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L’Enfant Sauvage

Roadrunner (2012)
Rating: 9/10

While I have seen Gojira live a few times and have heard bits and pieces of their prior albums, L’Enfant Sauvage is my first experience with a complete Gojira thought. And let me tell you, these French guys have a lot of thoughts! This album is a giant wall of sound that reminds me almost immediately of powerful sounding bands like Down, Mastodon, early Strapping Young Lad, more recent In Flames and Lamb of God (albeit to a lesser degree). L’Enfant Sauvage is just a really thick slab of metal that has every bit the progressive nature of Mastodon and twice the energy.

The album opens with the nearly seven minute ‘Explosia’. This opening would kill a lesser band in a heartbeat. It’s long, abrasive and completely overpowering. It’s practically impossible not to be sucked into it by the 90-second mark to be honest, and that surprises no one more than myself (who detests both intros and extremely long songs)! Everything about this song hits perfectly from the trippy vocals to the spiralling echoes of the guitars.

The title track reveals itself next with a strong punch that fades into an almost nineties alternative rock sensibility. ‘The Axe’, ‘Mouth Of Kala’ and ‘Liquid Fire’ continue to reinforce this band’s established identity. The high end bass work of ‘Born in Winter’ elevates the album a couple of more notches. While it’s a melancholic offering, it’s also a very thick one that again brings to mind Strapping Young Lad’s Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing (1995) and City (1997) albums.

‘The Wild Healer’ stops everything mid-album with its completely wrong yet completely amazing guitar work. I dare say it’s unlike anything else out there. It’s a short track and, in a way, a bridge of sorts but it’s also easily my favourite track on the album. ‘The Gift Of Guilt’ is another song that finds the band shifting gears. It’s got the extraordinary guitar playing that you are expecting by this point and a nice bounce that pulls you straight down into the rabbit hole before snuffing you out with its heavy riffage.

I’m not sure exactly how this compares to previous albums, but I do know that L’Enfant Sauvage will greatly excite any fan of heavy music. There’s a ton of nu-metal and stoner metal influence here, but if you listen closely enough you’ll also hear a ton of really progressive pieces as well. They really kind of blend everything that’s cool (which isn’t much) about the late 90s and the new millennium into one entirely new thing. If I had to sit through all the crap that came out during those years just to get to this album, it’d be totally worth it. Gojira are damn near perfect here.

Mark Fisher

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