Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Even though the summer metal festival season is at an end, it’s not too late to catch some quality heavy music at the Academy in Dublin. That is, assuming you bought your tickets in time for tonight’s long-sold-out Gojira show. The Frenchmen have come straight to the capital after their show in Belfast last night and are accompanied both nights by special guests, Dead Label.
Having made their debut Bloodstock festival appearance earlier this month, and previously supporting Machine Head, the trio from Celbridge have managed to impress fans, bands and promoters alike with their straight-up metal, and tonight they get to support another of their own musical influences. A bustling crowd have arrived early to see their warm-up, and at 8pm a traditional Irish melody begins to play aloud over the venue speakers: a complete antithesis to what is to follow moments later.
Their first track is ‘Salvation in Sacrifice’ taken from their forthcoming sophomore album Throne of Bones, and vocalist/bassist Dan O’Grady roars “Make some fucking noise” at the obedient audience. Obviously eager to share their newest material, they continue the set with the title track and two more from the new album. The only exception is an even newer track ‘Bloodletting’ which Dan explains was written this Summer after recording was complete. On either side of the stage, large banners bearing the stylized Dead Label logo boldly glow red in the bright lights and with limited real estate on the stage thanks to the massive covered Gojira setup, drummer Claire Percival gets to be up-front and centre-stage. The foot-stomping drum and bass duo lay the solid foundations for guitarist Danny Hall to build on with catchy riffs and solos.
Circle pits open up regularly upon Dan’s demands, no-one daring to question his fearsome facial expressions or growling voice. With just five songs in their set, it’s not long before they wrap things up with ‘Void’, and thank both Gojira and the audience. As a band, Dead Label are confident and ambitious, yet exceedingly humble and appreciative of the support from their fans, and this will surely see them go far.
The last time Gojira played in Dublin, it was on the tiny stage in Whelan’s, but as the Academy stage is readied for tonight’s performance, it is obvious that Gojira are now accustomed to playing much larger venues: their backdrop barely fitting on the wall, partially obscured by their stacked amp cabinets. At precisely 9pm the house lights dim and the crowd begin to chant “Go-ji-ra”. An eerie atmospheric soundtrack plays as the four members leisurely take their places before the thundering drums of ‘Ocean Planet’ and flashing strobe lights start the show proper. The venue is now packed to capacity and the energy levels both onstage and offstage are already up to eleven. After only a couple of tracks, bassist Jean-Michel Labadie is already dripping with sweat, as he and his bandmates deliver a jaw-dropping show.
Favouring tracks from their 2005 album From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh from 2008 over their last album L’Enfant Sauvage, they please the fans with ear-pummeling tracks including ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’, ‘Backbone’ and ‘The Art of Dying’. At times the entire floor becomes one large heaving, bouncing pit and at others, a sea for numerous surfers to traverse, one of whom is already wearing a leg-support boot.
Frontman Joe Duplantier occasionally interacts with the audience, and on one occasion recalls their last show in Dublin six years ago in a crazy pub that was far too small, but says they are really glad to be finally back. His brother Mario Duplantier provides an opportunity for interactive crowd participation during a short drum solo before kicking back into ‘Toxic Garbage Island’. Another high point of the show is a song about creatures of the ocean, ‘Flying Whales’ as introduced by Joe.
The band take leave after ‘Vacuity’ and return after chants of “one more tune”. Before the predictable three-song encore, Joe thanks the audience for calling them back and admits that “it’s a really cool gig tonight. We’re having a blast.” The encore starts with the well-received ‘Oroborus’, and continues with ‘World to Come’, which is a song they hardly ever play, and does seem to lose the momentum they had built so successfully. The lull is short-lived thankfully and the show ends triumphantly with ‘The Gift of Guilt’ from L’Enfant Sauvage. After the finale, Joe poses for some photos, throws high-fives to the front row and promises to come back soon with a new album. Dublin will be waiting.