Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
support Code Orange + Car Bomb
author AP date 09/03/17 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN
Without a doubt, one of the most anticipated metal concerts of the Spring here in Denmark has been the return of Gojira to redeem the disappointing show they gave at last summer’s Roskilde Festival. Given that the French progressive groove metallers are widely pipped as the heir apparent to snatch those big festival-headlining slots from the veterans, the larger hall of VEGA is beginning to feel like an unsuitable choice of venue — and the fact that it is sold-out in the most extreme definition of the word (yes, there are various degrees of ‘sold out’ in this business…) suggests that next time, Gojira will be watched in far more spacious confines here.
Despite forming at the turn of the Millennium, Car Bomb only has three studio albums to its name, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Long Island, NY-born mathcore act has never graced these shores before. But while the two previous outings, 2007’s “Centralia” and its successor, 2012’s perplexingly titled “w^w^^w^w” passed unnoticed by most people on this side of the Atlantic, the potency of last year’s “Meta” made the band’s fractal designs impossible to keep ignoring. Gojira certainly paid attention, inviting them to open the proceedings on each night of this European tour, and when Car Bomb lets loose the jarring “Best Intentions”, the Danish crowd, too, is pays attention at last.
The nature of Car Bomb’s music makes it nigh impossible to physically react to, as one’s headbanging rhythm would be thrown off within seconds by the disjointed and oddly timed patterns underlying the likes of “Constant Sleep” and “Gratitude”. This conundrum affects the musicians just as much, with vocalist Michael Dafferner the only member to differ from the stand-and-impose aesthetic of their performance. But where Car Bomb lacks explosive dynamics on stage, they compensate with songs that are as fixating as they are bizarre and lighting that belies their position on the bill — the sheets of white laser light slowly descending upon the audience in liaison with heavy, bending notes make a particular impression. This is a brutal and inhuman performance in the vein of Meshuggah; too jarring to form an emotional connection to, but nonetheless one that stays with you by virtue of its sheer complexity and the attention to detail in the production.
Contrary to other hardcore punk bands that seem to have a religious fixation on remaining ‘underground’, Code Orange has no qualms admitting they want to be big. After thanking us for showing up early, drummer Jami Morgan roars to remind us that ”there needs to be some new shit!” lest the future will consist of tiny club shows and niche festivals only. One wonders how those words would sit with the diehard, ‘crowd-killing’ part of Code Orange’s following if they were here — after all, until their newest and most experimental album yet, “Forever”, the band has been notoriously sympathetic to the most violent forms of moshing. For the rest of us, it was good news that the support acts were announced only after this gig sold out, as for once, it is the music and the performance of Code Orange that gets to be in focus — not broken noses and collarbones caused by the behaviour of a few reckless jerks.
Actually, the floor is devoid of any moshing whatsoever, which is probably explained by just how phenomenal the action on stage is; every one of the five musicians (the band has added guitarist/synth-player/backing vocalist Dominic Landolina to its live configuration) is his own flurry of relentless physical expression, lost in the moment as if in a trance. This gives the group an enigmatic aura, which is the perfect companion to songs that have begun to spin off into post-punk, post-rock and even grunge since “Forever” was written. The grim-looking bassist, Joe Goldman, is the only exception, spending most of his time performing spinkicks and glaring at us with malice — the only band member to make eye contact with us during the 40-minute set. The fact that Code Orange has no de facto frontman makes the show even more fascinating; it feels more like a ritual or jam than your usual barrage of hardcore antagonism and has me thinking that what we have witnessed here is the very fabric of the genre being pushed and challenged to an unprecedented degree.
That Gojira should kick off with a heavy trident comprising “Only Pain”, “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” and “Silvera” makes the Frenchmen’s intentions quite clear: they have come here with a mind to replicating the sledgehammer of a concert they played for us at the Copenhell festival in 2015. Frontman Joe Duplantier’s intense and vengeful face expression as he chugs, shreds and growls through the songs tells the same story and once the less familiar “Only Pain” (off Gojira’s latest album, “Magma”) gives way to “Heaviest Matter…”, the ground floor of VEGA explodes into moshing and stays in that state for the rest of the concert. The subpar standard of Gojira’s fatigued show at Roskilde is as swiftly forgotten as Duplantier’s ‘not remembering it’ when he recalls the last time he and his three compatriots — guitarist Christian Andreu, bassist Jean-Michel Labadie and drummer Mario Duplantier — graced us our shores.
One area where Gojira excels is the production — or rather, lack thereof. The band’s stage setup is minimal; the only other features than the bare necessities are a large projector screen and a handful of strobe/laser towers, all of which are used in elegance. The lighting remains pale throughout, the projections subtle and relevant; creating atmosphere but never diverting attention from the four musicians. Neat and stylish is probably the best way to describe Gojira’s visual aesthetic on this tour, which suits the group’s precise and mechanistic take on groove metal perfectly. Still, it is the hot, feverish atmosphere that settles in when the cherished staple, “Backbone”, is aired that makes tonight’s experience so intoxicating — it is akin to watching the band in a place utterly disconnected from reality, the sheets of dry ice that float through the room making it seem like a parallel universe. It could of course be the beer inspiring such vivid metaphors but whatever the cause, the fact still remains that Gojira’s show tonight is absolutely mesmerising.
Although in my review of “Magma”, certain concerns were raised about unfulfilled potential to do with the ‘post-metallic’ pieces of that record, those tracks sit very comfortably amongst the older, bludgeoning creations like “Flying Whales” and “Toxic Garbage Island”. In fact, they seem to be the main propellant for the atmosphere described in the previous paragraph, the gorgeous silhouette effect during “The Shooting Star” and the monumental proportions given to “Pray” both etching themselves into my memory as some of the standout moments of the evening alongside the ever-punishing “L’Enfant Sauvage” and of course respectively the fluid riffing and marching groove of “Oroborus” & “Vacuity” in the encore.
Helped along by a perfect sound mix, Gojira thus plays like a complex, finely tuned and well-oiled machine but there is nonetheless a human aspect to it as well. The four musicians are among the most impassioned and technically proficient performers one gets to watch, and when they hit their day, that passion becomes contagious and translates into an extraordinarily gripping concert. Some of the other bands that frequent Denmark as often as Gojira tend to be like night and day between the occasions, but with very few exceptions, the Frenchmen have developed a reputation for nearly always dumbfounding us. And with their efforts tonight, that trustworthiness gets to live another day.
- 01. Only Pain
- 02. The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
- 03. Silvera
- 04. Stranded
- 05. Flying Whales
- 06. The Cell
- 07. Backbone
- 08. Terra Inc.
- 09. L’Enfant Sauvage
- 10. The Shooting Star
- 11. Toxic Garbage Island
- 12. Pray
— Encore —
- 13. Oroborus
- 14. Vacuity