Gojira/Code Orange – Birmingham, O2 Academy - 11 March 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Saturday, 08 April 2017 04:00

On their own, Gojira would be sailing high tonight, fresh from a 12-month explosion of activity that has seen the band play both Download and Bloodstock festivals, achieve a high-profile arena support slot with Alter Bridge and release their most ambitious (and critically hailed) album to date. But add in Code Orange, a band responsible for one of 2017’s most ambitious records thus far and you certainly have a recipe for success.


Gojira Magma UK tour poster


The venue is already heaving by the time we arrive, having sadly missed openers Car Bomb. All is not lost though – Code Orange are due on-stage in no time, so we pull up a space and prepare for some primo genre-bending metalcore thuggery. Opening with ‘Forever’, the opening-track from the album of the same title, Code Orange aren’t messing about in smashing skulls and taking names. Or at least, their music isn’t – sound issues reduce the forceful impact of ‘Forever’ to mildy bruising levels, with much of the low end being completely lost in the mix.


Undeterred, the band push through, picking up some hardcore furiosity for a howl-through of ‘Kill the Creator’. Sound issues persist though and at this point the marmite nature of Code Orange starts to play against them. ‘Forever’ is one of the most claustrophobic, snarling records of the year but in the expansive O2 the sound feels considerably less ubiquitous, diminishing much of the album’s most vital elements. Without the full impact of the disparity between metalcore nasties like ‘Spy’ and new-wave inspired crooners like ‘Bleeding in the Blur’, the band feel somewhat undersold to an audience that was likely to always have some level of scepticism towards a younger band with a more metalcore inspired sound.




On paper, the idea of sticking two of the most creative bands within the modern metal canon together on a bill should spell great things all round. Put into practice, it becomes apparent that the crossover between the fanbase of Gojira and Code Orange is limited. Call it genre-snobbery, ageism, or just put it down to the fact that metalcore is still very much the red-headed stepchild of the metal scene, but there’s no denying that there is a noticeable difference in the number (and type) of fans cheering on Code Orange. While the genre is currently enjoying some of its greatest creative moments ever, there is still a tangible sense (in Birmingham at least) that some battle lines – unfortunately – are not likely to change in the near future.



2016 was a year of exceptional hard work for Gojira, so in 2017 it seems only fair that their efforts pay off. Playing to a sold-out main room of the O2 Academy (downstairs at least), sound issues have clearly been sorted by the time the band take to the stage with crushing opener ‘Only Pain’. Drummer Mario Duplantier secures his MVP status early on, unleashing a ceaseless barrage of drumbeat warfare that marks the band’s no quarter approach to live performance. Clearly fortified from their arena experiences, Gojira sound enormous as they blast the room to pieces. Throw in stunning visuals worthy of a band twice their size (a large portion of which we miss, thanks to the Academy’s enclosed nature that restricts visibility in the wings) and you can see why Gojira are being hailed as one of the most vital metal bands on the planet at the moment.


Unsurprisingly, songs from the 2016 masterpiece ‘Magma’ make up much of Gojira’s setlist, newly-minted fan favourites like ‘Silvera’, ‘Stranded’ and ‘The Shooting Star’ cranking the atmosphere up to electrical levels. That doesn’t mean that the band’s older songs are neglected, however. ‘The Heaviest Matter in the Universe’ and ‘’Flying Whales’ still possess every ounce the champion quality that has earned the band such fervent support, the band’s sheer musicianship planting them on a level removed from many of their peers.


Gojira are by no means an overnight success story, with a 15-year gap marking the distance between the band’s debut, ‘Terra Incognita’ and 2016’s ‘Magma’. But the success of the band in the past twelve months is nothing short of meteoric, their upward trajectory marked by a combination of a colossal, quality release and some intuitive bookings that have kept fans baying for more after each performance. The tasters of Gojira’s brand of live performance are effective advertisements for the full force of a headline set, yet somehow still leave some surprises to be discovered.


Only one thing mars the band’s supremacy in Birmingham – gaps between songs. Some bands might use the gaps to exchange banter between the crowd and band to let a bit of intensity out of the room. Gojira opt for a more removed approach, seldom speaking and frequently disappearing from the stage for a minute or two between songs. Though this is effective at keeping the audience on edge, roaring for more, it also feels a little stilted six or seven songs into the set and leaves the set slightly staggered. Luckily, nobody seems to particularly notice or care – filling the silences with roars fit for a band well on the road to filling stadiums of their own accord.


One of the most vital metal bands on the planet, Gojira’s live show is a spectacle comparable only to the genre’s biggest and best live acts. The band have earned success the hard way and their discography attests to a band constantly improving upon a core aesthetic. Conquering the likes of the O2 Academy, O2 ABC and Kentish Town Forum feels like a natural move for such a monolithic act, the only question left being how long will it be before they are given their (rightful) shot at stages and audiences big enough to be befitting of the band’s kaiju-inspired moniker.




All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.