Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage

Review: Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage

GOJIRA
L’ENFANT SAUVAGE (2012)

France, Roadrunner Records, Progressive/Groove/Death Metal

A metal reviewer, especially a fan of both progressive metal and death metal, may be tempted to write two reviews for L’Enfant Sauvage: the first would praise the mature, alternative side of this more melodic release, and highlight the ecological lyrics and conceptual decadence. The second, the TDM review, laments the melodic focus, and especially mourns the loss of the pace changes and technical bursts that made Gojira so memorable.

Although Gojira has never dwelt in the crypts with Suffocation and Defeated Sanity, past releases boasted consistently crushing heaviness. The gargantuan production and squeaking slides remain on L’Enfant Sauvage, but the introduction of melodic passages, clean vocals, alternative rock melodies, and auto-tuning steadily move Gojira away from the deathly norm…and some of their fans. And yes, you read that right, auto-tuning.

L’Enfant Sauvage still packs a few riffs big enough to crumble a moon, but these parts take second stage to a commerciality akin to Soilwork. While the slower strumming and half shouts make for a diversity in the band’s catalog that may be highlighted in the non-TDM review, tracks like “The Aex” will make deatheads reach for the skip button. Same with the two-and-a-half minutes of plodding outro on “Explosia,” and the instrumental interlude “The Wild Healer.”

While some of the atmospheric tracks are interesting, and some of the lyrics inspiring (the haunting “The Gift of Guilt,”) much of L’Enfant Sauvage will leave metal fans scratching their heads rather than banging them (i.e. the auto-tuning on “Liquid Fire.”) Gojira succeeds here in the avant- garde/alternative sense, and this will definitely win the band some new fans. However, the choice to focus on the not heavy side of things, as impressive as some moments are, will alienate those who dig on the brutal side of things.

TDM rating: Sadly, Gojira has dropped a lot of the death metal elements, so this rating doesn’t seem to apply.

Non-TDM rating: 7/10

Reviewer: Witness to the Void

 

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3 thoughts on “Review: Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage”

  1. I’m not sure you and I listened to the same album.

    If anything, the majority of your criticisms concerning ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ are exactly why ‘Way Of All Flesh’ was such a disappointment, even if it was still a *good* record. The auto-tune on ‘Liquid Fire’ is a vast improvement from the god awful ‘Sight To Behold’ pseudo-electronica. Hell, ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ boasts many more technical bursts and pace changes than the vast majority of ‘Way Of All Flesh’. Even the better tracks on that album are easily Gojira’s least varied and technically inclined.

    As far as the ‘commercial’ aspect is concerned, I couldn’t disagree more. A cleaner, smoother and more progressive sound does not equal commercialism. Akin to Soilwork? Soilwork isn’t fit to lick the dirt from Gojira’s boots. Also, ‘Adoration For None’ wasn’t commercialism? It featured Randy ‘Drunk Off My Ass’ Blythe from Lamb Of God, the most commercial ‘metal’ band this side of Metallica.

    Besides, Gojira has always placed an emphasis on clean vocals, melodic passages and so called ‘alternative rock’ bits. Case in point, ‘Satan Is A Lawyer’ from ‘Terra Incognita’. Don’t get me wrong, you’re free to dislike any portion of this album you wish, I just find it odd that every criticism I’ve heard of ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ applies tenfold to ‘Way Of All Flesh’, an album people are still salivating over. I mean sure, it wasn’t a bad album but just like ‘ObZen’ for Meshuggah, it’s easily the weakest in Gojira’s entire discography. Hell, I think I’m gonna tear into that record like I did for ‘ObZen’ here in a few days.

    1. Hey man, I am totally with you on all fronts here! I think you misinterpreted my message. I agree with you completely about “The Way of All Flesh;” I really couldn’t get that into it. After reading your comment and returning to the previous album, I can hear much of the same complaints I had for “L’Enfant Sauvage,” (which I never claimed was any better or worse). Similarly, I agree with you in that I never understood why everyone goes nuts for “The Way;” while not a bad record, I never got really that excited about it. As you notice if you look over the review again, I never even mentioned the previous album, as I had similar complaints towards it (however, I try to focus explicitly on the album reviewed and not on the back catalog, and I try to keep to a trim 300 words).

      I enjoyed some of the experimentation on “The Way,” including the weird electronic on “A Sight to Behold,” which reminded me of experimental death metal in the vein of Azure Emote…however I rarely listen to the entirety of the song. As for Randy Blythe, I have really gotten away from Lamb of God’s material in the past few albums, as they seem pretty standard, but I still think “As the Palaces Burn” was a fantastic record.

      I also agree on the point that a cleaner and more progressive sound does not necessarily equate to commercialism. I think some of the bands with really clean production are far from mainstream: some technical death metal bands have crystal clear production to hear those millions of notes. However, here I was commenting that the abundance of melodic passages in Gojira’s recent outputs (“The Way” just as much as “L’Enfant”), in contrast to the heavy parts, may alienate fans who were on the fringe, such as myself. Before I considered myself a big Gojira fan, but after the last two records, I can’t really say that anymore. I was really hopeful for this release (after being semi-disappointed with “The Way,”), but I won’t be counting down the days leading to the next Gojira album.

      And dude, I am so glad you voiced that about “ObZen!” I thought I was the only metalhead in the world not head-over-heels for it. Why is everyone so obsessed with that record?! I am a huge Meshuggah fan, and I think they are one of the most influential bands of the 2000-2010 decade (in metal), but I really don’t understand the preference for “ObZen” over Meshuggah’s other records. Maybe it was the first Meshuggah album people got into? Whatever it is, it didn’t click for me; I will take “Nothing” over “ObZen” eleven times out of ten. Hah, I always thought it was just ‘cuz I was getting old!

      1. “I think you misinterpreted my message. I agree with you completely about ‘The Way of All Flesh’. After reading your comment and returning to the previous album, I can hear much of the same complaints I had for ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’, (which I never claimed was any better or worse).”

        That’s cool. I actually didn’t really know what your thoughts were on ‘Way Of All Flesh’ but I also didn’t necessarily mean to suggest that you favor one over the other or something.

        “Similarly, I agree with you in that I never understood why everyone goes nuts for ‘The Way’; while not a bad record, I never got really that excited about it. As you notice if you look over the review again, I never even mentioned the previous album, as I had similar complaints towards it (however, I try to focus explicitly on the album reviewed and not on the back catalog, and I try to keep to a trim 300 words).”

        I’m glad you agree with me on ‘Way Of All Flesh’. I know you didn’t reference it here but a lot of your critiques for ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ brought it to mind. In retrospect, I didn’t phrase my comment exactly the way I wanted to. It was meant less as a ‘hey why do you like (x) but hate (y)’ and more of a ‘I see more of the problems you mention in (x) and not (y)’. I dunno.

        “I enjoyed some of the experimentation on ‘The Way’, including the weird electronic on ‘A Sight to Behold’, which reminded me of experimental death metal in the vein of Azure Emote…however I rarely listen to the entirety of the song.”

        I can barely bring myself to listen to that song at all. I appreciate Gojira experimenting but at the same time it fell completely flat. It’s funny you mention Azure Emote because to me their album ‘Chronicles Of An Aging Mammal’ is a perfect example of how to take so many disparate genres and make something better than the sum of its parts. Especially the electronic bits.

        “As for Randy Blythe, I have really gotten away from Lamb of God’s material in the past few albums, as they seem pretty standard, but I still think ‘As the Palaces Burn’ was a fantastic record.”

        ‘As The Palaces Burn’ is definitely better than whatever the hell they’re doing now but on the rare ocassion that I do listen to Lamb Of God (doesn’t happen often but every once in a while it isn’t bad) I reach for ‘New American Gospel’. At least Randy was unashamedly drunk off his ass for that one. I think I dislike Lamb Of God less for their music (since it rarely ever dips below ‘OK’) and more for how many youngsters think they’re the hottest shit on the planet. It’s upsetting when a mediocre band is held up as the shining example of their genre. People in the market for excellent groove metal ought to check out Pissing Razors or Byzantine, not Lamb Of God. I’ll take a rabid Metallica fanboy over a rabid Lamb Of God fanboy; at least the Metallica fanboy is good for a laugh or two.

        “I also agree on the point that a cleaner and more progressive sound does not necessarily equate to commercialism. I think some of the bands with really clean production are far from mainstream: some technical death metal bands have crystal clear production to hear those millions of notes. However, here I was commenting that the abundance of melodic passages in Gojira’s recent outputs (‘The Way’ just as much as ‘L’Enfant’), in contrast to the heavy parts, may alienate fans who were on the fringe, such as myself.”

        That makes sense.

        “Before I considered myself a big Gojira fan, but after the last two records, I can’t really say that anymore. I was really hopeful for this release (after being semi-disappointed with ‘The Way’,), but I won’t be counting down the days leading to the next Gojira album.”

        I’d like to see them do something more akin to their ‘Terra Incognita’ days again. Maybe a mixture of the chaotic violence of that record and the soothing melodies of a song like ‘Gift Of Guilt’. I’m not exactly sure how that’d work though. I will say that I do prefer ‘Koloss’ to ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’, without a doubt. I have no idea why so many people have badmouthed ‘Koloss’, it has some of Meshuggah’s best new material on it. ‘Swarm’, ‘Marrow’, ‘Do Not Look Down’, ‘Demon’s Name Is Surveillance’, ‘Demiurge’, ‘The Hurt That Finds You First’ and ‘Behind The Sun’ all continue to blow my mind. Hell, even the weirder, slower tracks like ‘I Am Colossus’ and ‘Break Those Bones(…)’ are awesome.

        “And dude, I am so glad you voiced that about “ObZen!” I thought I was the only metalhead in the world not head-over-heels for it. Why is everyone so obsessed with that record?!”

        I still have no idea.

        “I am a huge Meshuggah fan, and I think they are one of the most influential bands of the 2000-2010 decade (in metal), but I really don’t understand the preference for ‘ObZen’ over Meshuggah’s other records. Maybe it was the first Meshuggah album people got into?”

        It’s the album that got me into Meshuggah but as soon as I discovered their other work it simply wasn’t as groundbreaking as I had thought. You know what shocks me? The number of Meshuggah fans that openly profess to never listening to ‘Destroy, Erase, Improve’ entirely. They can remember ‘Future Breed Machine’, ‘Vanished’ and maybe ‘Beneath’ but that’s usually about it. It’s a damn shame because outside of ‘Nothing’, the material on ‘Destroy, Erase, Improve’ is easily my favorite in the band’s discography.

        Ironically enough, ‘Way Of All Flesh’ was the album I used to get into Gojira…but just like Meshuggah, when I discovered their older albums, it wasn’t even half of what it had been. I don’t think they’ll ever top ‘From Mars To Sirius’ though. That album…I’m gonna put it on right now actually.

        “I will take ‘Nothing’ over ‘ObZen’ eleven times out of ten.”

        Without a doubt.

        People need to stop raggin’ on ‘Catch 33’ too. I’m shocked at the number of people I’ve met that say ‘I don’t like that album because Tomas didn’t actually drum on it’. What a crock of shit.

        …but yeah, ultimately, I think I didn’t express my comment in the way I had originally intended. I understand why you’re not all that crazy about ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ though. Personally, I loved just about all of it. It faltered here and there but I’d put it on par with ‘The Link’ at 3rd place in Gojira’s discography behind ‘Terra Incognita’ and ‘From Mars To Sirius’.

        Out of curiosity, what’s your favorite song off of ‘From Mars To Sirius’? Mine’s easily the title track(s). Can’t play one without the other really.

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