LIVE: Gojira / Code Orange @ O2 Forum Kentish Town

By Jay Hampshire

Acts can rise to prominence based on a blistering live show, capturing the rare energy that enraptures fans just from sheer onstage magnetism. It would be accurate to cast French prog-death shaman Gojira in this category, if it weren’t for the fact that their work in the studio has been equally sensational. It’s a testament to this that they managed to sell out the O2 Forum, Kentish town on a Sunday night, in the wake of arguably their most challenging and individual album to date, ‘Magma’.

Main support are a band whose last release was perhaps equally out of left field. Pennsylvania’s premiere metallic hardcore unit Code Orange devastated and confounded in equal measure on ‘Forever’, and tonight presents a first chance for many to tackle their latest tracks in person. A leering panther backdrop sets the scene as they tear into ‘Forever’, sounding as venomous and ferocious as ever. ‘Kill The Creator’ sees Jami Morgan throw out a galloping pace, while Eric Balderose roars brutal, guttural vocals and bassist Joe Goldman spin kicks his way around the stage.
What’s new, however, is the band’s incorporation of electronic elements and surprising song directions. Eric seems penned in behind his bank of synths and samplers, and whilst the grinding noisescapes mostly enhance songs, in the brief between track intervals they seem a tad aimless. The stand out offerings are the alternate-universe Alice In Chains stylings of ‘Ugly’ and the anthemic ‘Bleeding In The Blur’. These tracks hint at a direction in which, if the band chose to follow it, they could absolutely secure something approaching ‘mainstream’ appeal.

The chants of ‘Go-ji-ra’ are almost deafening by the time they take to the stage. They jam in hard with the stuttering rhythms of ‘Only Pain’. What strikes you first about Gojira is just how effortlessly clear their onstage sound is – each instrument has enough room to breathe and be heard, but still unites to bring a crushing fury to bear. While the set list is heavy on their recent material, the group know their audience well, and throwing down a titanic ‘Heaviest Matter Of The Universe’ grounds old die-hards as well as new converts.

There’s an honesty and humbleness to Gojira tonight that never once seems forced, Joe Duplantier’s heartfelt thanks to the audience never once gets tiresome. The first subtle notes of ‘Flying Whales’ get an absolutely massive reception, and when the heavy drops in it’s massive. Mario Duplantier exists much as a drumming Schoredinger’s cat, both in our reality and in a state of effortless and interconnected polyrhythmic wizardry. To call him a metronome would be incorrect: metronomes can’t switch as fluidly or attack with such intensity. Understandably there’s crowd surfing and pits from the off, but the audience settle down to sing along with Joe’s soaring highs on the chorus of ‘Silvera’ and ‘Stranded’.

A closing one two of the breathless ‘Oroborus’ and glowering ‘Vacuity’ sees the band flex their technical muscles a final time before bowing graciously out. For a band specialising in death-metal songs about man’s cruelty to his environment, there’s something undeniably uplifting about what Gojira do. If, as their reputation suggests, their shows are all of the quality of tonight’s, they aren’t just one of the most magnetic live acts in metal – they’re one of the most magnetic live acts in music.