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

Within the last ten years, perhaps the most widely-acclaimed LP is L’Enfant Sauvage, the fifth album from ecologically-minded French tech-metallers Gojira. It’s certainly an album that is determined to make a big initial impact. The first song, “Explosi”‘ 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 to it in small doses. However, Gojira also takes influence from more sonically palatable American bands, such as Machine Head and Lamb of God. The latter’s influence can be heard on what is perhaps the album’s best track, “Liquid Fire,” which features an experimental use of electronically-distorted voices. This is a neat subversion of the evils of autotuned! 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,” which curiously ends with a solo piano figure that might have been featured on a album by The Cure in the early 80s.

From that moment 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 has 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, you basically have two options. The first is to complain that the genre is now so wide open 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.

Written by Andrew Billings.

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