Friday, July 6, 2012

Gojira Finds Its Wise L'Enfant Sauvage

Gojira may have just released their first album in four years, but releasing L'Enfant Sauvage is only the beginning for the progressive metal band. As frontman Joe Duplantier explains it — albums are made in the studio but come to life on the stage.

"In the studio, it's like surgery. It's so precise and so about the details all the time," says Duplantier. "All of a sudden, on the stage, they just explode and come to life. People grab them and make what they want of them."

Duplantier would know. Gojira has toured heavily for 15 years. The stage has become their home. The band is their family. And for the people who have found them in venues with only ten people or open fields packed with tens of thousands, the band always brings the same ferocious passion with them.

L'Enfant Sauvage is the metal Gojira knows, only wiser, heavier, better. 

The title of the album (translated as the feral child) is a juxtaposition of sorts as it reflects on the responsibility that comes with freedom. So while Duplantier says the album asks questions about freedom without answers, it does carry the underlying theme of a feral child (or wild child) that grew up in nature without the trappings or benefits of society, a symbol of the human spirit.

L'Enfant Sauvage, however, is even more complex. While it's important to preserve the natural state, it's equally important to understand you aren't alone in the world. Acting out as the independent feral child also carries with it a certain conceit, an abandonment of responsibility to others.

The album breaks out with Explosia, a song seemingly about jealousies between countries or cultures as they pursue their varied agendas without regard for the greater world around them. When they realize the entire planet is in peril, the verse asks whether people will rise to the challenge or give up. Given how much semi-industrial dread is packed in the 6-plus minute masterpiece, the verdict here isn't promising.

Equally haunting and more compelling is the title track, L'Enfant Sauvage, which begins with a restrained pulsating foundation that creeps under the skin. As it builds, the song steadily unleashes more fury. The art film the band worked on to accompanying its release as a single reverses the order of things — with the feral child not being born out nature but from the collapse of everything.

Along with the lead songs, there are plenty of other standouts. Mouth of Kala is especially heavy, atmospheric, and emotional. It's an exceptional example of the band's continued ability to capture the essence of slow doom while using precision drumming to its maximum effect.

Pain Is A Master does much the same. The song is equally emotional, but has so much more going on as it peels back the various layers with its wind and whispers before shifting into a breakneck speed with multiple change ups. The emotion comes from pain overriding all the illusions of life.

L'Enfant Sauvage excels with a mature sound and tight messages.

In many ways, the highlighted songs also touch on the biggest change in the band since its earliest beginnings. If they have learned anything after 15 years, it is how to make their points direct and concise even when showcasing their varied talents. And working with producer/engineer Josh Wilbur in New York (Shiny Toy Guns, Lamb of God) didn't hurt either. He obviously pushed the band.

It shows in songs like Planned Obsolescence and The Axe. Lyrically, Planned Obsolescence touches on the notion that we've been tricked by the devil from birth. Musically, it is extremely sinister without surrendering even a second of tightness or precision. The Axe is filled with hammered hooks and chanted lyrics but is also unapologetically direct in describing the tortured price of silence.

Incidentally, while The Axe is as dark as the rest of the album, it carries a sliver of hope in being able to cut away the shadows with even the thinnest of blades, a beam of light. Much different, in my opinion, than L'Enfant Sauvage, where realization comes much too late.

L'Enfant Sauvage By Gojira Evolves 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

L'Enfant Sauvage isn't just good doom metal, it's good metal. And I also like the fact that since this band started in Bayou, France, Duplantier (vocals, guitar) and his brother Mario Duplantier (drums) along with Christian Andreu (guitar) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass) were willing to stick it out, playing hard and progressing until they were finally recognized.

As Duplantier said in one interview, this isn't pop. You can't hope to sell millions of records. You have to work hard at it. Although France has an underground metal scene, few metal bands break out to find international success.

L'Enfant Sauvage by Gojira is available on iTunes. You can also find the CD at Barnes & Noble or find L'Enfant Sauvage on Amazon. Gojira is currently touring with Metallica. You can keep up with their tour dates via Facebook. They will be in North America this August.
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