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Tonight’s night of Metal comes from the “best of a bad bunch of Birmingham venues”, the basement of The Barfly. Conditions seem to differ at The Barfly from gig to gig, so let’s see what’s in store…

The first band on the bill are Pilgrimz, from Copenhagen, Denmark. The venue is half filled, which I think is pretty reasonable for a first-of-three band, but the stage is full. Unfortunately, being a support act means you have to share the stage with the headliner’s equipment, so there’s not a lot of room for this four piece. Vocalist Max Vegas introduces the band with a simple “We are Pilgrimz. Enjoy”. And I do. Their blend of Scandinavian Metal, dirty Rock ‘n’ Roll and modern Hardcore is not what I was expecting, but it certainly got me nodding my head.

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The majority of the tracks they played had a bit of all three styles, moving from Doom to Garage to Thrash seamlessly, while Vegas screams his lyrics to a mostly appreciative crowd. Obviously no-one told Vegas that (a) they were on first and (b) the venue was only half full, as he spent a lot of time leaning against the barriers at the front like a Metal megastar, sometimes being joined by guitarist Aage. The rest of the band were very proficient at what they do, but extra points went to drummer Nal’s expert tub-thumping, being especially technical during the slower parts of their songs. The band as a whole did a great job of warming up the crowd this evening.

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Next up are Hertfordshire’s The Eyes Of A Traitor, and the first thing that strikes me is how young these guys are! I panic for a moment that they’re going to be completely out of their depth in front of a growing crowd tonight, but (in my opinion) they did a great job – I’ve seen more established acts wither in front of a less than forgiving audience, which is what we’ve got here tonight. Their style of Metal, featuring shredding guitars but always with a groove, fit really well with vocalist Jack Delany’s growling vocals, and they too make music which is really easy to bang your head to. My only criticism is that Delany seemed to spend too much time in between tracks preaching to an audience who clearly didn’t want them there. The largest cheer of their set followed the words “This is gonna be our last song”, which, to be fair, made me chuckle, but I just don’t see what the audience’s problem with them was.

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Finally, the band that everyone’s been waiting for. Hailing from Bayonne, France are headliners Gojira, made up of brothers Joe (guitar and vocals) and Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (guitar) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass). The lights go down, and the projector starts up! Painted back-drops are so last year – Gojira have a video backdrop, which shows stills, videos and animations throughout their set, projected above Mario’s head, which was a nice touch and really suits their style of very technical Death Metal, with Progressive undertones.

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The band start their set with the fretboard tapping-tastic last album opener “Oroborus” and the audience go mental, and so they should. Gojira appear to be amazingly on form tonight, seemingly tighter than any other band I’ve seen in a long time, and the crowd are really appreciating it, showing their love in the form of manic headbanging and moshing – the lone security guard looking slightly panicked at the sight of a nearly full Barfly going mental!

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“Do you want to hear some double bass drums?” asks Joe, and the crowd roar as the band erupt into “From The Sky”. Most people can’t do with their hands what drummer Mario is doing with his feet – a constant wall of kick drums pounding throughout the entire track, and the majority of their set.

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Gojira understand that they have an amazing drummer, and even allow him a drum solo partway through their set. Where most drum solos seem to go on for hours and hours and are never that interesting, this is a concise show-off moment which allows the rest of the band (and crowd) a breather, before coming back with the atmospheric “Flying Whales”.

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Their main set ends with “The Way Of All Flesh”, with the stage lights dimming down so the crowd can watch the animation going on behind them. The band walk off stage and the crowd chant their name, clap and cheer until they return for their two song encore of “Terra Incognito” and latest single “Vacuity”.

Summing up tonight’s show is pretty easy. Two really good support acts followed by a stunning headline act. Easily my gig of the year so far, and it’ll take a lot to beat it!

Gojira’s set list:
Oroborus ***
The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe **
Backbone **
Love *
From The Sky **
A Sight To Behold ***
The Art Of Dying ***
Drum Solo
Clone *
Flying Whales **
Toxic Garbage Island ***
The Way Of All Flesh ***

Encore:
Terra Incognita
Vacuity ***

* from the 2001 album Terra Incognita
** from the 2005 album From Mars To Sirius
*** from the 2008 album The Way Of All Flesh

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Review – Tony Hackett
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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