Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM
After initial postponements thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic, the Gojira Juggernaut finally rolled into Belfast on 12th February 2023, with support from New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry and England’s Employed To Serve.
The French Eco Warriors laid siege with a multi-sensory bombardment to the sold-out Ulster Hall in a gig that many had been waiting for with barely contained excitement.
Firstly, their tour with Deftones became a victim of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic; then getting their headline tour in support of the most excellent “Fortitude” album on the road took a few financially challenging attempts. Gojira’s finally getting to Belfast has us psyched with the anticipation of another night in their presence, being pummelled by their genius.
It’s no secret that we are in times when costing a tour is causing bands to consider the implications of touring in the first place! transport, insurance, among many inflated costs. Even before the current climate transpired the industry was heading in a worrying direction, stories of record companies and venues cashing in by levying percentage cuts on merch sales, making it harder each year for the artist to earn a living from their art, profiteering on the back of the artist’s talents to alleviate their losses from decreased record sales caused by illegal downloading.
The payments from streaming platforms miniscule, often hundreds of 1% of 1 cent, also decimating the musician’s income when compared to CD/Vinyl sales. The increase in merchandise costs is unfortunately a necessary evil, although irksome to the fan who is also affected by the rising costs of living. However, in the queue for the merch stall in Belfast many felt such price increases necessary to ensure the viability of bands continuing to tour and the positive effect a night at a gig has for the average metalhead. It is crucial that we always try to support our artists if we can, buying the physical product be it a t-shirt, beanie, CD/DVD from an authorised retailer and if downloading, doing so directly from the band’s site, otherwise your favourite band touring may become a rarity if it can continue at all.
First up tonight is opening act Employed To Serve. Not a band I’m familiar with except through the music press, they pack a sonic punch that would level many.
They seem to have got a decent sound from where I was standing, and they used the stage well. A band going places and touring with a band of Gojira’s magnitude can only help them take the next step opening a wider audience to them.
There were plenty of positive comments after their set from those present, they most definitely added to their fanbase.
From the other side of the planet comes Alien Weaponry with their sonic haka paying tribute to their Māori ancestry and heritage.
The de Jong brothers Henry on drums and Lewis on guitar are the nucleus of the band with Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds joining on bass in 2020.
Henry started proceedings with a Haka chant from behind his kit and the band launched into “Raupatu” setting the tone which continued throughout their set, Māori tribal rhythms and language playing a prominent part of their art.
Great stage craft and oozing in confidence their music is a breath of original freshness and a perfect complement to tonight’s headliners.
Gojira are a unique presence. In the world of Progressive Metal where it is possible to file bands under many sub-genre labels. Their distinctive, original sound sets them apart from many as being truly progressive and innovative.
Their eco-views are well renowned and incorporated into their lyrics and sustainable practices they take to the stage with an audio and visual eruption testing the structure of this old building in the best way possible, shaking the walls and roof, shaking the foundations.
“Born for One Thing” is first out of the traps and the audience simultaneously start moving, whether in the pit or in a more reserved appreciative manner dictated by age and/or physical ability, everyone was there for one thing, and going hyper on its delivery.
Gojira’s music is special. No major sing along choruses or hooks, no guitar wankery; just pieces of sublime music crafted with reverence to the riff, to the thunder from Mario’s kit.
“The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” from the excellent “From Mars to Sirius” album starts a 6-song run of music from earlier albums, before “Grind” from latest album “Fortitude” brings us back up to date. The 16 song setlist spans the last 5 of their 7 albums to date, each of the 16 a beautiful piece of music showcasing their consistency over the years and welcomed by the ecstatic, jubilant crowd.
“Another World” and its somewhat groovy riff leads into the title track from “L’enfant Sauvage” and “Our Time Is Now” from “NHL 23 soundtrack: Stream” by EA Sports. “The Chant” and “The Way of All Flesh” close out the set before “New Found” and “Amazonia” bring this special night to a close.
It is safe to say Gojira’s hard work and talent is paying off for them. Tonight’s venue was built in the mid 1800’s and has a storied musical history including gigs by Led Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher, AC/DC, Metallica, Mastodon and Slayer. Tonight, we can add the name of the gargantuan Gojira to that list!
Each tour sees them step up a size in venue capacity, a trend reflected worldwide wherever they tour. It is genuinely heart-warming to see their progress in such a tough industry, they are a nice bunch of lads too!
Many have lamented who will step up to arena filing status when Iron Maiden or Metallica call it a day. I believe we have the answer: Gojira!
Photography by MPM