Gojira return to their earth-shaking ways with punishing album ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’

I don’t know what goes on in France that makes them a little more whacked out than the rest of the world. That’s at least as far as their metal is concerned. It seems like just about everything that country puts into play when it comes to extreme music is pretty out there, no matter what sub-genre it concerns, and you never get anything from that land’s artists that can be labeled conventional.

When it comes to black metal, how can one easily explain or digest bands such as Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and Glorior Belli, whose last album was kind of pulled back considering their past work but probably sounds pretty messed up to virgin ears. If you want to go with more mechanically minded musicians, how about the blasphemous industrial noise churned out by Blacklodge, one of the weirdest, loudest, and patience-challenging bands in any genre anywhere? There’s also Gojira.

Now, when we tackle the progressive death metal band that grabbed its name from one of the pronunciations given to the mighty Godzilla, it’s not quite the same confusion stew as those other bands. For one, they are massively more digestible on first listen, and apparently Metallica wasn’t too scared of these guys to take them out as a tour opener. Their melodies and hooks are there up front, and Gojira are far easier to understand than, say, Deathspell, but they are by no means conventional. Their work is heavy as hell, their tempos can be pretty violent, and they can be tricky, mathy and confusing, certainly rendering more than one listener with a titled head. Their music always has been wildly interesting and innovative, and on their fifth record “L’Enfant Sauvage,” they open things even more than before and come up with one of their best recordings yet.

I wasn’t entirely enthralled with “The Way of All Flesh,” their last album released way back in 2008. I can’t believe it’s been that long, actually. It’s not a bad record at all, really, but it never excited me the way “From Mars to Sirius,” their third record, did. It always seemed like this band — guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier, guitarist Christian Andreau, bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, drummer Mario Duplantier — was capable of a higher gear, but they never really seemed able to snap into it. That all changes on “Sauvage,” easily their most explosive album yet, a record that should catapult them from interesting mind-benders to metallic dominators.

You can hear that fire and hunger in their playing, especially when Joe Duplantier howls, “Go!” moments into opener “Explosia,” a tricky, ultra massive slab of power that builds to a strong breakdown that sounds like it could split open the Earth. The title cut is fast and aggressive, eventually becoming a little proggy and calculating, but even the scientific stuff going on here doesn’t undercut the quaking. “Liquid Fire” is more robotic, but not in a dull way at all, as the vocals are gruff but melodic, and eventually group singing is channeled through a Vocoder, transforming the song from machine-like to extraterrestrial (think Cynic). “Planned Obsolescence” goes back to being gut-busting and massive, with a fairly downtuned chorus and some cool programming to keep you guessing.

“Mouth of Kala” is one of the doomiest songs in their history, and it’s dressed with Apocalyptic horns and darkness; “The Gift of Guilt” has a sweet finger-tapped opening and eventually goes a little off the deep end with the weirdness; “Pain Is a Master” is practically its partner in sci-fi, boiling beaker madness, and it’s still taking some time to warm up to this track; “Born in Winter” pulls back a bit, with deeper vocals and a pretty interesting melodic progression that stands apart form the rest of the record; and “The Fall” spills string gloopiness, feedback, thick bass, and all-out heaviness into one pot, bringing this record to an end in the proper manner. It feels like head-bursting destruction.

A couple of just-OK songs aside, Gojira seems to have found their footing and are ready to make their statement as being one of metal’s go-to bands. They’re weird enough to satisfy those who don’t like run-of-the-mill independent metal, and they’re approachable enough that they’re bound to turn heads on the upcoming Lamb of God/Dethklok tour. “L’Enfant Sauvage” is fine work indeed, one that satisfies the hunger left over from “The Way of All Flesh.”

For more on the band, go here: http://gojira-music.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://gojira-music.com/buy

For more on the label, go here: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/