Gojira at The Forum, London - live review

Bayonne’s metal juggernaut trip the light fantastic

A photograph of Gojira onstage
(Image: © Jake Owens)

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Anyone concerned about the health of modern metal will have their faith restored after tonight. It may be a Sunday night, but the sold-out Forum is already packed for opening act CAR BOMB [7]. The Long Islanders’ latest album, Meta, was produced by Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier and even features him as a guest vocalist. It’s no surprise, then, that they were handpicked for this tour. That their sole previous tour in the UK was supporting Meshuggah explains a lot; with their sweeping djent riffs and polyrhymthic battering, their sound and performance has clearly been influenced by the Swedes. They even come bearing a self-made, scaled-down version of Meshuggah’s legendary flashing, dagger-like light spectacle. Car Bomb’s meaty riffs sound rooted in New York hardcore, though, and between the aural bashing, there are snippets of clean, melodic vocals – an anomaly to their sound, perhaps, but the audience’s fervent singing along and cheers prove it’s not a negative one.

Christian Andreu, clearly having a blast

Christian Andreu, clearly having a blast (Image credit: Jake Owens)

Every metalhead relishes that rush that comes with discovering a young band that truly blows you away. Having recently signed to Roadrunner, CODE ORANGE [9] may only be a discovery for some here tonight but whether it’s their youth, sheer passion or that they’re just really fucking angry, the amount of energy rippling through each bandmember is electrifying. They’re all pumped up full of a primal, menacing surge, jumping and lurching across the stage with the kind of genuine raw aggression that can’t be faked. It’s equal parts incredible and intimidating to watch. Musically, Code Orange are a collaborative effort, all taking turns to assault the mic. It gives them an edge; one minute drummer Jami Morgan’s punk rock wail is ripping apart your eardrums, the next guitarist Reba Meyers is switching from rumbling growls to clean vocals. There’s a whiff of Converge to their darkened hardcore, but there’s also industrial groove, a taste of synth, even moments of melody in Bleeding In The Blur. Just bring a gumshield if you dare to brave the pit.

Jean-Michel Labadie can’t hide his joy at seeing the sold-out Forum

Jean-Michel Labadie can’t hide his joy at seeing the sold-out Forum (Image credit: Jake Owens)

GOJIRA’S [10] ability to sell out the Forum tonight comes not only from their songwriting talents, but also because of their sincerity and pretence-free passion for their craft. As a band, they have always had strong ties to the world around them and the ground beneath their feet; brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier grew up immersed in nature in rural France, the band are passionate about environmental issues – Sea Shepherd signs adorn the foyer tonight and charity collectors encourage punters to donate as they leave the venue – and they always come across in person as the epitome of down to earth. But there is also a truly out-of-this-world atmosphere to their hypnotic and heavy sounds, and tonight, as they take to the stage, it looks as though an elaborate spaceship has landed right before our eyes. Drummer Mario is the first to appear to deafening cheers, as he perches at his elevated drumkit atop a huge wall of lights. The rest of the band bound onstage and immediately plunge into Only Pain from new album Magma, while long white beams swoop over the audience and the wall of lights pops and syncs in time to the beats. Silvera, with its perfect blend of pounding chug and melodic riffs, gets a huge response, as does the jerky, syncopated bludgeon of Stranded that follows after.

Mario Duplantier: the Backbone of Gojira

Mario Duplantier: the Backbone of Gojira (Image credit: Jake Owens)

Gojira’s reputation as a band that ooze professionalism is blindingly evident, none of the four members putting a note or foot wrong all night. Joe is far from a wild, flamboyant rock star type, instead cutting an intense presence, focusing his attention on technical prowess. Bassist Jean-Michel Labadie is the most animated on the floor, swinging his bass high above his shoulders yet retaining skilled control. The breathtaking light show and accompanying backdrop bring Gojira’s songs beautifully to life. Lightning flashes onscreen to open the hammering beats of The Cell, while The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe is bolstered by a spinning, seemingly neverending tunnel onscreen as blue lights flash. Then there’s The Shooting Star, a slower song by Gojira standards with lyrics exploring finding redemption from mortality – made all the more mesmerising and moving with elegant visuals that look like snow falling on a pitch black night.

Security have their work cut out as fans lose their collective shit

Security have their work cut out as fans lose their collective shit (Image credit: Jake Owens)

Despite the serious persona Joe exudes, when he speaks, the soft-spoken Frenchman’s humble gratitude is heartwarming as he recounts Gojira’s first London show in Camden’s basement venue, The Underworld. “I thought, ‘Wow, fucking amazing, there’s like 400 people!’” he remembers. “I never thought we’d sell out the Forum. Thank you so much for showing up!” That’s a phrase he repeats throughout tonight, as if he can’t quite believe that anyone would. After an encore that ends with Vacuity, each bandmember gets their moment to say thank you. “London still is the best place to play,” says Jean-Michel with a grin. “This is maybe the best show of my life,” says Mario in disbelief and 2,300 ecstatic, bedazzled punters are inclined to agree.

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Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.