Label: Roadrunner Records
Gojira, if you’ve been hiding under a rock from metal music, is a roaming behemoth in the metal movement at this moment in time after releasing some of the most innovative and crushing albums in death/technical metal over the past few years.
Hailing from France and named after the Japanese translation for “Godzilla” (which they were originally called, but were forced to change the name due to legal reasons), the band is made up of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier (vocals/rhythm guitar and drums, respectively), Christian Andreu (lead guitar) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass).
While Gojira are known for lyrical themes concerning nature, humanity’s negative effects on it and spiritual matters, they are one of those bands that often change their style slightly between each album. 2001’s “Terra Incognita” featured very unorthodox yet brutal death metal, 2005 saw them taking a more progressive metal turn with “From Mars To Sirius” while in 2008 “The Way Of All Flesh” featured a slightly more straight-forward metal sound. So after four years of anticipation, “L’Enfant Sauvage” is their fifth full-length release. Having built themselves such a high pedestal within the metal scene with these previous works, one would expect a lot from Gojira in an almost Dethklok-size importance in this 2012 release.
To open with a track like Explosia certainly should reassure any fan of the band, with short part of groaning and wailing guitars sounding like whales in the ocean, then to burst into heavy, chugging riffs with microsecond sweeping interludes. The signiture Gojira sound of crunching guitar rolls and harmonics make an appearance, and the drums are just so tight and crazy, without losing that human aspect that is unfortunately lost on most technical albums. Plus, with lines like “Will you make us stronger / When you strike us down?” before an apocalyptic outro, it’s hard not to get excited for what’s to come.
The single L’Enfant Sauvage follows, and shows no intent for the band to slack. The muted high and low riffs working in unison, along with steady-paced drums as Joe just roars over them really gives a genuine sense of desperation and urgency, which just absorbs you. There’s also a moment of quietened chugged triplets, before the band just bursts into this merciless fury as the lyrics “The sky is all over me” are just imprinted in your memory.
Third track The Axe doesn’t quite follow with the same type of ferocity as the previous two tracks, but that doesn’t mean it falls in quality. Ear-ripping double-bass, triplet chugs and almost melodic screams are aplenty – with some progressive-influenced moments. Then Liquid Fire seems like something that was meant to be on “The Way Of All Flesh”. Full of apocalyptic tremolo riffs with moments of slower chugs, while the percussion is just crazy with technicality. It also features some ‘robotic’ vocal effects on Joe’s voice at one point, akin to Meshuggah’s Mind’s Mirror from Catch 33.
The Wild Healer is a pretty unexpected heart-lifting instrumental break with these (presumably) clean taps or hammer-ons/pull-offs that sound Mastodon-like in a playful fashion. But then you’re hurled into Planned Obsolescence, which is a lot nearer to the death metal roots of the band in comparison to the rest of the tracks so far in consideration of the instrumental side. At the 2.30 mark, Joe really lets loose with these seething growls that just sound so intense, however the outro has this strange ambient-electro feel with soft keyboards and synths.
Then we have Mouth Of Kala, which snaps you out of the hypnotising end of the previous track, returning to the standard Gojira sound – standard may just well be best to describe the track. Although not even slightly bad in any way, it is rather too familiar ground at this point in the album, and is only really memorable by the devastating breakdown at the 4.28-minute mark. The Gift Of Guilt picks it up and opens with a very sombre tapping lead and the drums eventually join to pound away at your eardrums. This same moment is the chorus too, while lyrics roared “These vultures from the past, coming / In all the hells and worlds, the time has come” brings together apocalyptic imagery to say the least.
Ninth track, Pain Is A Master, has a female voice whispering in French during the beginning as the band organises a sinister soft progression – which is pretty refreshing to hear at this stage. Although the track does have the similar approach to previous tracks, there is a nice moment from 2.41 onwards, with these cleaner sounding guitars bouncing off the drums as vocals rise into a nice melody. Born In Winter opens with a clean tapped progression, as Joe murmers lyrics of evolution, both switching from quiet to loud moments which really stands out in comparison to the rest of the album.
And to finish off, we’re given The Fall, which sort of, well, falls short of ending the album in a memorable way. The all too familiar sounding riffs, injections of the robotic vocals, the structure… it’s almost upsetting to hear an otherwise really enjoyable album closed with a fairly bland and predictable track. Perhaps if there had been a bit more variety in the album’s sound up to this point, The Fall may not feel this way. Unfortunately, it does.
However, as I said, “L’Enfant Sauvage” is a really enjoyable album and is a satisfiable release following the epic “The Way Of All Flesh”, which by no easy feat to accomplish. Whether it is better or not may only be told by time and ageing, but personally, it isn’t. Whereas “The Way Of All Flesh” had a vast variety of styles and influences making their way onto the album, “L’Enfant Sauvage” is a slightly more recluse and is a bit shy of the diversity that made the previous album so addictive.
That said, this album is heavy, technical and most of all crushing. There are moments that will catch you by surprise, grabbing you by the throat and demanding that you pay attention. The drums in particular are stunning at times, and it’s a wonder why Mario doesn’t get as much praise as he does.
Overall, this is a pretty decent metal album and for anyone looking for more thoughtful and imaginative technical/death metal: this is definitely worth checking out.
Favourite tracks: Explosia, Planned Obsolescence, L’Enfant Sauvage.