Sunday 11th November 2012
Koko in London, UK
Reviews by Rhiannon Marley
After I've bumped into around 30 familiar faces and hit the bar, Poitou-Charentes' Trepalium erupt. A mix of pummelling death rhythms, funk-laced grooves and prog richness, they're a feast for the ears and deliciously innovative. An initially half-full audience thickens throughout – Machine Head tees drawn by an infectious boogie that's done 15 rounds in Dante's seventh circle. A pit gets underway, and the dreadlocked vocalist darts about, while kit and axe nail a gyrating melodic fort. Trepalium straddle multiple spheres: young aggressors wanting a punch-up love the extremity, while metal cognoscenti sip Jack Daniel's pensively. Grimaces hit faces, as juicy riffs destroy controlled expressions, and the fivesome lay down a tasty-as-hell new breed of groove-death that many will follow into the mists of YouTube once their spell is cast.
After pint-stocking, sextet Klone emerge, completing a fully French bill. A lighter beast, theirs is melodic and grunge-tinged metal, with a more FM-friendly vibe. Commercially-pleased lugholes stick around, while more extreme ones head for a premature fag. Although the surrounding consensus is that they're not musically 'up there' with Trepalium or the headliners, Klone offer strong tunes with great energy, and denser moments get heads and feet moving. An experimental edge sees one of them playing some sort of sax or reed instrument, and pulverising riffs show sound technicality. The trouble is, triskele-tattooed surveyors are looking for more heaviness and less verse-chorus – proven by a mass exodus during their, albeit half decent, cover of Bjork's ‘Army of Me’. A case of slightly snobbish reception – a shame, as many of the band's creative pros are lost on tonight's viewers. A watchable and enjoyable shot, nonetheless.
Tongues wag and goosebumps ripen for Bayonne's finest. Emerging against an atmospheric mural of stars and the tree-bearing skull of ‘L'Enfant Sauvage’, Gojira shackle us to their smallest pinkies for the following two hours. Bodies close in. Roars detonate. I strain over receding hairlines and a toy cow, and even sit on the stairs, to catch a glimpse. Attacking with self-evident ‘Explosia’, Gojira throw a set-list surprisingly dipped in older cuts more than new. Choice snippets of ‘L'Enfant Sauvage’, including title track and encore piece ‘The Gift of Guilt’, are wrapped with classics ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, ‘The Art of Dying’, ‘Clone’ and ‘Flying Whales’. The undoubted highlight, though, is ‘The Axe’. Enormous frontman Joe Duplantier extends its mid-section to an ambient trance: equally evocative scenery and musicality bewitching angry cohorts into silence.
But it's hardly a quiet night in. Gojira are a mortal groove tornado, storming the stage and jumping on equipment. Battering rhythms and Catherine-Wheel diving harmonics meet showers of beer; Duplantier tries his hand at drumming and defines the quintet as 'a bunch of French rednecks'. Numbers ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’ and ‘Vacuity’ see violent human whirlpools, which there's not enough room to expand in KoKo. Although not normally good for metal due to its insanely high ceilings and how little of the floor is exposed to all speakers, stunning KoKo offsets Gojira's brooding visuals superbly. Because of this, Duplantier's complaints that his London fans 'don't give it as much' as Glaswegian ones five nights previously are unnecessary. Onlookers aren't half-arsed; they're torn between killing each other and reflective hypnosis. With lyrics spanning the celestial and terrestrial, Gojira are a spiritual enigma; a balance of melody and brutality who make you ponder the mysteries of the universe and want to eat it alive at the same time. After my debut witnessing, I can confirm that I'm as shaken by their power as the thousands of others who've found them. And it won't be long before their sentient savagery grips a whole load more in its thrall.
For the average UK-based adult, the French Republic connotes baguettes, striped tops and 'Allo 'Allo. If you're an extreme metal fan, four-piece Gojira should also spring to mind. The gents have exploded onto international territory with 2012's masterpiece L'Enfant Sauvage and its eponymous tour. And tonight, their introspective imaginarium reaches NW1's mistress, KoKo. Sixteen years on the boil, five albums and a breakthrough signing with Roadrunner later, and the quartet have secured both global attention, and a reputation as one of the current trickiest bands to classify. Although this eve is reportedly not sold out, a hefty wad of the capital has braved November chills to see what the fuss is about. Dark and sombre folk, including a dead ringer for Neil from The Young Ones, drag on Marlboro butts before heading inside – groomed goatees, leathers and lank black locks dictating a gothier vibe than I'd expected.