It’s been a bit of a wait for fans of French progressive metallers Gojira. Their latest album has been several years in the making so, whether they like it or not, there is a sense of expectation and anticipation around L’enfant Sauvage (roughly- and not entirely appositely- translated as The Wild Child). At one level, the eagerness to hear new Gojira music stems from the metal scene’s collective desire to see this ridiculously talented band finally get the mainstream acclaim and attention that they surely deserve. At another level, the sense of anticipation is surely tempered by a little anxiety that they might not be able to pull it off and that they might not actually make it.
Ok, you can stop holding your breath now. And you can relax. Not only is L’enfant Sauvage a stunning return to form, it is a record that has power, precision, breadth, depth, nuance and innovation. It is intelligent, passionate and ferocious. It will single handedly reaffirm your belief in the power of the riff and it will have you asking yourself why every other band can’t make records that are as creative, thought-provoking and visceral as this. It is, as you might have already worked out, utterly, utterly brilliant and a record that I cannot recommend highly enough.
There’s a real sense of immediacy around the opening track Explosia which, aptly, explodes through the speakers with a riff that is immediately recognisable as Gojira, and will have you wondering why you’d even had that scintilla of doubt that they wouldn’t come back all guns blazing, all systems go. It’s a brilliant opening, one that within seven seconds (the bit where Joel shouts “Go!!”) of it’s seven minutes will have you cheering from the rafters and heading for the nearest mosh pit.
It just gets better. Liquid Fire takes a stunning repetitive riff and allies it with some fantastic harmonies that probably only Mastodon can pull off with the same level of style and panache. We get a two minute pause for breath with The Wild Healer which is rocky and hippy trippy at the same time: it’s a set up for the triptych of brilliance that folllows: Planned Obsolescence, Mouth of Kala and The Gift of Guilt are simply three phenomenal pieces of music: amongst the best things this band have done, ever. They are complex but not infuriatingly so; tightly woven but not formulaic; expressive but not indulgent. Mouth of Kala, in particular, is heavier than decomposing uranium. This, you understand, is a very good thing indeed.
Born in Winter is a much more mellow but no less heavy track, full to bursting point with ideas, polyrhythmic melodies and a few nods here and there to what Tool have been doing for years. The Fall is a closing track par excellence, progressive and moody, powerful and haunting.
L’enfant Sauvage is the sound of a band upping the ante, throwing down the gauntlet and declaring: look, this is what heavy music can do, this is what heavy music can be. It’s challenging but not confrontational, intellectual but never pompous. It’s the record that they have always threatened to make now delivered in spectacular style. Over time we might come to see this as their Leviathan, their Blackening, their Lateralus. Comparisons, though, are equally helpful and unhelpful. In and of itself, know this then: this is a seriously clever, seriously impressive record that deserves every single one of the plaudits that it is doubtless going to receive. Death metal? This is LIFE metal. Astonishing.