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Gojira: L'enfant sauvage

06/07/12  ||  Smalley

I respect Gojira a lot. And by that, I don’t just mean I enjoy their music, I mean I admire them; I admire their experimental edge, and the way their style can’t just be lumped into any one sub-genre. Sure, you hear specific influences, but meaningfully summing them up in a few descriptors…? Not possible. But, they don’t forget to make kick-ass METAL too, so we can get our headbang fix delivered alongside the artsy shit. Due to this, they’re one of the most intriguing active metal acts for me, which is why “L’enfant sauvage” has been at the top of my most-anticipated list for what feels like forever (four years is too long!!!). So, is this one worth that wait, and able to live up to the legacy of ”From Mars to Sirius” & ”The way of all flesh”, or not? The short answer: “not for a while, but eventually, hell yes”, and the long answer is the rest of my review.

The “not for a while” part is explained by the first half of the record, as “sauvage” kicks off with “Explosia”, which is propelled by the expectedly catchy, choppy Gojira-groove, the riffing filtered through the expectedly thick Gojira-production, the songwriting expectedly Gojira-intricate and dynamic mood wise, the performances all expectedly Gojira-proficient and passionate (especially the vocals/drumming), and featured other sound elements that aren’t really unexpected coming from Gojira. And yes, I know “expectedly” isn’t “officially” a word yet; you damn well know what I meant! Anyway, “Explosia” is a solid, well-executed way to open up the record, but next to something like “Ocean planet” or “Oroborus”, it lacks a certain intensity/scope, and my mildly underwhelmed reaction was a good summation of how I felt about the rest of the first half of “sauvage”… or, at least it was a good summation of how I felt at first.

After that, I thought the title track, with its more furious riffing, was a step up, and all of the rest of the first half was satisfactory as well, but it still seemed like Gojira was content to somewhat rest on their laurels, instead of giving “sauvage” the 110% you want so badly from a fave band. It does happen, a band making more of a “competent” record than one that truly excels, and of course, nobody’s perfect all the time, but it’s still disappointing when it happens. The dramatic “Liquid fire” was almost a highlight, but its chorus felt anti-climatic next to rest of its material, and lacked an anthemic quality it should’ve had, which soured me a bit. I think the main thing that held me back on the first half here was the songs that had enough scope, didn’t have quite enough intensity, and vice versa, and the experimental touches present weren’t enough to make up for that, so I was a bit frustrated at first.

Fortunately, by the time track 8 came around, it’s obvious Gojira truly stepped up their game for the second half; “The gift of guilt” kicked things up a notch by alternating between a spacey, introspective melody, and an aggressive, visceral main riff, with an emotional, highly memorable chorus to top it all off. From this point, “sauvage” gets into top gear and never shifts out, with the invigoratingly violent mood swings of “Pain is a master”, the pleasingly off-beat guitar effects on “Born in winter”, the unsettling slow ooze of “The fall”, and much more all combining to make the album end with a very big bang.

And, as a side-bonus, the consistently-great second half made me look back and realize that “sauvage” really is just as good as “flesh” was, it just didn’t seem that way at first, since it’s so back-loaded with the highlights. But “flesh” isn’t any more consistent overall, it just had its highlights evenly spread out over the whole affair, instead of in one half. The former approach might sound better on paper, but looking on them as a whole, both albums ultimately come out about even, and the 6 great songs toward the end here help make the good-but-not-great songs of the first half go down a lot smoother.

This still isn’t as good as “sirius” was, their best effort to date, and it isn’t quite the great album I know Gojira in them (“sirius” was SO close; sorry IG!), but I’m still happy, and pleased to hear another current metal band still pushing the envelope for the rest of the genre. There are no truly major style shifts here, but if you already like Gojira, this will be more than enough for you, and if they can keep up this level of quality for the future (and why shouldn’t they??) they’ll remain a favorite of mine for a very long time indeed, no fucken doubt about it.

8,5

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: Roadrunner
  • Website: www.gojira-music.com
  • Band
  • Joe Duplantier: vocals, guitars
  • Mario Duplantier: drums
  • Jean-Michel Labadie: bass
  • Christian Andreu: guitars
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Explosia
  • 02. L’enfant sauvage
  • 03. The axe
  • 04. Liquid fire
  • 05. The Wild healer
  • 06. Planned obsolescence
  • 07. Mouth of kala
  • 08. The gift of guilt
  • 09. Pain is a master
  • 10. Born in winter
  • 11. The fall
  • 12. This emptiness
  • 13. My creation