I've been tracking the ascent of French metal band Gojira (named, of course, after Japan's national monster) ever since their incredible 2005 album From Mars to Sirius, which I suspect is around the same time the majority of their North American fans discovered them. With rhythms that alternate between brutal and pensive, and melodies that are equal parts straight-up heavy and wildly experimental, they're still a hard band to classify, and they've stayed true to that elusive, ever-morphing form. In the months leading up to their new release L'Enfant Sauvage (“The Wild Child,” also the title of a classic film by Francois Truffaut), the band not only suggested a further evolution in their sound, but also announced that they'd signed with mega-label Roadrunner Records. While I was concerned about the results of tampering with a formula that served them so well over the previous four studio records, my first taste of the new material – in the form of the album's title track – put those worries to rest, and I was ready to dive into the complete experience. I've got the results of my findings on the flipside, as well as their chilling new music video, so have a look and a listen...
Throughout the band's alternating groove, progressive, death and doom-metal passages, one of the unifying elements of Gojira's shape-shifting sound has been the voice of frontman Joseph Duplantier, a coarse and hefty but often melodic instrument in itself... and on this album he's placed slightly more emphasis on his cleaner range, with amazingly powerful results – especially on tracks like “Liquid Fire,” which showcases Joe's Jekyll & Hyde abilities through a barrage of demonic growls alternating with clean mid-range vocals. While there's a stronger overall emphasis on melodic structures and hooky choruses among the juggling time signatures and bizarre fretwork, the overall aggression factor has been ramped up a bit as well – which you'll notice right out of the gate with opening track "Explosia,” a grooving semi-industrial masterpiece woven with dark atmospheric interludes and creepy effects, which along with "Planned Obsolescence" marks the darkest and most sinister works the band has produced to date. The albums' overall balance of solid melody, bold experimentation and balls-out brutality is summed up perfectly in the title track, while the following cut "The Axe" demonstrates their absolute mastery at hammering home gorgeous hooks (vocally and instrumentally), making it one of the most memorable songs on the album.
While they're as ruthlessly tight as the most technically-focused death metal band, what sets Gojira apart is their ability to craft a larger, more cinematic canvas of sound, which in turn gives their intricate picking and machine-accurate drumming (the latter supplied by Joseph's brother, Mario Duplantier) a more savage bite; check out the atmospheric pieces "Mouth of Kala" and "Pain is a Master" for perfect examples of the band's skill with this style of slow-burning doom. The band breaks out their less conventional toolkit for the epic instrumental "The Wild Healer,” which builds its rhythmic core around a haunting synth-like pattern, and again in the superbly haunting "The Gift of Guilt,” with its stunning central riff and Joe's moody vocal delivery (including layers of harmonic overdubs), building energy to a soul-crushing peak. But it's the chaotic closing track "The Fall" where the band pulls out all the stops to inflict the most damage, summoning up a shitstorm of technical death metal which finally implodes in a barbed-wire snarl of noise and feedback.
In L'Enfant Sauvage, somehow Gojira have managed to corral together all of the elements that made From Mars to Sirius a masterpiece, and steer them in new directions; thankfully, those paths led them into bold new creative territory, and the introduction of more melodic hooks does nothing to push them into the “safe zone” of mainstream metal. Not only will that come as a huge relief to their fans, it also proves that the band still has plenty of new tricks up their sleeves and new musical worlds to explore.
For a sample, viddy the creepy stop-motion clip for the title track right here!