Jun 262012

How very difficult it is, in a metal landscape more saturated with music than ever before, to establish a distinctive sound — so distinctive that even brief excerpts from any randomly chosen song will shout the band’s name. How much more difficult it must be for a band who have accomplished that feat to move forward, to create something that’s genuinely new (and riveting) without sacrificing the character of the music that makes it so instantly recognizable. Yet that’s the trick that Gojira have pulled off on their new album L’Enfant Sauvage.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has closely followed Gojira’s meteoric trajectory. From one album to the next, the Duplantier brothers and their comrades Jean-Michel Labadie and Christian Andreu have displayed consistent intelligence, attention to detail, and consummate craftsmanship both in composing their works and in performing them. Refreshingly, they have persisted in following their own muse, without pandering to trends or commercial inducements. They’ve become popular without grasping for popularity, both challenging listeners and pleasing them, evolving along a path they’ve carved for themselves while pulling increasing numbers of slobbering fans along in the vortex of their slipstream.

The essential ingredients of Gojira’s sound are all present in the new songs: the stomping syncopated rhythms and odd time signatures; Mario Duplantier’s complex, off-kilter percussion; the squealing whine of a harmonic pickslide; the use of repeating, hypnotic, imminently headbangable riffs; the dominance of dissonance that still leaves room for head-grabbing melodies; the attention to mood-altering dynamics and a penchant for experimentation; and Joe Duplantier’s distinctive mid-range howl that’s somehow capable of carrying a melody as well as clawing flesh.

And of course, the music is still some of the heaviest matter in the universe: it crushes, while leaving that distinctive Gojira stamp on your mangled carcass.

Yet L’Enfant Sauvage holds surprises in store that make the album intriguing as well as pulverizing, like veins of gold that sparkle unexpectedly in a deep, well-mined strike.

Gojira’s motifs are by now so familiar and so effective that the surprising moments on L’Enfant Sauvage are almost as satisfying as the fix we Gojira junkies expect and need. But one without the other would be disappointing. These are among the moments, both familiar and unexpected, that stand out for this reviewer:

  • The combination of brutal, bass-heavy, rivet-driving rhythms and skittering higher-ranged guitar leads that rears its head off and on all the way through the album
  • The last 2 1/2 minutes of “Explosia”, with the repeating riff chugging away like a driving train, with Mario Duplantier off on some kind of percussive galavant whose course only he knows, and the clanging guitar notes at the end sounding like the accompaniment to a gunfight at high noon in a Western movie
  • The surprising blast of double bass and Joe’s voice soaring over the chiseling whirr of a tremolo guitar near the end of “L’Enfant Sauvage”
  • The call-and-response of layered clean vocals and wolfish growls on “Liquid Fire”, which are then mirrored by the call-and-response of the deep, hammering rhythm chords and that skittering lead guitar in the song’s second half
  • Every goddamned second of the head-nodding interlude called “The Wild Healer” — a pulsating synthesizer melody, almost like a syncopated calliope, that provides the foundation for percussive variations
  • The moment at 1:18 in “Planned Obsolescence” when the pummeling riffs and fret-slides transition to an ominous four-note melody and processed robotic vocals, plus the climbing musical motif that comes later, plus the descent of relative quiet in the outro, with solitary guitar notes and a muffled drumbeat
  • The utterly jolting, artillery-fire quality that persists throughout “Mouth of Kala” and a familiar, extended, oh-so-sweet repeated musical pattern at the end of the song
  • The swirling, see-saw synthesizer passages that start “The Gift of Guilt” and return again before the song ends
  • The proggy picking and drumming and staggered vocal proclamations that start at about the 3:20 mark of “Pain Is A Master”
  • The intro to “Born In Winter”, a song like nothing else on this album, in which the guitar lead mimics the style of the pulsating, swimming synthesizer start to “The Gift of Guilt”; Joe Duplantier delivers clean vocals like some young, French version of Leonard Cohen; and his brother Mario proves himself again to be one of the most stunning drummers in modern metal
  • The grinding bass chords and trampling drum beats, the tremolo bridge, and the first genuine death metal gutturals on perhaps the most unexpected and challenging song on L’Enfant Sauvage — “The Fall” — which ends in a haze of freaked-out guitar noise. This voracious, dark, infernal beast has become my favorite track on the album.

There are songs on earlier Gojira albums that are more thoroughly experimental than anything on L’Enfant Sauvage. Nothing will ever completely replace that first experience of space-faring whale song on From Mars To Sirius. There is only one first time for anything.

But having said that, L’Enfant Sauvage is a consistently satisfying, frequently brilliant album that is one of 2012’s must-listen experiences. It proves this all over again: Gojira are in a league of their own. It also proves that what we knew of this band will not remain the same, and that their meteoric trajectory may be veering off toward uncharted territories.

(L’Enfant Sauvage was released yesterday by Roadrunner Records, and you can still hear the full-album stream via this link.)


  23 Responses to “GOJIRA: “L’ENFANT SAUVAGE” (A Review By Islander)”

  1. It’s very rare that harder bands who incorporate pop, or at least pop sensibility, into their songwriting, actually ends up sounding good (probably because a lot of these bands doesn’t have good taste in softer music, at least that’s my theory, either that or it’s just very difficult or something), but Gojira really succeed achieving a very easy-listened metal album that doesn’t feel ridicilous at all. That is very, very cool.

    Btw, I haven’t really listened to Gojira before (apart from a song or two), so whether this is a new suit for this band I don’t know, but I can safely say that it is a perfect intrduction to the band.

    Anyway, love your site. There are so few hateful comments here, and good writing as well.

  2. “There are so few hateful comments here”
    it’s because everyone headbanged themselves into bliss.

    The NCS antidepressant: headbanging!

    • It’s not that I don’t believe you, but just to be safe I’m gonna keep on drinking all that beer and taking all them drugs.

      Waking up hung-over and with a nasty drug craving is one thing, waking up with a sore neck something completely else, that shit is PAINFUL.

  3. Saw them live last night (the 25th) in Sheffield – absolutely incredible. Devastatingly heavy live, Mario’s drumming beggared belief and the fingerpicked duets were incredible.

    They played Explosia, L’Enfant Sauvage and The Gift of Guilt off the new album. That galloping drum riff in Explosia, holy hell it sounds good live!

    And an added bonus, we spent the hour before the gig in the pub with them!

    • I was so disappointed when they weren’t included in the live stream from Graspop over the weekend. I’m counting the days until they come to Seattle in August with Lamb of God — can’t wait to hear those tracks live. But I doubt I’ll have the good fortune you had to get beered up with them. Very cool.

      • You sure there, bro? I could’ve sworn I catched a song or two on the stream. Not sure whether it was live though.

        • I could have fucked up. When I checked the stream at the time Gojira were supposed to start, they were about to stream Behemoth, so I thought they’d decided to show them instead. I didn’t stick around (though I love Behemoth).

          • It wasn’t live,but it was on right after Behemoth. Now I kind of feel bad,since I only knew about it
            because of you! Thanks for that,since I won’t be able to see them when they’re down this way in Sept.
            Great site-visit every day and I’m always glad I did. Thanks again!

  4. I wonder… is this an up trend? Where bands known to be experimental or having great technical prowess simplify things just a notch and concentrate more on songwriting? The Shuggahs did it, and IMO were better for it on Koloss. What I’ve heard of the new Periphery album suggests they’re going that route too..

    You won’t catch me complaining. I tend to latch onto tasty riffs in songs more than blazing technical ability, so when bands develop a couple ideas per song and repeat them so I get a chance to fully enjoy them, I’m all aboot it.

  5. Mario’s drumming makes me believe in the supernatural.

    Though i’m sure it will take time to fully understand and appreciate this album ( as it has with the whole discography of gojira), i’m already pondering at man’s capability to create something so beautiful and mesmerizing while still being crushing and heavy.

    • On one of my many spins through this album, I did nothing but concentrate on his drumming — something I’m rarely tempted to do with an album and something that rarely pays off, but it was completely fascinating in the case of this album.

  6. Excellent review!

    Dilemma: I have a deadline to meet today, but I just downloaded the Gojira album from Amazon. There it sits in my computer, tempting me. Demanding my full, undivided attention. Maybe I’ll call my editor and tell her my grandmother died, or that the doctor diagnosed me with fetal alcohol syndrome, or that the CIA is trying to kill me. Damn you, fate!!

  7. AN excellent review, to be certain. You, of course, know how I feel about it

  8. Excellent review Mr. Islander!!! Been a fan for so long!!!! This is an amazing record from start to finish!!! Hope you have a blast when you get to see them and possible review of the show???

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.