Gojira at Brixton AcademySupport: Rolo Tomassi
June 30, 2019 at Brixton Academy
Promoter: Live Nation
Wow, so Gojira are playing a sold out Brixton Academy!? Actually, I told you so. Back in 2013 they came through here as part of a package tour promoted by a certain tequila brand, and in my review for another site I said it was only a matter of time before they headlined here. That night they played support to Ghost, and kind of blew them off stage I have to admit, but let’s see if tonight’s support act can do something similar.
Rolo Tomassi is a fun name to Google, but the band are a lot less fun to listen to. I haven’t seen the band for about ten years and didn’t enjoy their super heavy, growling, progressive hardcore then, but I was intrigued to see if they’d progressed. Musically they have: they’ve now added a richer palette of synths and post hardcore guitar lines and softer passages. But whenever Eva Spence starts her, admittedly fearsome, Cookie Monster growling I still want to head to the hills, which I do, and by ‘hills’ I mean the bar. Yes, they are musically adventurous, incorporating some decent ambient touches, but to be honest they could be playing a mix of Mahler and the Beach Boys – it wouldn’t mean a damn thing to me once the super-extreme vocals kick in. Not for me guys, sorry.
Gojira kick off with ‘Oroborus’ as a giant corona revolves on the screens behind, quickly establishing their the-world-is-burning eco-metal credentials. ‘Oroborus’ is a good tune, but hardly one of their best known or most commercial, and it’s a sign that the band are not going to play it safe tonight. The set draws from across their entire back catalogue, across fourteen numbers, meaning that the death metal faithful get some surprises; and yet, what is striking is that no matter how heavy or plaintive or epic or damn weird they get, it always sounds like Gojira.
The first three numbers are marked by some fearsome pyros and massive double kick-drum abuse from Mario – tearing through them in a Slayer-esque manner before ‘Stranded’ shows off the stadium-filling aspirations of the Magma LP – the most Metallica-like thing since, er . . . Metallica. Those references are not chosen lightly, it’s at this point in the show that becomes apparent to an old soldier like me that Gojira are now masters of their art. When they are at their best they remind me of seeing Metallica and Slayer at their peak in the late 80’s – circa Master of Puppets and South of Heaven. The band do need to write a few more anthems though if they are to make the next step up, something the group are keen to do; as Joe admits near the end, they want to keep doubling the size of the venues they play each time they return to London. Yes, during the whale-noise intro to the awesome ‘Flying whales’ the crowd joins in with a massed vocal and ‘Silvera’ and ‘The Cell’ have punch-the-air singalong choruses, but there are just as many moments of intense, super-extremity, akin to Slipknot – check the deranged power of ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ – this is still very much the sound of the underground rising. Early tune ‘Love’ is challenging industrial tech metal – but has lovely arty, black and white visuals, something the band have worked on to brilliant effect.
The foursome are never in the spotlight, always part of something bigger as the screens display awe-inspiring natural scenes – mountains, volcanic eruptions, gigantic stormy seas. Indeed, Gojira shows are a complete-package spiritual, immersive experiences – sound and vision combined to serve the music and the message – and as such have an emotional heft not often felt in rock music. This, unfortunately, is keenly felt when the lighting-rig packs up and the band are forced to perform for a while without some of their carefully crafted ambiance. It leaves them exposed and me wondering if they have show-closing tunes to pull off a big ending, because it’s feeling a bit scrappy on stage during the encore. Then it all clicks visually and ‘Vacuity’ is majestic and heroic, if not exactly begging for audience engagement! The show ends with ‘Gift of Guilt’, it’s beautiful, almost baroque guitar-lines ringing round the room as burning fragments shower down on the screen in another moment of poignant, perfectly pitched melancholy.
Technical glitches aside, this was a triumph for Gojira, playing a packed Academy to a rapturous reception without compromising their beliefs or their death metal roots. They display an ambition, dedication to their craft and a grand vision to keep them moving up towards the top table in the halls of metal. They just need to keep writing tunes as good as the ones on Magma. I can’t wait to hear their next album – and I’ll have my fingers crossed.