It feels like such a long time since Gojira released ‘The Way of All Flesh’, the 2009 album that cemented the French death-metallers reputation as true metal heavyweights following the monstrous ‘From Mars to Sirius’. Three years isn’t the longest between albums for any band – in fact it’s not unusual – but with Gojira it has felt like an eternity, with only the promise of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ EP for the charity of the same name still in the works, having been announced seemingly ages ago, and the live ‘The Flesh Alive’ DVD as something to tide Gojira fans the world over in anticipation of their new release. Then they signed to Roadrunner, things sped up a little and here we are, with their new album ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’.
The most noticeable difference between their latest work and their predecessors appears to be a shift towards vocal-driven harmonies rather than the bludgeoning riff patterns that we’ve become accustomed to setting their tone. ‘Liquid Fire’ is one example, released as a single for this album and it shows too, possessing a chorus that switches between gruff and clean spoken vocals. At times ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ feels less dynamic that its predecessors, in the riff department at least – towards the end there’s an unfamiliar feeling of drag, particularly ‘The Fall’, by which time it really begins to feel like by-numbers metal. There’s still times when they deliver earth-shattering grooved aggression with their usual aplomb, such as on ‘The Axe’, which has one hell of a pulsating twin-pedal chugging groove that Gojira have become well known for, and the proverbial battering ram of ‘Planned Obsolescence’.
Gojira – Planned Obsolescence
Ultimately ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is a difficult one to surmise. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. Did it have some truly explosive sections where I wanted to go ape? Yes it did. Is it a letdown? Hmmm…considering how Gojira have been lorded since ‘From Mars to Sirius’ and ‘The Way of All Flesh’ dropped, you’d have to say yes. I don’t feel as though that, as good as some of the tracks are, there’s anything half as explosive as on previous albums. ‘The Way of All Flesh’ had marauding technical numbers like ‘Oroborus’, and the raw power of ‘All The Tears’ or ‘Adoration for None’. ‘From Mars to Sirius’ had ‘In The Wilderness’, ‘From the Sky’, to name a couple. Remember, for a death metal band, Gojira aren’t exactly about riff salad – and ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ in particular features a lot of simple riffs that often threaten to blend into one big soufflé, but for some great shifts in tempo and verve from drummer Mario Duplantier.
If I had to choose between this record or any of Gojira’s previous works, I’d probably plump for one of the older records at least 90% of the time. That’s not to say it’s a bad record. Or that’s it’s necessarily their worst. ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is still a damn good metal album and better than a lot of what you’ll probably hear this year, but it isn’t immediate – it will take some of you a few listens to grow into it and indeed, some of you might well be doing similar chin-stroking to me when deciding how to sum up this album. Anticipation’s a bitch, isn’t it?