3 GOJIRA * THE WAY OF ALL FLESH (Prosthetic)
Maybe I'm insecure about my towering ignorance, but still I'll maintain that the meaning of Godzilla wasn't lost on only me. That shit was about a giant lizard bent on stomping Japan into a fine paste, right? That is so awesome that it wasn't until my 20s when I discovered that Godzilla was a nuclear mutant, a metaphor for man's recklessness and bloodlust. Wow. Next you'll tell me Mothra is a warning against energy-wasting porch lights.
Don't be surprised, but despite my razor sharp intellect, I whiffed a second time when four Metal guys took the name Gojira, the native pronunciation, for their awesome band. Again, I reeled at the hugeness, the thunderousness, and signified my ascent with a fist-pump. As Gojira frontman Joseph Duplantier began to address his social views, I had to shamefully duh myself a second time; of course a band called Gojira was going to crush us with their oh-sah-mu pah-wah but not in the name of dominance, steakhead; nay, this Gojira, too, was trying to tell us something.
And thus we are slammed by the quartet's fourth and best album, 2008's The Way Of All Flesh, a masterpiece of post-post hardcore metal. Think of a hyper-charged Chaos A.D. or less patient Lateralus. Think of metal that is manly not macho, dominating but not domineering; the latter terms describe the Anselmo/FSU falsehood, the deep sea fish aglow to scare off those who could consume it. The Bullshit Artist. Gojira is confident without the bluster, a shark who eats on an empty stomach; riffs cycle to saturation and never past it with little variation. In fact, Flesh, like The Crown's Possessed 13, is the antithesis to The Song That Ends Too Soon, like "Breath After Breath" by Duran Duran and Bruce Dickinson's "Strange Death In Paradise." There's a downside, as first listens reveal seemingly little but a list of unfamiliar collections of notes. Once they sink in, however, it's apparent that Duplantier is the picture of restraint, brilliantly guiding each song along its due course.
Which wouldn't matter if the riffs weren't as enormous as they are. With The Way of All Flesh, it seems likely that Duplantier and fellow guitarist Christian Andreu have made grateful fans of both spastic Melt-Banana guitarist Agata Ichirou (those screeching natural harmonic-rakes) and pick-hand studs like Steve Morse (winding progressions powered by stamina riffs). Each riff is melodic and binding, glued to the subtle melodicism of Duplantier's split-octave vocals, which give Flesh a passing resemblance to Mastodon's Blood Mountain. Conveniently, Gojira's other superstar is also named Dupantier, drummer Mario, who turns in fresh and pulverizing work both early and late in Flesh ("Toxic Garbage Island," "Vacuity").
Like all instant classics, Flesh is best compared to the status of other records, not the composition. For example, when Duplantier kicks off the album's third act with the single line "You have the power to heal yourself!" ("Esoteric Surgery"), it recalls the rolled-out run-up on "Ghosts of War" by Slayer and counters the historic opening to The Cult's piece de resistance Sonic Temple: "This is where it all ends." Which is fitting since The Way of All Flesh is lengthy (70 minutes), and might suffer from one too many peak-and-valley sets; surely, Duplantier has a lot to say, resulting in a mercifully brief but needless spoken word stretch on the title track. I'll be sure to shout that at the bottom of his foot as it smooshes me to the Shinjuku pavement.