Sometimes, a bill comes along that makes your jaw drop. That’s exactly what happened when Gojira announced that their UK run in support of ‘Magma’ would feature openers Code Orange and Car Bomb. Nowhere to hide, right? Jon Stickler hit the pit to find out…
Having dominated the review pages for the past week, as well as setting alight social media, it’s no surprise I’m fighting my way through a capacity crowd at Bristol’s O2 Academy early doors, with the faithful gathered to send off one of the most talked about bills of this decade. Seriously, if you’re a fan of heavy music and decided it wasn’t for you, sit down and have a word with yourself.
New York’s math-core mob Car Bomb perform among the shadows and shove aside any sense of misfortune in opening for two of the most vital bands in metal right now. They quickly get down to pummelling the crowd with dizzying visuals and a chaotic barrage of machine gun riffs, insane drumming and mind-bending solos from last year’s ‘Meta’. Nearly two decades into their career the band are only now devastating UK audiences. This is their first proper run of dates this side of the Atlantic, but no doubt they’ll be back.
Fists clenched, it’s time for Code Orange to face up to the anticipation that spiked when they were announced for this bill. Having been under the spotlight since signing with Roadrunner for the launch of their killer third album, ‘Forever’, the Pennsylvanian band, who line up as a quintet for this tour, exceed all expectations here in smashing out a performance of sheer aggression.
Straight out of the gate they send bodies flying with influences from hardcore and metalcore. Opening with the chugging title track from ‘Forever’, the band give it their absolute all through seven additional cuts from the record, plus My World, I Am King and Slowburn from their Deathwish Inc. years. Their no nonsense set sees three of the five share vocals, with drummer Jami Morgan taking on the majority of the duties during the carnage.
Guitarist Reba Meyers’ clean singing on Bleeding In The Blur displays the band’s versatility while the energy, changes in pitch, tempo and Eric Balderose’s subtle use of electronics keeps them unpredictable in a scene that has become bloated with carbon copies of the same metalcore sound. On the basis of this crushing performance alone, Code Orange show that they’re ready to stand toe-to-toe with any of metal’s established powerhouses.
Speaking of powerhouses, Gojira were last in the UK supporting Alter Bridge at the end of 2016. Tonight they’re on the road supporting something much better, last year’s ‘Magma’. And they do it in front of a much more appreciative audience. The French four-piece, led by sibling combo Joe and Mario Duplantier, appear to have a huge job on their hands following the staggering display from Code Orange but quickly prove why they’re leading the charge in the modern era of metal.
Opening with Only Pain, their brutal sonic attack includes five more cuts from ‘Magma’ – Silvera, Stranded, The Cell, The Shooting Star and Pray – all of which get the audience bouncing with fierce enthusiasm. The dual guitars of Duplantier and Christian Andreu, the soaring vocals and anthemic choruses are utterly jaw-dropping, demonstrating that Gojira have stepped onto a much bigger playing field and found they enjoy the extra space. The same applies to their stage show, which features some truly dazzling visuals and a captivating synchronised light show. One can only imagine the possibilities of an all out spectacle if given the right opportunity.
There’s a break in the onslaught for a thundering drum solo that doesn’t outstay its welcome, while the chit chat is kept to a minimum apart from Joe pausing to recall a time the band had to cancel their first show in Bristol after selling just four tickets. How times change.
Some are calling Gojira the best band in the world right now and it must only be a matter of time until we’re chanting their name at major festival headline performances. In years to come when we think about game changers in metal and heavy music, we’ll talk about this tour.