Gojira @ O2 Academy Birmingham, 29 June 2019

The between-album tour is a funny old thing standing separate from the usual purposes of touring, i.e. new album promotion, Gojira affixes an excitable grin and proclaims “We’re baaaaack! …for some reason!” Only the deathliest dullards would have an issue with this, obviously, as such tours are never to be expected and are a pleasant surprise, even if it can delay the band getting back into the studio. In this context as well, we have the pleasure of a band doing some headlining gigs during the usual dry spell of festival season, so no moaning. 

First support Black Peaks are like Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and Tool. A Perfect Circle singer Maynard James Keenan fronting a Mastodon/Deftones supergroup. Such an interest-piquing combination promised to turn out to be just fascinating until an enforced cancellation due to illness leaves it squarely on Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi to open the evening. Their set is like having the ingredients of a potentially delicious meal read to you off the recipe without eating it. Subpar sound means the intricacies of their unpindownable post-genre riffy-growly-clean-textural soundscapes racket are lost, and it is left to the imagination to fill in the unheard. Still, they work bloody hard at it and win over a sizable chunk. 

As there is no overriding ‘theme’ to Gojira’s tour, it’s a point of interest for the terminally anal to see how the current set resembles, or differs, from the previous promotional one, for 2016’s Magma album. They open proceedings by plopping their giant French bollocks out on the counter, and cracking open the juddering riff-labyrinth of Oroborus. Being a mid-tempo number it, perhaps wisely, allows for all participating necks to be suitably warmed-up for the rest of the night. 

The warm-up stops there as the fearsome Backbone launches like a coke-addled kickboxing caterpillar with devastatingly tight riffs and grooves, the energy levels of all involved shoot through the roof. Magma’s lead single Stranded takes it even further. Having officially made it past the promotional tour set, and judging by the reception, Stranded deserves to be a future staple despite being a reminder in itself of Magma being somewhat less interesting of an album in comparison to its older brothers.  

It is earnestly hoped that each of Gojira’s six albums would get a look-in, and only sophomore effort The Link is left out in the cold. Meanwhile, debut Terra Incognita fields three. Of the many benefits of such a career-exploratory set is the sheer contract between old and new material. Blow Me Away You(niverse) and Love in particular are sardine-tinned full of delicious riffs and excellently tight grooves, making Magma’s The Shooting Star slightly plodding in comparison. 

The dangerously powerful stomp of Vacuity, a jaw-dropping drum solo from Mario Dupliantier and The Gift of Guilt closes the night, and gives food for thought on Gojira’s current course. With proggy metallic goodness gradually ceding ground (and setlist-space) to art-metal melody, frontman Joe Dupliantier’s promise to come back with ‘new shit’ is moderately ominous. Subjective moany git preferences aside, they have earned all the radio play and wider exposure (having played Glastonbury the previous night, no less) they are currently enjoying and only the stoniest of hearts would greet their greater successes with a scowl. 

Meanwhile, having been thoroughly squashed flat for the duration, when viewed from the side I now resemble one of the playing-card soldiers from Alice in Wonderland. This makes getting home easier as I am able to scale the BT Tower, leap off the side and glide home on a decent wind. 

Review: James Stokes

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