Due to engineering works I almost missed the end of the world. Ghost had promised that Europe was doomed, so thousands were gathering to see the end of days, the Jägermeister Tour 2013. Having taken an unwelcome detour through Tilbury it was possible to believe it had already begun. I rushed through the foyer of Brixton Academy as the second of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, The Defiled (here playing the part of War) kicked off their set with ‘Sleeper’ from their debut album, due in the summer (should the world not end tonight).
This is a hometown show for these boys (dressed in matching The Prodigy goes-to-scout-camp outfits) and they’re determined to impress. They strut and stomp about as if they’re headlining, induce some serious pogoing down the front and it’s clear many people are here to enjoy them and that many more are won over by the time ‘Call To Arms’ thunders to an end. I’m still in two minds about them: part of me is impressed by their obvious ambition and showmanship (we even get some burlesque horror ballet dancers during ‘Black Death’), but part of me looks at their image and cliched rock star moves and squirms in discomfort. I’ll definitely be checking out their album though.
Now to a band who have no image to speak of, no dancers, no outfits. This is Gojira (here playing the part of Famine) and they mean business. Not show business, but the business of technical, extreme, brutal, metal. As the crowds chanting of their name dies down were hit by ‘Explosia’ , fittingly enough, and seldom have I heard such heavy non-commercial music become so brilliantly , almost mystifyingly appealing.
Gojira have their own sound, that much vaunted ‘plummeting metal’ and its unlike any other band I know. To be honest, lyrically I find them a bit obtuse, they are smart, philosophical and refreshingly lacking in nihilism but the most memorable moments are all the lightning speed tapping on the guitars and the dazzling dexterity of the drumming. I’m unfamiliar with much of their early output and were treated to one track, ‘Wisdom Comes’ from “The Link”, from their second album which shows their death metal roots, but it’s the closing tracks ‘The Axe’ and ‘The Gift of Guilt’ from “L’Enfant Sauvage” that most impress. There are elements of krautrock creeping into their sound; huge motorik rhythms emerging, allied to the almost choral effects used by Joe Duplantier in his vocals that are unearthly and absolutely awe inspiring.
The crowd are ape shit for them the whole way through (well, apart from the bloody drum solo) and really I think in the popularity stakes that Gojira are the bigger band. Surely one day they’ll be headlining, and selling out, venues like Brixton Academy.
And so to Death, obviously played here by Ghost. The Academy has been transformed into a satanic cathedral, thick with incense, the sense of drama is impressive. The faceless ghouls appear and eventually Papa Emeritus emerges, his G logo sceptre in his hand ready to lead the black mass. Now here’s a band who do have great, catchy songs. I love “Opus Eponymous” from beginning to end so am pleasantly surprised that they open with a very good new song, ‘Infestissimam’, the title track off their soon to be released second album. As with all the new songs aired tonight, it is richer, more sophisticated than the tracks from “Opus Eponymous” and has me salivating at the prospect at getting my hands on a copy.
It soon becomes apparent though that Ghost suffer from a dilemma that their exquisite songs cannot prevent. With all the band members apart from Papa Emeritus faceless and fairly static and the dead pope guy strangely reticent in communicating with the crowd, there is a gradual feeling of disconnection.
Ghost are a wonderful spectacle with fantastic songs, but if it wasn’t for all the beer running through my veins I would have been feeling pretty divorced from proceedings. The band do get the crowd worked up at the end with ‘Ritual’, one of the very best from their debut, which has the guys behind me headbanging so much I think they’re going to fall over. The band return and encore with another newie ‘Monstrance Clock’ and there we have it, the end of the world! Or maybe not. Anyway, for the five pounds entrance fee this has to be the best value night out of the year for metalheads. It may not have been the apocalypse but my head certainly felt like it on Monday morning.
Photos by Sabrina Ramdoyal.