Fresh from their stunning performances just two days earlier at Australia’s first ever Download Festival in Melbourne, both Mastodon and Gojira marched into Sydney to perform a festival sideshow to the hearty fans who one could assume were all there because they could not make it down to Melbourne for the festival, although of course it is highly probable that a certain few may just have made it to several Australian performances to witness these two global metal giants, and who could blame them?!
For those who have not ventured into the Big Top venue let me tell you that it is a strange old feeling when you wander into the surrounding outdoor area, because it is smack bang in the middle of the famous Luna Park amusement location, which is directly beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge – makes for some stunning scenery once you exit the venue in a south-easterly direction… but I digress.
Once inside, the general hum of heavy metal banter amongst the punters, people making merchandise decisions and alcohol decisions was brought to a halt when the lights dimmed and Gojira quietly entered the stage – however the relative quiet disappeared almost as quickly as it began once the French lads began tearing into ‘Only Pain’ and boom, the night was instantly on track with raw power!
I don’t know what it is about Gojira, well I kinda do, but their mix of varying riff and tempo changes, fricken brutal drum beats and a strong stage presence makes them a tantalising feast to behold – a real pleasure to witness!
Gojira ripped through old and new tracks, including the monumental Flying Whales from the ‘From Mars To Sirius’ album dating back to 2005 – nuh, that ain’t lost any lustre my friends, geez did that one tear the roof off!
Occasionally breaking to chat to the feverish crowd, Joe Duplantier was and is a charming and charismatic front man, with an endearing demeanour, especially when he is speaking fondly about fellow bands and what it means to be sharing large stages with them. He quipped at one stage about how often they have toured with Mastodon, and in fact each time they have been to Australia they have supported them, he jokingly added that it was about time that Gojira headlined a tour here!
Whilst the set did not contain any of the pyro as seen at Download, they still used their utterly hypnotic light show which somehow fits perfectly with the high energy of the ever changing tempos, and this folks includes various blastbeats so a big kudos to the lighting dude!
For me the track that kicked the most arse on the night was ‘Backbone’ which is also from the ‘From Mars To Sirius’ album – for me it is a blend of both Morbid Angel and Arkhon Infaustus, the latter also being a brutal French outfit!
Let me tell ‘ya too, it wasn’t just Gojira’s material that was making your ears bleed, their mix was superb, with every smashing of a drum skin reverberating through the venue, allowing a beautiful rich, yet pounding sound that added depth and unadulterated power to the set – magic!
Precise riffing, guttural vocals, piercing drum beats and great stage presence – this was superb Gojira, and the band didn’t hold back when displaying their appreciation for the attendance and interaction with the crowd, who began jumping and banging from the beginning and did not stop until the set finished – kinda old school and really good to see consistent head moving!
So, here we are, one global giant of a band down, another to come – and so it was time for the might of the Atlanta natives who have forged a massive career for themselves – Mastodon!
Boom, into Sultan’s Curse they went from the outset and the crowd were immediately drawn into a level of physical demand, jumping, banging, waving, anything to relate to the sound.
The lighting was very much a different feel and ambience to Gojira, Mastodon’s was largely a green, blue or red colour cast which to me did not highlight enough of the players – it doesn’t need to of course, just my opinion.
Lighting aside, the band played Divinations from ‘Crack The Skye’ second track up and when that famous guitar intro was heard the crowd went nuts, and I mean a really large roar – gave me goosebumps!
Other classic offerings were Trilobite which I’m told was the first time the band had played it live since 2008, Ghost of Karelia and Oblivion along with Toe To Toes making it’s live debut!
The biggest crowd reaction of the set was easily for Oblivion… I reckon that noise would have shaken the nearby Sydney Harbour Bridge – magnificent!
It was clear to most, if not all (visually anyway) that Brent Hinds was having some sound issues with his amps, however it appeared to have been sorted well enough, not that the crowd would have noticed sound wise, they were too busy being lost in many moments, moving seamlessly to the hypnotic trance that Mastodon produce with their offbeat, yet somehow smooth blend of crunchy metal riffs and lead laden dual guitar runs, along with a great rhythm section.
Of course, Mastodon are not on the same level of heaviness as Gojira etc, however as we know they’re not pretending to be, they have their own flow and their own sound and whilst that was a contrast to the previous set, it did not alter the mood nor willingness of the crowd to become almost berserk at stages – this band can write amazing material!
I could be wrong, however to me it appeared as though the band were purposely steering away from tracks where Brann Dailor dominated the vocals from his drum kit, preferring to play more tracks where Troy Sanders took the vocal lead, perhaps there was a need to preserve Brann’s voice to create longevity on this tour?
Having said that, when Brann did sing he belted the tracks out, no problem there!
A relatively long set, 19 tracks by my account and that folks is a huge band that respects their fans and really loves what they do!
A good selection of old and new tracks, although they ensured that the popular tracks from ‘Sultan’s Curse’ were played, being Steambreather, Show Yourself, Roots Remain etc.
And so the Sydney version of the Mastodon Festival Sideshow drew to a close, this one including the might of Gojira!
Two very different bands, yet both equally capable of delivering a mesmerising and memorable performance – these moments in one’s life are to be treasured, we are lucky to be able to witness this type of talent, and share the love and passion of our genre with large scores of people whom instantly become your family simply by stepping into venues to share such experiences.
Mastodon and Gojira, hold your collective heads up high my friends – until we meet again!
Review Contributed by Rochelle Cupido