Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
Written by: AP on 18/09/2012 14:30:15
One of the key ingredients to the success that Gojira has been enjoying of late is their origins. There simply aren't enough critically acclaimed metal bands in France, least of all the city of Bayonne from which the quartet is from, to produce a fertile basis from which to draw inspiration. As a result, Gojira have always striven to become vessels for their own muses, distilling their music exclusively out of their own minds and souls. Granted, there are traces of Meshuggah and Morbid Angel in it that warrant a term like technical progressive death metal to be used, but even so no one can claim that Gojira are anything but one of the most distinctive metal bands of the naughties.
But even virtuosos will eventually face the daunting prospect of having to top themselves, and given the magnificence of the band's previous two efforts, "From Mars to Sirius" and "The Way of All Flesh", it seems nigh impossible. It is nonetheless the underlying ambition of this fifth studio album entitled "L'Enfant Sauvage" (which translates roughly to "The Wild Child"), and right off the bat, with the absurdly heavy "Explosia" leading the way like something between a swarm of locusts and a thunderstorm, one is met by the unshakable sensation that Gojira have widened their scope, amplified their sound, and raised their ambition even beyond what was already a daring venture. The album's title is a reference to a famous case of a feral child discovered in France in 1798, who was trapped by hunters at the age of eleven and taken to Paris to be studied and educated by experts. Keeping the conceptual context in mind when listening to "L'Enfant Sauvage", it is clear that Gojira wanted to embody the wilderness of the boy; the tone of Joe Duplantier's voice is desperate, like the growls of an animal backed into a corner, while the vastness and desolation of the music channels the combination of profound loneliness and primal savagery of the wild child. The concept is in keeping with Gojira's fascination with nature, so the focus of "L'Enfant Sauvage" is very much on conjuring and sustaining a specific feeling across the elevent tracks, one embodied perfectly by the wild, expansive riffs and monolithic soundscapes of "The Axe" and "Planned Obsolescence".
Each song seems to concentrate on a different aspect of the wild child's struggle, but nowhere is the difficult, painful process of reclaiming one's humanity framed more aptly than in "The Gift of Guilt" and "Pain is a Master", which explore some of the most challenging aspects of the human condition. They ache and thrash, writhing in anguish, whilst whipping up the sort of tumultuous instrumental storms that Gojira are so renowned for. But the album is not without its issues, as with the exception of the title track, there are few instantly gripping standout tracks on "L'Enfant Sauvage" in the vein of "Backbone", "Vacuity" or "Esoteric Surgery" from the previous two records. In fact, the album grinds to a boring standstill midway; "Liquid Fire" sounds contrived by Gojira's standards, and the inconsequential instrumental piece "The Wild Healer" that follows does little to improve the impression.
Yet while Gojira no longer sound quite as impactful, the technically dense and atmospheric death metal of "L'Enfant Sauvage" still sets them apart as one of the living legends of their generation. Those fond of the band's progressive tendencies are likely to find the privilege of the concept over instrument here a welcome turn, while those keen on the sheer weight of Gojira's music will find themselves longing for the hard-hitting groove of "From Mars to Sirius" and "The Way of All Flesh". In either case, the level of ambition present across "L'Enfant Sauvage", from the winding Spaghetti Western style outro of "Explosia" to the jagged rhythms, anguished rasps and innovative riffs that characterize most of the material on it, stands second to none.
Download: Explosia, L'Enfant Sauvage, The Axe, Planned Obsolescence, The Gift of Guilt
For the fans of: Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Trepalium
Release date 26.06.2012