After a performance like this, it’s hard not to be consumed by hyperbole and declare Gojira the best live metal act on the planet right now.
GojiraCity: Dublin, Ireland
Venue: The Academy
In this day and age, because of the way the music industry is, very few modern metal acts manage to smash the glass ceiling which divides the underground from the mainstream. That’s why Gojira’s rise to become France’s preeminent metal act and a legitimate global metal concern has been encouraging to watch. Even more so, because, unlike some, their success hasn’t been gifted to them; instead, it has been achieved through strong work ethic, powerhouse musicality, innate chemistry, a resounding lyrical stance, and a punishing live show.
Gojira’s headline show at Dublin’s the Academy tonight sold out a couple of weeks in advance; a noteworthy achievement, albeit an expected one given how the Bayonne band’s status has soared worldwide in the years that followed their Irish debut at the smaller Whelan’s venue in March 2009. To further put Gojira’s current popularity in Ireland into context: only metal bands the stature of Slayer, Mastodon, and Behemoth -- all of whom have toured Ireland for years -- sell out The Academy, which has a capacity of 850 people between its floor and balcony. Those are the kind of fêted metal bands Gojira (deservedly) rub shoulders with in 2015.
Tonight’s varied crowd -- seasoned fans in battle-worn underground metal t-shirts and fresh-faced teenagers in Slipknot and Trivium merch -- speaks volumes about the cross-the-board appeal of Gojira’s elemental brand of progressive metal; by refusing to dilute their sound since their breakthrough third album, 2005’s From Mars to Sirius, fans of extreme metal have continued to support them, which doesn’t always tend to happen. Ten years since the release of that modern classic and Gojira -- Joe (vocals, guitars) and Mario Duplantier (drums) and Christian Andreu (guitars) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass) -- stand in front of a baying Irish crowd who give them a hero’s welcome by shouting “GO-JIR-A!!” repeatedly before a note has been struck.
The ground floor is a swarming mass right from the start, as bodies jump on command when Joe Duplantier roars “Go!” midway through seismic opener “Ocean Planet”. From here, Gojira hold the attention of every person in the audience, the vast majority of whom forego recording the show on their smart phones in order to actually be in the moment, to feel every corrosive syncopated movement land with the force of a Flying Whale.
The churning maelstrom of riffs and rhythms during “The Axe” raises temperatures early on, and “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” lives up to its title as its Domination-era Morbid Angel assault mixed with the industrial metal flair of Devin Townsend shakes the ground and causes the sweaty crowd to pogo in unison. Mosh pits open up without any verbal instigation, and sporadic crowd surfers keep the security guards on their toes throughout.
Each member of Gojira displays just as much energy as the crowd: all three guitarists stalk the stage and headbang furiously (stage ownership lessons learned from supporting Metallica, no doubt), while a chest-caving rendition of “L’Enfant Sauvage” sees Joe Duplantier and Jean-Michel Labadie bound off the risers, clearly lost in the power of their music. As impressive as their collective stage presence is, the real star of the night has to be the bare-chested Mario Duplantier, who lays claim to being one of best metal drummers in the world right now (if not the best). From his lightning-fast double bass drumming during ‘Backbone’, to how he accents the death march of ‘Vacuity’, to the precision and propulsion he brings to the jaw-dropping highlight of the night, “The Art of Dying”, to his fluid, entertaining drum solo -- the guy is a phenomenal musician and athlete.
Mario’s drums constantly detonate in sequence with Gojira’s blinding light show, and this reaches levels of apoplexy during the breakdown at the end of the “Love/Remembrance” medley: the stage rapidly shifts from pitch black to white light and back again with each spasmodic twist. Such synchronicity is a huge part of Gojira’s live show, and it exists not only between the drums and the lights, but also in the instinctual interplay between band members, the constant transference of energy between band and audience, and the pacing of the set and how the songs picked relate to one another.
The latter point is a subtle but no less important reason why tonight borders on as flawless a performance as you’re likely to see. Because the crowd is battered into oblivion during the first part of the set, there’s a chance that the impact would be numbed if this level intensity is sustained. But by allowing Mario the time to display his enviable talents with a drum solo, the force of ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, when it hits you from numerous angles once the full band kicks in, is magnified tenfold. The same shrewd approach is taken when sequencing the second half of the set; the unexpected inclusion of “World to Come” (performed for the first time this tour in celebration of the 10th anniversary of From Mars to Sirius) adds further variation alongside the atmospheric sprawl of “Flying Whales” and the Celtic Frost-worthy “Vacuity”. Such dynamism is readily apparent when preceded by the relentless “Oroborus”, a song made to reduce venues to rubble.
The finger-tapped clarion call at the beginning of “The Gift of Guilt” brings the encore to a resounding close, and upon this song’s conclusion, the sweat-soaked band take a bow to a rapturous round of applause and louder chants of "Go-Jir-A!!” which can be heard long after the band bid their Irish fans adieu. After a performance like this, it’s hard not to be consumed by hyperbole and declare Gojira the best live metal act on the planet right now. Although, it’s very likely that few here tonight would disagree with the sentiment behind this (arguable) statement.