, though I’d warn you not to be overly expectant, but if you’ve already heard the bands newer, more popular releases, and count yourself unimpressed, there is no reason for you to visit this. For anyone new to this project, though, I’d point you to the stunning The Way of All Flesh first and foremost, followed by From Mars to Sirius and L’enfant Sauvage, all of them artful expressions of pure passion. Terra Incognita is a good effort, but it’s so completely blown away by its siblings that at this point it’s more interesting as a historical footnote than an endlessly listenable album.

7 / 10 - Roots So Deep, Head So High