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Album Review: GOJIRA L'Enfant Sauvage

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If you had asked me several years ago if I ever thought a band like France’s Gojira would be signing to the same label as Slipknot and Trivium and opening up for Metallica, I would have laughed. But after constant praise from critics and fans alike, it makes perfect sense that a band simply this good and consistent should finally be recognized as the international force they’ve been destined to be since 2005’s epic release, From Mars to Sirius. Since then, the band has been winning over fans one show at a time and solidifying their now instantly recognizable take on both groove and death metal. Now in 2012, a time in which groove has become the focal point for countless metal bands, Gojira have managed to make a slightly more accessible album with L’Enfant Sauvage, their major label debut on Roadrunner Records. Mind you, they’re still leaving most of their peers in the dust. 

Major label debuts can often divide a fan base, especially in the metal genre. Hell, it certainly happened when Mastodon released Blood Mountain. While Gojira may lose a few older fans due to the fact that frontman Joe Duplantier’s vocals have taken a more melodic tinge on this new album, it’s only a minor tweak to his already instantly recognizable voice. There’s still plenty of unadulterated rage on tracks like “Explosia” and “Planned Obsolescence”. All of the familiar elements one should come to expect from a Gojira album are here in spades. There are catchy riffs aplenty, pick slides and pinch harmonics up the wazoo, loads of memorable vocal melodies, and drum wizard Mario Duplantier’s positively dominating drum performance. L’Enfant Sauvage never derails into superfluous prog wankery, and certainly takes time with each passing riff. The prime example of this would probably be in “The Axe”, where Gojira finds the money riff and tactfully rides it out for the last third of the song. It’s simple, effective, and should get stuck in your head for weeks to come.

Gojira certainly aren’t afraid to try a few new things, either. The album’s opener immediately hits you with a massive groove before delving into what sounds like a progressive metal take on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. Strange? Maybe, but it’s downright awesome within the context of the song. “Liquid Fire” and “Born in Winter” also show that the band is certainly capable of writing catchy choruses for days on end without sacrificing any grit. But perhaps the best change Gojira have made with L’Enfant Sauvage is choosing to make the album a noticeable ten minutes shorter than their previous two LPs. Complaints have always come their way that their albums have been too long, and L’Enfant Sauvage recognizes this, keeping the album at a modest 53 minute runtime. It certainly helps the listener in remembering each song and just begs to be replayed again and again.

Why should you care about yet another groove metal album in 2012? Because Gojira don’t seem like they’re trying. L’Enfant Sauvage seems almost effortless, and shows that the band know exactly what they need to sound like to get heads a-bobbing and fists a-pumping. No frills, no unnecessary technicality, and certainly no mindless electronic interludes. If  Meshuggah are the Melvins of groove metal (the weird band everyone tries to rip off), then Gojira are the genre’s High on Fire (dependable as hell and incredibly heavy). Regardless of what metal niche you may find yourself in these days, you need to hear this.

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Rating: 8/10

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