CD Review: Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)

Within recent metal releases, perhaps the most widely-acclaimed current LP is the fifth album from ecologically-minded French tech-metallers Gojira.   It’s certainly an album that is determined to make a big initial impact.  ‘Explosia’ starts with a massive wall of guitar-noise, with Joe Duplantier’s urgent, anxious vocals grabbing attention from the off.

This is a big-sounding record, relying on unrelenting, pulverising riffs.  Initially, I was reminded of the forbidding Swedish behemoth of a band, Meshuggah, whose music is so terrifying and demanding that I can only listen in small doses.  However, Gojira also take influence from more sonically palatable American bands, such as Machine Head and Lamb of God.  The latter’s influence can be heard on perhaps the album’s best track, ‘Liquid Fire’, which features experimental use of electronically-distorted voices.  This is a neat subversion of the evils of autotune!  I was also grateful for the inclusion of a reflective instrumental, ‘The Wild Healer’ halfway through.  This respite is brief, however, as the metal soon returns with the epic gothic gloom of ‘Planned Obsolescence’; this curiously ends with a solo piano figure that might have featured on a album by The Cure in the early 80s.

From then on, though, the album basically offers wall-to-wall riffs, with only occasional moments of relative stillness.  This is satisfying enough on a certain primal level, but I often felt something was missing.  The band have deeply serious environmental concerns; laudable enough, but this can lead to a certain puritanism.  Gojira are very earnest and do not sound like they want to have fun.  Indeed, titles like ‘The Gift of Guilt’ and ‘Pain is a Master’ suggest a very grim worldview.

If you were asked to illustrate where heavy metal is heading in 2012, you basically have two options.  The first is to complain that the genre is now so wide that a soundbite cannot possibly supply an adequate summation.  The second is to point to this record, which is consummate modern metal, bold and polished.  However, I think it’s an LP that I admire more than I actually like. 

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