Joe Duplantier surveys the sweaty, heaving, sold-out Academy and recalls that Gojira’s first show in Bristol had to be cancelled because they sold just four tickets. Yep, the rise of the boys from Bayonne from total obscurity to become one of metal’s brightest hopes at a time when the old guard are dropping like flies has been nothing short of meteoric. It helps, of course, that prog-metal is in the ascendant, with the likes of Devin Townsend and Bill Bailey’s fave band Mastodon packing out concert halls around the world. Gojira’s gradual move away from death metal has been more organic than opportunistic, however, and they’d have got to this level under their own steam regardless of fashion.
Ferocious opener Only Pain is the first of six songs from accomplished new album Magma – a cathartic burst of fury driven, like so much of Gojira’s material, by the stunning polyrhythmic drumming of Joe’s brother Mario, which is complemented by an equally precise, percussive lightshow. It’s not quite Meshuggah intense, but gets pretty close. Crowd favourite The Heaviest Matter of the Universe follows. It’s the first of three songs drawn from their 2005 environmental concept album From Mars to Sirius, which unexpectedly shares the spotlight with Magma during the first half of the set, the epic, ultra-heavy Flying Whales proving a particular highlight.
Terra Inc, the hypnotically beautiful instrumental ‘hidden track’ from Terra Incognita, provides a welcome change of pace and showcases Joe Duplantier and fellow guitarist Christian Andreu’s versatility. Oddly, the title song from 2012’s L’Enfant Sauvage is the only thing they play from that album, but it is an absolute corker, built upon a striking stacatto guitar figure. The dreaded drum solo follows, proving that some metal traditions never die, but at least it doesn’t outstay its welcome and heralds the triple whammy of The Shooting Star, Toxic Garbage Island and set-closer Pray, whose chanted vocals and psych-prog feel hint at new territory ripe for fruitful exploration by this most adventurous of bands. Thrilling encores Oroborus and Vacuity underline the suspicion that Gojira’s time has come and they really are festival headliners in waiting.
Read more: Metal & Prog picks: March 2017