In a statement about Gojira’s fifth album, L’Enfant Sauvage, (translation The Wild Child), frontman Joe Duplantier wrote, “When you become a musician you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. [But] with freedom comes responsibility.”
French filmmaker Francois Truffaut may have asked himself the same question when he directed L’Enfant Sauvage in 1970. The movie is about a child raised in the wilderness, who is captured and urged to abandon his wild ways. Even when civilized, however, he retains his wild streak, or “freedom.” The same can be said of Gojira. Whether or not Duplantier was referencing Truffaut when he and his band wrote the follow-up to 2008′s The Way of All Flesh, by taking creative liberties and reveling in his musical options, Gojira broke boundaries and crafted their finest record and a strong contender for metal album of the year.
Duplantier’s awareness of his responsibility to his fans is what makes L’Enfant Sauvage more than an experimental hodge-podge of distorted guitar noise and arrhythmic composition. The songs are arranged to be sensible and palatable, presented in a framework of atmosphere and melody that tempers the turmoil. It’s not that Gojira have made concessions to their audience; they’ve merely become aware of what makes a good song great, and accepted that toning down some of the dissonance of past releases is a solid way to connect with people who maybe love Tool but consider Meshuggah a bit too far out there.
On L’Enfant Sauvage, each track offers a little of everything: polyrhythmic hammering, churning death metal guitars, staccato riffs, melody-tinged hooks, quasi-tuneful screams and atmospheric interludes. But even when Gojira employ multiple rhythm and tempo shifts within a song, they come at logical moments, reducing the jarring effect on the listener. Halfway through the aptly titled “Explosia,” a calm-before-the-storm is broken by three undistorted guitar notes yielding to a wall of feedback. The rest of the song is colored with variations on the three-note lick, the tone of which is reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti-Western soundtrack.
Elsewhere, Gojira toy with slower tempos and more ambient arrangements: “Liquid Fire” and “Planned Obsolescence,” for instance, slip a Vocoder between blast beats and syncopated uptempo rhythms. The constant juxtaposition between malignancy and euphoria keeps L’Enfant Sauvage enthralling: This isn’t the type of contrast between crushing thrash and melodic pop that metalcore bands have beaten into the ground. It’s a nearly symphonic style of composition that draws strength from the ebb and flow of one musical section into the next. With L’Enfant Sauvage, Gojira have embraced their musical freedom and in the process made their dystopian rage more accessible than ever.