The ongoing week is nothing short of spectacular in terms of gigs and festivals in Finland. On Thursday Amorphis played in Turku, Tuesday Gojira took over the Helsinki ice hall, and over the weekend there are various rock festivals all across Finland. I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing Gojira a couple of days ago, and as I’m writing this I’m en route to John Smith rock festival in Laukaa.
The contrast from the blazing sun of the late afternoon to the darkness of the “black box” set inside the Helsinki ice all was striking, and it took a good few minutes for my eyes to adjust. Due to my train being late I unfortunately missed most of Employed to Serve’s set. They’re an English heavy metal band founded in 2011, fronted by Justine Jones. They played a compact 25-minute set of which I was able to catch the last couple of songs. The female vocals coupled with the harsh heavy metal pummeling made for a memorable contrast, but I really have to dig deeper into their studio work to get a better picture.
Next up was Alien Weaponry all the way from New Zealand. The band certainly knew how to make an entrance as the concert began with a powerful chant in the Māori language, before segueing into a thick hybrid of groove and thrash metal. The audience were obviously caught a bit off guard as it took a good while for them to warm up to Alien Weaponry’s act, but once the ice was broken all hell was loose. Apparently the band were filming material for an upcoming music video, and the wall of death they got from the crowd as they mentioned this was truly epic.
After Alien Weaponry made their exit a veil was dropped to cover the stage and the anxious wait for Gojira began. During the 30-minute interim the giant canvas veiling the stage was bathed in various symbols with atavistic samples playing in the background. The crowd began clapping for Gojira over twenty minutes before the scheduled showtime, and finally around nine p.m a timer began counting down from 180 seconds to mark the start of the concert. As the digital clock’s numbers hit zero Gojira began their set with “Born for One Thing“, the opening track of their latest album “Fortitude”. The crowd at the sold-out black box were all-in for Gojira from the opening notes, but the first song didn’t yet give a full picture of what was to come. “Backbone” and “Flying Whales” from the band’s 2005 breakthrough record “From Mars to Sirius” aroused the audience to some of the wildest moshpits I’ve ever seen at any concert, and the energy levels were close to earth-shattering for the entire show.
Gojira were skyrocketing towards the peak of their popularity following 2016’s “Magma”, and the five-year gap between album’s hasn’t seemingly slowed down their momentum at all. The sold-out show at the black box in the Helsinki ice hall was their biggest headlining event to date in Finland, and their success has been similar everywhere on their current European tour. Gojira’s stage setup and visual presentation reflect their current status as a borderline arena act, with the giant background screen providing stunning visual support for their songs. The circular lights above the stage worked spectacularly, and the sound quality was excellent save for Duplantier’s struggling vocals. The most important thing, however, was the synergy between the band and the audience. The crowd gave Gojira all their support, and Gojira delivered a hefty ninety-minute serving of their chunky and groovy as hell heavy metal. Duplantier didn’t have to deliver any lengthy remarks between songs to keep the crowd going, and his brother Mario flashed the crowd signs in Finnish at the appropriate times for ever louder cheers. The drummer also tossed his sticks into the audience many times during the show, making sure many a fan walked away into the night with some very unique memorabilia.
One flaw during the concert that I noticed was Joe Duplantier’s vocals that seemed to break and falter throughout the show. I cannot discount the possibility that the issue was with the mixing rather than his voice, but still. One technical and surprising delight during the show was that on one side a few rows of seats were left available for the concert visitors, which was a real life-saver for someone with back issues such as myself. I truly hope this feature remains a staple in future “black box” events as well. Another delightful surprise came at the very end when, while the band were waving their goodbyes, Joe Duplantier revealed the band would return to Finland next year. “See you next year”, the singer said as the band were making their exit, and I heartily echo that. See you next year, Gojira.
Pictures: Thomas Frankton