An artist should pose questions.
Regardless of medium, it's important to ponder humanity's place and function in the universe when a forum exists. Whether or not an answer is reached remains up to the audience's discretion. It's essentially about the journey, not the destination.
On its fifth album and first for Roadrunner Records, L'Enfant Sauvage, French heavy metal goliaths Gojira certainly ask their fair share of questions. The title, which literally means "The wild child," connotes a big question for singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joe Duplantier.
"When you become a musician, you don't have a boss telling you what to do so you have to be very responsible," he affirms. "With freedom comes responsibility so I'm asking myself, 'What is freedom? What does it mean to me?' L'Enfant Sauvage reflects on that. There's no answer though. There's just life and questions."
Joe began asking those questions in 2010 when he commenced writing the album. Gojira had enjoyed a veritable hot streak. After four critically acclaimed independent albums since 2001, the group—Joe, his brother Mario Duplantier [drums], Christian Andreu [guitar], and Jean-Michel Labadie [bass]—had become embraced worldwide.
Metallica handpicked them to open North American and European tours. Lamb of God also took them out on the road, and frontman D. Randall Blythe guested on "Adoration for None." Meanwhile, Joe was invited by the legendary Max Cavalera to handle four-string duties on Cavalera Conspiracy's debut, Inflikted. They also released a high-profile track benefitting the non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization Sea Shepherd. However, after touring for nearly two years in support of 2008's The Way of All Flesh, the quartet found itself at a crossroads.
"It was the first time we were without management, without a record company, and without a crew," reveals Joe. "It was very strange. So we started to compose without knowing what was going to happen. It was a very crucial moment. We had a good opportunity to grow during that period, and time means quality to us."
While writing, the exterior pieces fell into place, and they entered Spin Studios in Queens, New York with producer Josh Wilbur [Lamb of God] towards the end of 2011. "Josh pushed us to give our best. He'd always say, 'You can do better than that.' He helped us get out of our comfort zone and find new strength."
That new strength courses through the record. The seven-minute "Explosia" shudders from hulking riffs, polyrhythmic pummeling and blood-chilling growls before dipping into an ethereal soundscape. Elsewhere, "Planned Obsolescence" roars with doubled robotic vocals and formidable shifting rhythms and grooves. "Mouth of Kala" pushes boundaries even further as each element cascades into one raw exorcism of emotion. Put simply, the songs on L'Enfant Sauvage leave a mark.
"There's a lot of intensity on this record," exclaims Joe. "We have a lot of fire in our minds and bodies, and we need to evacuate it through music. We don't want to burn people with this fire though. We want to make them bang their heads. It's about sculpting this raw energy into something positive."
The group's heavy edge remains brutally intact. In some ways, they're fiercer than ever. Yet Joe has taken time to focus on different lyrical topics especially on the record's first single and title track.
He adds, "I'm at a time in my life where I'm wondering about things differently than I did when I was a teenager. Previously, Gojira albums would talk extensively about the universe, the mysteries of life in general and the destiny of mankind as a whole. L'Enfant Sauvage is closer to my condition in society. I'm not wondering what the species is doing, but what I'm doing. I'm trying to stay a free spirit."
Roadrunner Records has proved to be the perfect home for the French outfit, and together they're going to make an even deeper imprint on metal.
"The music didn't change at all," he assures the group's faithful. "We would've released the exact same record if we were still independent. I want to say that and get it out of the way. Roadrunner has such an incredible legacy and aura. When I was a teenager, I'd buy a record just because it had the Roadrunner logo on it. I'm a huge fan of so many artists the label launched like Death, Sepultura, Fear Factory, Machine Head..."
Ultimately, L'Enfant Sauvage is about preserving integrity and honesty. Gojira haven't strayed from their roots. Instead, they've taken the foundation they made and built a whole new monster with this wild child.
"I'm trying to keep the child inside pure. Without a name, social security number, identification card, or frame of reference," Joe concludes. "This could be a message to all of our fans that you should keep that child alive as much as possible. Or, it could be something else altogether. It's up to you."
You'll be thinking about L'Enfant Sauvage for a long time to come.