Very few involved in the world of metal are unaware of the powerhouse that is Gojira. The French titans were immediately popular and shot to fame when their blend of progressive, groove-ridden, technical death metal was released in the form of 2005’s From Mars To Sirius. The album has been critically regarded as one of the greatest metal albums of all time, with the quartet having since been on an upward trajectory, signing onto to Roadrunner Records in 2014 to release L’Enfant Sauvage. Skip ahead one more release (Magma, 2016) and Gojira have become the powerhouse they were always destined to be, with prestigious tours and festival appearances (including a headline slot at Bloodstock and even a recent slot at Glastonbury) now under their collective belt.
We caught the UK leg of their current tour, with Rolo Tomassi supporting.
Queue Rolo Tomassi onto the stage to start the night off, and their blend of chaotic jazz sections and deathcore-esque qualities go down a treat. While they were an ideal opener for the night, their sound was off for the majority of the set. Vocalist Eva Spence demonstrated her ferocity and vocal range well throughout, but it sounded like the gain on her vocals was blown out, making her mostly incomprehensible. A similar situation was apparent with keyboardist James Spence - his clean and harsh vocal contributions were excellent (with no sound issues) and made their set more enjoyable; on the synthesizer, however, he seemed to be drowned out by the rest of the band at times. This was a shame as it was clear that the band have an abundance of talent and force in their sound, but their performance was ultimately mired by minor technical issues.
Check out the video for “Aftermath,” taken from Rolo Tomassi’s 2018 album Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It:
One of the most interesting aspects of a Rolo Tomassi performance is Eva’s movements and general attitude onstage. Complementing the jumpy and unexpected nature of their music, she moves both gracefully and ferociously to each drum beat or riff, acting as a visual representation of the delicate balance of jazz, metal, and chaos. Watching her act out frustration, anger, and an array of emotions with an almost balletic twist made their set rather immersive, especially when paired with dark, dramatic lighting.
There were several moments where the sound issues gave way and allowed the quartet to properly shine - “The Hollow Hour” being a prime example, which showcased how the band can fluctuate between time signatures revolving around mathcore, death metal, blast beats, soft piano instrumental mid-sections and jazzy styles. This, mixed with both clean and harsh vocals from both Eva and James, make for a complex labyrinth of sound which, when executed to its full potential, is mesmerizing.
While the sound let the band down at times, Rolo Tomassi’s performance was full of energy, professionalism, and promise. If one has any doubts about their ability, a critically acclaimed five-record discography shows their talent and truly unique stance on music. One only hopes these issues are ironed out for the rest of their tour, as they deserve to prosper from an opportunity such as supporting Gojira.
Cover artwork for Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It which was released on March 2nd, 2018:
After an immensely long wait and the disappointing announcement that Black Peaks were not performing (the London show of this tour the day after had Dead Label in their place), Gojira finally burst onto the stage and wasted no time in stuffing the venue with their signature sound. Opening with “Oroborous,” frontman Joe Duplantier’s energetic thrashing and trademark raspy vocals erupted as a hypnotic light show shone behind the quartet.
The variety within Gojira’s discography and their enigmatic nature is only amplified live. Their set began with a 3-record jump - the aforementioned “Oroborous” (The Way Of All Flesh) flowing into “Backbone” (From Mars to Sirius) and “Stranded” (Magma), which showcased quite intensely just how much they have evolved over the years, and also how refined and certain their sound has become. Christian Andreau’s masterful guitar playing during “Stranded” filled the room with Gojira’s signature distorted sound, and Joe Duplantier engaged with the audience with charisma and charm in between tracks, mentioning Gojira’s recent Glastonbury Festival performance and his pleasure in being back with his regular metalheads.
It wouldn’t be Gojira without those trademark sweeps, and Joe filled the room with them in “Silvera” and “L’Enfant Sauvage.” The latter-mentioned track especially was exquisite, with bassist Jean-Michel Labadie providing the chest-pounding foundation upon which the crushing complexity of the manic second-half of the song offers.
Watch the video for “Stranded” - a highlight from Gojira’s most recent album Magma:
Another staple of their live performance is their gargantuan “Flying Whales” off From Mars to Sirius - arguably the track which catapulted them into the spotlight upon the album’s release. The slow, repetitive intro to their classic had the crowd singing along to the guitar before tremolo guitars and the track’s stomping riff chimes in, leaving the crowd to unleash their anticipation with force. One of the most tantalizing parts of Gojira’s performance was drummer Mario’s gorgeous drum solo, which demonstrated the band’s dedication to alternating time signatures, jazzy influences, and Mario’s sheer talent. It’s rare to come across drummers with such precision, technique, and flair, yet Mario dominated the stage as a visual backdrop lit him up for the crowd.
While the absence of Black Peaks was disappointing (and we wish them a speedy recovery), the strong efforts of Rolo Tomassi and the gargantuan force of Gojira made up for it. The French quartet has been evolving significantly with each release, and their live shows are a testament to that. As they are recognized as one of metal’s modern greats, we can only wait with twiddling fingers to hear what they unleash upon us next.
All of us here at PureGrainAudio send our best wishes to Black Peaks and wish Will a speedy recovery!
Magma came out on June 17, 2016, via Roadrunner Records: