To say that L’Enfant Sauvage is a highly-anticipated album for me is certainly an understatement. As soon as the extreme French metallers, who hail from Bayonne, announced they were re-entering the studio, I followed their progress with excitement. What I am trying to communicate here is that I fucking love Gojira. If you’re looking for a disinterested hipster review of the album that poo-poos what these Japansese-monster-moving-loving gents are trying to do, I recommend that you look elsewhere. This band pushes all my buttons, hits me in all the right places, from my Viking warrior brain to my delicate girls parts. I hope you will forgive me if I gush.
L’Enfant Sauvage is the fifth studio album from Gojira, who have become known for their environmentally-themed lyrics and emotionally intense, physically demanding instrumentation. The title of the album means “the wild child,” and I believe this is a reference to a famous case of a feral child being discovered in France in 1798 [I thought for sure it meant “The baby sausauge.” – AMG]. The boy was apparently abandoned as a very small child and lived as an animal for most of his life. He was eventually discovered and trapped by hunters when he was eleven or twelve, he seemed to have never been able to speak, and was taken to Paris to be studied by experts and educated. Feral children, also called “isolates,” show profound developmental differences from people who have been socialized normally, and often offer scientists a fascinating and tragic look into the ways that we learn and develop relationships as social creatures.
It is clear that Gojira wanted to embody the sense of wildness in this album. The emotional tone is desperate and feral, like the growls of a human animal backed into a corner. But it is not all ferocity either, as they also channel the profound loneliness of the isolate’s plight, the primal drive for contact and companionship that is never fulfilled until it gradually twists and grows into a pure, animal violence. But, dovetailed with this emotional core of savagery is an equally strong sense of restraint. L’Enfant Sauvage is not simply about the wildness and ferocity of what makes us human being broken down, but also the painful, difficult process of reclaiming our humanity. This is embodied the most in two songs, “The Gift of Guilt” and “Pain is a Master,” which conceptually explore some of the most difficult and challenging part of the human condition while musically creating tumultuous, cerebral storms. They ache and thrash, often writhing in anguish, but never ceasing to fight, to rattle and pull against confining chains.
The album opens with the trembling, tautly wound “Explosia” which hits the listener like something between a plague of locusts and a thunder cloud. As the album pours forth, the lyrical eloquence of the songs is matched only by their musical sophistication. As technically dense and aggressive and death metal, Gojira never privilege the instrument over the emotion or the idea, so as complex as the music becomes it is always the conceptual and emotional core that remains the strongest part of L’Enfant Sauvage. Every jagged tempo, every anguished rasp in the vocals is precisely, artfully deployed. This record reminds you that the heart is a muscle.