L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
There are bands happy to exist in metal eager to carve out a little niche for themselves and stay there. There are bands that spend their careers catering to the whims of their fans or changing to gain a wider appeal. GOJIRA is a band that does neither of these things, yet somehow manages to be in the elite of artistic ideals, yet maintain a growing, popular following. I prefer to think that all credit due for this goes to the band, rather than the changing tastes (for the better) of the sweaty masses of metal fans. No matter, GOJIRA has crafted another masterpiece album that again defies convention and changes the course of heavy music. Just as they have done with each release of their career.
L’Enfant Sauvage translates from French as “The Wild Child”, but the title is not meant in a strict literal sense. The feral nature of humanity and their constant affect on their surrounding world is closer to the real concept of the piece and it is in that savagery that the music and lyrics are represented to the fullest on this album. All of the colors and emotions that make up the struggle of life, become articulated from the intro seconds until the very last notes ring out. The opening track “Explosia” comes with the trademark sound of the band intact. Syncopated riffs, over the top drumming and vocals that have brutality and melody together seem like they are in the DNA of these guys. Then there is the little hook of the repetitive harmonic lick that flows in and out of the song. Double time blast beasts, swinging grooves and impressive guitar work really punctuate this great opening salvo. The title track follows next and is equally harsh. Intricate melodic riffing captures your ear and I doubt anyone can hear this song and not bang their head in agreement to the beat. The early star of the album is drummer Mario Duplantier. As expected, he has turned in one of the top drumming performances of 2012 on this album. Of course in tandem with the talents of his brother Joe, they are the driving force behind the band. “The Axe” is another face melting track with a stellar main riff, top-flight vocal lines and deep lyrics. I can just envision entire crowds screaming along with the chorus live. In the same sense of the best modern metal bands, GOJIRA doesn’t need to rely on guitar solos to express different themes, they just come up with textural guitar work to bring in other flavors and sounds. “Liquid Fire” brings more of the same power and majesty you are accustomed to. To offset the driving beat and impressive guitar work is the return of the vocorder heavy lines that dotted the bands’ other releases. This brings in the prog influence which always goes hand in hand with their sound. This shows that you don’t have to get softer to change sometimes, just weirder.
When the band is finally done kicking your head in from four tracks in a row of punishment, “The Wild Fire” changes things up. With a whimsical tapping riff and a light beat, this little interlude warms your ear up for what comes next. “Planned Obsolescence” might be the best over all track on a perfect album. GOJIRA makes potentially raw chaos sound coherent with clever writing, tempo changes and dynamic sweeps in the singing. The interplay of the guitar parts between Joe and Christian Andreu is also sublime. Intense and full of little surprises, this is the best kind of writing elite metal bands have to offer. “Mouth of Kala” grinds out riffs and pummels, but never plods tempo wise. In addition to the standard rough hewn verses and sing-along chorus parts, there is a cool mellow section that lulls you into a chill space before decimating you again. “A Gift of Guilt” switches things up once again with a slightly lighter chorus and more tapped out central riffs, which is another Duplantier perfected technique. The verses are a heavy as anything that has come out this year on a record. “Pain is a Master” is another killer tune too. “Born In Winter shows the true prog face of the band. This is a track that could pass for a TOOL or even a new RUSH song if you didn’t know what band it was. For any other band this could be a misstep, but again and again this band takes chances that ultimately pay off. More than half the track is gone before a massive chorus comes in, but when it does, it rules. Bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, often the unsung hero of the group gets to shine here and on a few other tracks with his tasteful playing and thick tone. “The Fall” closes out the album in epic style. Brutal vocal flourishes are blended with yet another powerful, modern dirge of a riff.
Singular in vision, particular of taste and supremely talented; GOJIRA is nearly unrivaled in modern metal excellence.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes