Review Summary: A breath of fresh air.
Gojira. Just the mention of the band's name will cause a plethora of scattered opinions ranging from adoration to disgust, as rarely does there come a band as polarizing. With the previous four records, it was clear that Gojira's sound wasn't exactly bound to change, to many people sounding like a more passionate take on Meshuggah-style extreme metal. However, it seems we've finally seen a break from many of the norms this band is known for. L'Enfant happens to be a bit of a rarity in the current state of metal, pulling off brutality and elegance almost perfectly.
What we have here is the band's sound finally coming together and reaching a peak lyrically and musically. Instrumentally, more variation is brought to the table, with the chunky guitar/bass duo being balanced out with the aforementioned elegance, with an extra-melodic side producing a nice atmospheric flavor. The album also happens to be among the band's darkness, only rivaled by The Way of All Flesh; correct me if I'm wrong, but the lyrics seem to convey a sense of freedom and its cost in this world. Songs like "Explosia" and "Liquid Fire" certainly seem to put that concept on display.
Speaking of "Explosia", that happens to be the grand opener, and what an impression it makes! While the song starts out in typical Gojira fashion, with all the thick guitar chords, extremely precise drumming patterns, and Pantera-esque squeals, the second half reveals something more... an identity and a heart. This is especially prevalent in the cathartic moment right in the middle portion where a dark textural feel edges out the brutality and Joe Duplantier sounds very passionate in his near-desperate-sounding shouts.
The "identity" and "heart" are exactly what sets this apart from a lot of the other work Gojira's released; it sounds like Gojira have finally found a sound they're content with, and songs like the reflective "Born in Winter" and the eerie suspenseful "The Gift of Guilt" sound generally more enticing than previous efforts. Much of the reason is that there sounds like a drive and a flow to these songs; more feeling if you will.
Again, though, if you're looking for that heavy edge that originally made this band so notable, the album should appeal to those in that camp as well. "Planned Obsolescence" emphasizes Mario Duplantier's nimble double-bass drumming while the aggressive title track definitely has that "chugga-chugga" feel in the rhythm section as the guitars synchronize and put the riffs into overdrive.
There really isn't much more to say. This has been a long time coming for Gojira, but they seem to have finally found their identity and made a fantastic album that's equal parts bloody and beautiful. What came of this is progressive extreme metal with a real sense of atmosphere and melody to balance out the pummeling brutality. Highly recommended.