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.