Following the arrest of Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe last year, and the subsequent cancellation of the band’s tour with Dethklok, it was unclear how long it would be until the tour’s opener, Gojira, would return to North America on such a full scale tour. It was a pleasant surprise to find Gojira casting the opener role aside for a headline run with the Devin Townsend Project and Chicago psych-doom metalers The Atlas Moth. The tour had two Northern California dates and I attended both. The first was on January 23 at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco and the second on the 24th at Sacramento’s Ace of Spades.
I arrived to both shows early to find a sparsely populated room for The Atlas Moth. All of those who skipped out on them miss a solid set of material from the band’s latest gem An Ache for the Distance like “Coffin Varnish” and the epic, set-ending title track. The band manages to find the perfect blend of sludgy lurching guitar-driven metal with the right amount of emotion which I was happy to find translated quite well from album to stage. While the band seemed plagued with sound issues during their Sacramento set, this one felt like the better sounding performance even though they could barely fit the band on the tiny Ace of Spades stage.
In an semi-unrelated moment of praise, Atlas Moth guitarist/vocalist David Kush is a awesome guy. Following the band’s Sacramento set, I grabbed a copy of the new album on vinyl and later found Kush near the merch table. I asked him to sign it, and he instead grabbed it and took off to find the rest of the band to sign it as well. He is clearly a musician who appreciates the fans, and I want to extend a thank you. Cool guys or not see this band live and grab An Ache for the Distance.
Next up was the band I came to see, and the main reason I decided to be one of THOSE fans and go two days in a row, The Devin Townsend Project. Both nights featured sets that were, not surprisingly, heavy on the latest album, Epicloud, which was not at all a problem to me. I fucking loved Epicloud. What was a surprise was the complete omission of anything from Addicted, but perhaps Dev felt that a Gojira crowd could only handle so much epic pop-ish metal, so he instead dropped in the prog madness of “Planet of the Apes” from Deconstruction and the oldie-but-goodie “War” from Infinity. This seemed like a fair trade to me. Townsend’s stage banter was hilarious as always as he dropped in a “Banana Phone” reference at the Sacramento show and repeatedly called out one larger gentlemen at the San Francisco show who refused to do jazz hands. And nothing will top Devin asking the crowd, “Are you ready for some death metal?!…I’m not!” before instead choosing to lead the crowd in arm waving.
Dev’s band was flawless as usual. It’s a shame that one cannot focus on Ryan von Poederooyen’s steller drumming or the beard-swinging duo of Dave Young and Brian Waddell AND the ringmaster antics of Devin. As a superfan, it is easy for me to recommend that you see the DTP in person. However, at both shows Townsend asked the audience,” Who has no idea who the fuck we are?” to which a good number of the people responded. These same people had massive smiles on their faces at the set’s end following the final notes of “Grace.” If they didn’t know Devin Townsend then, they do now.
Throughout his entire set Devin kept saying that Gojira was going to come out and crush the audience’s testicles (or ovaries) into mush. This, of course, seems like your typical on-stage banter to keep the audience excited for the headliner or, “Fluff Gojira,” as Townsend put it. However, I can say without a doubt that Gojira is the heaviest band I’ve ever felt in person. my testicles are in a bit of a mush form as I type this. From the opening harmonic filled moments of “Explosia” from the Metal Insider-lauded L’Enfant Sauvage, this band just pummels you and doesn’t quit for almost and hour and a half.
Considering how successful the latest album was I was a bit surprised there wasn’t more from it, but those around me who were clearly long-time fans seemed rather excited to hear tracks like “Wisdom Comes” and “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe.” Still, new tracks like “L’Enfant Sauvage” and “The Axe” were phenomenal and went over quite well.
As someone who went in a fan of the new album and not much else by the band, I can say that I was converted, and am now a fan. The band knows how to construct a borderline perfect set. I only say “borderline” because of my personal beef against drum solos. Mario Duplantier is already the one to watch when the band performs. He’s an unbelievable drummer and the audience shouldn’t need a spotlight on him to know this. It was also fun to see Joe and Mario Duplantier trade places for a song though. Joe isn’t a terrible drummer either.
I don’t need to say this, but fuck it, see Gojira live if you get the chance. Even if they aren’t really your cup of tea, give them a few songs. The first five songs of their set were enough to get me to seek out their past catalog after the show.
If nothing else, you’ll get a small French lesson. “It doesn’t matter if you mean ‘yes’ or ‘fuck yeah!’ Say ‘Oui!'”
Catch this tour while you can all over the country until February 18th
Full list of remaining dates here.
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