Some might be wondering how (and if) Gojira's music has been affected by their move to Roadrunner Records from Prosthetic Records on which they released their finest albums, From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh. Here's my 2 cents...
L'Enfant Sauvage (roughly translated as The Savage Infant) retains all the characteristics of the Gojira sound their fans have come to love and respect over the years. It just puts on display another side of their current sonic vision. On first listen, the songs may feel like they lack a clear melodic focus or the maelstrom of fierce riffing complemented by aggressive vocals. However, the album does present strong melodies and details upon repeat listens. The compositions still bear all the hallmarks of the band's unique brand of metal while perhaps branching off into more experimental territory in places. Rather than focusing on achieving single-minded fury, aggression, or heaviness, the songs are more nuanced, constantly shifting and evolving. The stream of melodious riffing of the opening track "Explosia" is broken down into hypnotic instrumental passages informed by an enchanting clean guitar harmony which slowly morphs into a repetitive guitar drone cast over a landscape of sound textures and background effects towards the finale. Perhaps this is not their greatest album opener, but a very fitting one for this particular album nonetheless.
Still, even in the initial plays, there are moments that will catch your attention. The second the title track kicks in, it presents an infectious guitar theme. It is simplistic but very effective due to its 'catchy' main riff and embodies the band's unmatched songwriting skills. The bass-centric "Liquid Fire" boasts an intoxicating guitar riff that is epic in scope and brilliant in execution. "Planned Obsolescence" starts out like an old-school death metal number, accentuated by octopus drumming and bone-crushing riff work, but a beautiful textural element is distilled into the finale. Likewise, "Pain is a Master" suggests it's the most minimalistic piece on the album due to its dreamy intro and soft, barely audible female spoken vocals. However, it reveals its true identity as it turns into a brutal and savage piece impelled forward by blast beats and molten shards of groove-inflicted guitar work. The final song "The Fall" starts out like it announces the beginning of World War 3; in its middle, it blends chanted vocals with blood-curdling death growls before dissolving into pure white noise as if waking you from your worst nightmare.
Duplantier's vocalization is still characterized by a sense of urgency; he sings the lyrics with a tone of desperation and rage, and his diabolical screams eerily recall the vocals on Novembre's Blue (which they released after taking a break from screamed vocals on their previous disc, Materia). Perhaps on this album, his vocals are slightly more accessible because he uses a wider range of styles, from 'computerized' clean vocal sections to a plethora of deep, chanted vocals which evolve into punishing, feral screams or bowel-churning death growls in most of the songs. The singing on the epic "The Axe" is staggering and works particularly well with the stop-start riffing, which is arguably the best and most headbang-inducing riff on this album. "Born in Winter" is another experiment for Duplantier: his voice is enriched by the wide, crystal clear acoustic passages and a steady drum beat.
While nearly all the songs are marked with the indelible Gojira riffs, there is a good deal of experimentation going on here. The very brief instrumental track "The Wild Healer" finds the band exploring different sound shapes and adding denser arrangements to the heart of the album while "The Gift of Guilt" is possibly their most modern-sounding song to date. It accentuates a very clean vocal part, which is constantly pushed back in the mix and then brought to the front again. It underscores the song's chorus "The time has come" with strong production while the ending of "Mouth of Kala" is so slow and heavy (with breakneck kick drums blasting away in the background) it sounds like something a funeral doom metal band would play if their whole intention was to break every rule set by the genre. Complete with great shifts of rhythmic clusters and complex drum lines, the melody is allowed to develop subtly before it takes over. The celestial chant-esque vocals bring to mind Ulver circa Bergtatt, perhaps because of the tremendous contrast achieved with the emergence of Duplantier's snarling screams later on.
At this point, it is meaningless to try and compare L'Enfant Sauvage with its predecessors. Undoubtedly, Gojira fans will be divided on their favourite album by them. To me, From Mars to Sirius is their high-water mark because it firmly established Gojira's sonic vision while The Way of All Flesh saw them refine their craft with an added element of heaviness. As for this album, it takes the current Gojira sound to its logical conclusion, and we'll see a better picture as to where the band is headed on the next album.
As of 2012, Gojira is the greatest metal band in France.