It’s been a while since I last “discovered” a metal band that made my blood boil; Animals as Leaders and White Walls were both last year’s thrills (I mean this strictly in the chronological sense), and I’ve been craving some new, carnivorous, brutal beast to observe. Sure enough, Gojira lumbered into my musical biosphere, and they are mighty.
This is definitely a failing on my part, but I’ve never really associated France with metal as a genre, unless one counts Noir Désir, which I don’t, really. As far as I’ve heard, the district of Auvergne really has a thriving rock, post-rock and metal scene, but I guess most French bands don’t manage to break out on the international scene… or I’m just ignorant. Regardless, I was surprised to learn that Gojira were a French band, given that their lyrics are in English, and their sound has a ferocity and precision I’ve encountered before mostly in Scandinavian acts, such as Cult of Luna. This music is tectonic, rumbling, truly massive, giving the impression of patient imminence and barely contained brute force. If I were to use just one word to describe this remarkable album, it would be “density”. The word occurred to me from the very first play-through, but I’ve been having trouble explaining what I mean by that. I will try my best though:
When I think of progressive rock, for example, I expect the musical structures to be very fluid, to shift and reconfigure themselves easily, airily, even in the most somber moments. It’s just the nature of the genre to encompass a “perpetuum mobile” sort of aesthetic, to play with lopsided, challenging structures which don’t have enough mass to remain grounded for long – but this is all implied in the very name of the genre, I doubt I’m saying anything new. L’Enfant Sauvage manages to present an entirely different overall effect, without ever resorting to mindless, tedious repetition for the sake of a “heavy” atmosphere. The notes just cluster together in such a way as to give the impression of tremendous volume packed in a very small space. The music is partitioned in furious little packets of aggression, succeeding each-other with a particular brand of relentlessness, a predatory focus, highly dynamic, without being flashy. One after the other, the riffs tear through the air like stalagmites and stalactites growing in high-speed – cold, jagged and hard, a geological maw closing in around you, unbelievably heavy and dense.
L’enfant sauvage conjures up images of diluted sunlight cascading through narrow siphons in the roofs of caves where wild bears roam and large bats go to roost, without any of it being romantic. They take the romance out of the forgotten, savage places, they take the lovecraftian horror out of the dark corners of the Earth, and they show them bare, in their depopulated, primeval brutality, and it’s beautiful, really. There are cold, damp grottoes in the human psyche which are just aching to find themselves reflected in the dangerous waters these riffs churn and knead.
Gojira’s fifth album – L’Enfant Sauvage (The Savage Child – not “wild”, mind you, that doesn’t quite cover it), instantly became one of my go-to metal albums for those times when you need your music to remind you just how formidable a feat it is for life to rise up against the ataxia and weight of the Earth. In other words, running or writing as if you’re jotting down your last words, that sort of thing. I hope you’ll enjoy these samples as much as I do. See you soon!