Arriving in Birmingham just one day after the release of the fifth album, L’Enfant Sauvage, French metal titans Gojira have packed Academy 2 with 600 fans eagerly anticipating a band renowned for its spectacular performances. As the band themselves say “there are no half measures”. For the time they’re on stage, around 70 minutes this evening, the four-piece give it everything they’ve got. And they sound immense.
Support tonight comes from London prog-metallers, The Safety Fire, who do a fine job of giving the crowd some intricate yet blisteringly fierce tunes to set the mood for the headliners. Touring in support of their debut album, Grind the Ocean, there’s a lot going on within their music and the boys’ technical skill impresses, but I quickly find my mind wandering. Frontman, Sean McWeeney, has a voice with as much raw aggression as melody, but ultimately I feel they’re lacking in truly memorable songs.
Growing up miles from anywhere in Bayonne, France, the boys in Gojira have been playing music together for 16 years, but it’s only in the past 4 or 5 years that the metal world has really begun to recognise their greatness. Performances at festivals like Download, Sonisphere and Bloodstock have helped bring their music to a wider audience and the new album is certainly their most anticipated yet. Known for their environmentally-themed lyrics and intensely powerful rhythms, Gojira may just be the first French metal band to truly make an impact on the international music scene.
Tonight they begin as they mean to go on with the monstrously heavy Space Time from their debut album, Terra Incognita, before upping the ante with the track which could be their signature tune – The Heaviest Matter of the Universe – and the fan favourite, Backbone. Songs from the new album sit perfectly next to established numbers and the crowd welcomes every song with equal enthusiasm.
Musically, every band member excels, and Joe Duplantier’s vocals are magnificent, but it’s his brother Mario, on drums, whose playing is the secret weapon to Gojira’s sound. Easily one of the best drummers around at the moment, Mario effortlessly creates intricately complex rhythms before hitting his kit so hard you think his sticks will shatter.
Joe jokes about the TV screens in the venue, strangely advertising gigs which happened over a month ago, and tells us how bassist, Jean-Michel Labadie, is suffering from a painful infection but still plays like a trooper. Flying Whales sounds every inch the masterpiece and the title track from the new album ends an intensely heavy yet almost spiritual set.
If there’s any justice in this world, Gojira will be headlining the main room here before too long. They are, in my humble opinion, the best metal band on the planet right now.
Review & photos – Steve Gerrard