The sound of fireworks may have been echoing around the Tyneside streets but inside Northumbria University, Gojira were intent on delivering an explosive display of their own.
It has been seven years since the release of the French quartet’s third, breakthrough opus, From Mars To Sirius. Seven years which have seen them gain global recognition, release two further critically acclaimed albums (2008’s The Way Of All Flesh and new opus, L’Enfant Sauvage) and even lent their name to an anti-whaling ship.
Their technical, progressive and utterly original take on contemporary metal has won Gojira many fans in the UK, but on the evidence of this show, there is still some way to go before they’re selling out theatres: the crowd, although by no means small, was sparser than you might have expected for a band in the ascendancy – though a bonfire or two, or perhaps Monday blues, might have had something to do with it…
Those who did turn up early were treated to stunning sets from Gojira’s fellow countrymen, Trepalium and Klone. The former got rumps shaking and heads banging with their ‘boogie death metal’ (vocalist KK’s words, not mine), while the latter simply mesmerised: cold, shimmering post rock, soaring melodies and chunky, heavy grooves combined to create something very special indeed.
When it comes to Gallic flair though, no one comes close to Gojira. Their lyrics deal with ecological themes and they support conservation group Sea Shepherd, so it’s fitting that live, the quartet are a force of nature. Wave after wave or titanic, crushing sound crashed against the audience last night, propelled by Mario Duplantier’s pummelling kick drums. The man is one of the best – and most underrated – drummers on the metal scene today, and he is integral to the band’s astonishing performances. Hi s enthusiasm spilled over his drum kit at one point, as he rushed centre stage to urge the crowd into further action… and the sticksman even had the energy to produce a solo.
If Mario is the band’s engine, then his brother, Joe, is its captain. The guitarist/vocalist has grown into a worthy frontman, spearheading Gojira with a confidence gained from years on the road. Aggressive and commanding yes, but completely free of macho knuckle dragging or rock star schtick, he largely lets the music do the talking.
And when you can open with something as devastating as Explosia, or pummel through to a venue’s foundations with The Heaviest Matter In The Universe, you don’t need to spend all night inciting circle pits.
Though there was plenty of emphasis on L’Enfant Sauvage in the Bayonne band’s set – both the title track and The Axe being particular highlights – fans of earlier albums weren’t disappointed either, the band even going back to 2003’s The Link to pluck out the punishing Wisdom Comes.
On a night like this though, notions of ‘classic songs’ aren’t really relevant. Gojira are never likely to release a greatest hits compilation, or write a Nothing Else Matters. They’re plotting a different course to that of metal’s past heroes… and it’s set to be a fascinating journey.