Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
Since the release of From Mars To Sirius, Gojira have become something of a phenomenon: a fantastically heavy death metal band from France that is universally adored and admired. 2008's The Way Of All Flesh cemented their place at the top end of the underground, headlining their own tours and with two stints supporting Metallica. So now with L'Enfant Sauvage, there comes a huge weight of expectation for them to deliver something very special - an album that will show the masses what heavy really means.
And L'Enfant Sauvage is exactly that, a masterclass in combining brutal riffs and great tunes in one succinct, bone-crushing package. Gojira have very quickly created an identity that is so distinctly theirs, a backbone that runs through their work; not just Joe Duplantier's harsh growls and the beastly guitar tone, but the whole approach and songwriting is unmistakably Gojira. In an age where influences are far too easy to spot as many bands creep ever closer to mimicry, it is so refreshing to hear something very different and imaginative.
But a problem comes in the fact that L'Enfant Sauvage is missing one key ingredient that earlier works had by the bucket-load: progression. Whereas previously Gojira grew and took huge leaps forward, L'Enfant Sauvage essentially re-imagines those initial explorations. For instance, 'Born In Winter' bears a remarkable resemblance to the two-part title track of From Mars To Sirius, whilst 'The Axe' rather echoes 'Esoteric Surgery'. And nothing here ever matches the stellar heights of 'The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe' or 'The Art Of Dying'. No one track leaps out and declares itself as an instant classic.
This hardly ruins the album and Gojira remain, and will do so for many years to come, at the vanguard of a resurgent metal scene in which they continue to lead the way in marrying the violence, melody and a worthwhile message in their own inimitable way. L'Enfant Sauvage is a record that will only serve to enhance their burgeoning reputation, and quite rightly too, even if it doesn't build upon their impressive body of work as much as might have been hoped.