Monthly Archives: June 2012

Gojira, Islington Academy, 27th June 2012

Gojira Group Photo

French group Gojira are currently one of the leading lights in heavy metal; their sophisticated and expansive palette includes death metal muscularity and Meshuggah-esque precision, coupled with thoughtful lyrics on a range of topics not usually tackled by metal bands most notably environmentalism, marking them out from the chasing pack. With their new record L’Enfant Sauvage they’ve grown even stronger with a set of frighteningly good songs and tonight they hit the capital on the third and final date of an all too brief UK tour.

Dashes of electronics, rock guitar tones and, dare I say it, Joe Duplantier’s at times, Jonathon Davis alike anguished vocal style are all part of their hard-hitting, technical mix of sounds. Mario Duplantier’s metronomic delivery anchors the band in metal but also gives the band the chance to stretch out beyond the clinical, dry sounds of their studio releases.

They trumpet those death metal credentials from the stage and back catalogue bashers Backbreaker and Vacuity are celebrated by the braying but polite mops of hair (both male and female) up front with whole-hearted hair-whipping fervour and torrents of beer from the balcony. Fierce precision propels Gojira through the first third of their set like a razor covered brick through a shop window. It’s effective but not always affecting.

The band’s evolution can be heard on record, especially on their newest L’Enfant Sauvage but given the lack of preparation for this tour and the semi-improvised set the band lean heavily on the heaviness tonight promising a better show before Xmas which is of little consolation if you’ve paid for a ticket tonight. Nevertheless, the band are tight and in good spirits on back of a positive reception for the new album and tonight’s reception; they even take a request from the front row. L’Enfant Sauvage’s opener Explosia is introduced by Joe saying it, “doesn’t mean anything but it means everything” and jolly good it is too. The new stuff played tonight (Explosia and the album’s title track) are on a different plain with new textures and an added songwriting maturity demonstrating that the four year gap in releases has been put to good use.

Before leaving the stage at 22:15 Gojira ramp up the pain with crowd pleasers from The Way Of All Flesh – Toxic Garbage Island and Vacuity. The lyrics to latter proving especially apt as Joe roars, “the only way to find the power is to look into yourself” as the pit explodes. The band return to encore with Oroborus and leave the Islington Academy to obvious affection from their fans and Mario grabs a Gojira emblazoned Union flag from the audience for the band to say their farewells.

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Sleep “Dopesmoker” Southern Lord

New Sleep Dopesmoker Cover

Dopesmoker is a cult album; its back-story almost as prominent as the music itself, destined to mentioned in dispatches as often as Bon Iver’s log-cabin or the unresolved grief and bullying that led to the bass-less sounds of …And Justice For All.  Dopesmoker is one track, an hour long, a singular ode to weed and trippy, psychedelic heaviness. A swirling vortex of black lunged riffs, circular rhythms and chanting vocals – beauty and the beast on one disc – that was roundly rejected by the band’s then major label, London Records.

The legend that built up prior to the record’s first unedited release in 2003 has elevated what was once, presumably, considered a daft, dope fiend idea into a touchstone overshadowing the band’s other releases rendering them footnotes. An unfair summary perhaps, but such is the weight of Dopesmoker‘s legacy.

Now in 2012 Dopesmoker gets another re-release this time via Greg Anderson’s heavy metal label extraordinaire, Southern Lord, remastered by Brad Boatright of From Ashes Rise, approved by original bassist Al Cisneros and presented in some Tatooine referencing new artwork from Arik Roper. Dopesmoker  is thus given the grand treatment it always deserved.

The band split following the album’s aborted original release sending rhythm section Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius into philosophical mantras with new band OM and six-stringer and vocalist Matt Pike into super-charged grit metallers High On Fire. Sleep, however, never really died reforming in 2009 for occasional shows and most recently took the roof off Alexandra Palace supporting Slayer playing a condensed version of their magnum opus and Holy Mountain.

The music they created for Dopesmoker was, and is, a heavy proposition: 52 minutes of interlocking riffs and hypnotic bass and drum combinations and a heavy fug of a production job that has been made slightly clearer on this release.

The album starts slowly with down-tuned droning strings from Pike and an unhurried, eyes closed, foundation of crashing cymbals and bass rumble before the first movement dissolves into a distorted and frazzled guitar solo around the ¼ of an hour mark. See, that’s unhurried. As Pike’s solo burns out over sheets of power chords cries of “Proceeds the Weedian – Nazareth” emerge. The trio then lock into a zonked out groove for the next seven or so minutes.

Fade and decay are common musical themes throughout with the band unbound by traditional rock song structures. A new isolated riff appears before the rhythm section return and Cisneros bellows as Dopesmoker turns dark descending into tantric drone. Despite the off the cuff title and fantastical lyrics Dopesmoker feels serious in its exploration of tone and rhythm something that OM would explore further on their records.

A dazzling solo brings the curtain down on the 2nd movement and Dopesmoker is reconfigured yet again into a quiet, lysergic meditation free of oppressive volume and tone but with ten minutes to go there’s a great, big crashing unified band riff before a guitar break and the final cataclysmic blast of snarling guitar, bass and drums that slowly fades out.

Ultimately, the legend is unimportant. Of course it’s possible that Dopesmoker’s greatest legacy is that there are no more heshers like them on major labels. Aside from that though, Sleep stand alongside the likes of Black Sabbath and St. Vitus as cornerstones of the stoner/doom genres and a line can be drawn through them to modern volume abusers like Electric Wizard and Sunn O))). Disregard the history because the music is still stellar and a heavier and more ambitious trip into the reaches of the stoned mind you will not find – “Drop out of life with bong in hand. Follow the Smoke toward the Riff filled Land.”

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Conan “Monnos” Burning World Records

Monnos

Doom is a purer concept than fear; less flighty and transcendent – you can’t grow out of it or out-run it – it’s all about finality. That purity of concept and simplicity is translated into the achingly slow and strident output of doom titans Conan.

The word doom itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘dōm’ for law or judgement. In the metal sense, it was codified by Black Sabbath with the dreaded first chords of Black Sabbath and the caustic darkness of Master of Reality. Liverpudlians Conan continue the lineage of great British bands on their latest long-player Monnos.

The atmosphere on Monnos is one of unremitting gloom; reflecting the sparse landscape depicted on the album’s cover. The guitar tone is so low and thick sounding almost like a dying growl and, when combined with the bass and drums rumbling back and forth transmits the inevitability of Conan’s inescapable negativity from opener Hawk As Weapon through to closer Invincible Throne.

The songs are crushing in their use of repetition, Battle in the Swamp nods with a heavily narcotic thrum while Grim Tormentor lives up to its title through its bloody minded power and use of scarified feedback. Elsewhere Headless Hunter shakes the castle walls with an immense glacial riff accented by precise cymbal hits from Paul O’Neil.

This sound is tempered by glints of glaring sunlight like on instrumental track Golden Axe that, while conjuring up thoughts of a cold, biting wind on an inescapably bright day slowly eroding a monument to a long forgotten idol, manages to vary the attack with it’s isolated opening guitar figure and muted percussion. Monnos is that intense and that’s just when considering the music – the lyrics are equally heavy. On Hawk As Weapon vocalist and guitarist Jon Davis sings with anguish that; “These skies are dead. They will destroy. Descending threat”.

Conan are slowly (how else) inching towards something very special and Monnos is the latest stone in their passageway to greatness. Don’t be a fool by missing out on this record.

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