Note to all bands who are forced to change their names: embrace and adapt.
Ditching the moniker GODZILLA for a cooler Japanese translation, GOJIRA’s official full-length debut, “Terra Incognita,” is an interesting look and teaser into the evolution of these four Frenchmen. Complete with machine-gun time changes, looping bass lines, “5988 Trillions de Tonnes” of groove, and Joe Duplantier’s gnarly screams and awkward spoken word, the album is slathered in hard-hitting Progressive Death Metal.
“Terra Incognita” also marks the premiere collaboration with soon-to-be permanent bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, whose presence is an undeniably helpful fixture and a major skillset that was lacking in GODZILLA’s four early demos - their final two demos, "Saturate" and "Wisdom Comes," comprise much of what is found on "Terra Incognita."
Perhaps the album most prone to the occasional stumble, this 2001 debut is no perfect execution in style or song structure. Very often some of the songs sound too dull and too similar for their own good and a handful of the distinct tempo-changes are simply frustrating to the ear. But then the boys rip off a song like “Blow Me Away You (Niverse)” and you’re sucked back into the swirling void of head-banging bliss that GOJIRA are just so damn clever with.
The winding and slithering tremolo riffing is clearly still in a very prehistoric stage in comparison to “From Mars to Sirius” or “The Way of All Flesh,” and even Mario Duplantier’s drumming, while still absurdly fast and creative, is still several shades from what the succeeding albums will proffer. But then the boys destroy your sense of space and time with hyper-cool tracks like “Love” and “In the Forest” and you’re stuffed back into foot-stomping mayhem that GOJIRA are just so damn adept at.
An intriguing start to an already unbelievable career for GOJIRA, you can rest assured knowing that their brand of Progressive Death Metal is done pretension-free and with heart and soul in mind. Like all GOJIRA records, there is a strong corporeal quality to this album that not only demands several listens, but it deserves your utmost attention. Truly, the start to something beautiful.
(Online December 20, 2010)