They say when it rains, it pours and a bitter and drenched evening in Sydney wasn’t enough to prevent punters from lining up outside the HiFi Bar at Fox Studios last Thursday to catch a glimpse of Mastodon, Gojira and Kvelertak who were all winding up their ‘East coast’ Holocaust (see what I did there!) As I’m walking to the bar, I notice someone familiar ‘No don’t be daft, it couldn’t be’ I said to myself. Nevertheless, as Gojira guitarist Christian Andreu walks past, we both exchange cheesy grins to one another; my face more likely resembling that of a retarded spluttering Llama, I face palm my ridiculousness and head to the bar. This feat, I thought to myself will not be so easily accomplished by their next round to Australia, after tonight, the name Gojira will be on the forked tongues of every metal head in the country and rightly so.
We roll out of the rain and into the newly refurbished HiFi and to my amazement, in all its nostalgic charm and enchantment it had set the most intimate setting for the savoir-faire we were to face. The venue became more and more crowded with swarms of metalheads piling in from the rain like drowned rats looking for shelter, and soon to follow was the notorious haze all exuberant fans secrete. Yummers.
As I grab some French goodies at the merch table and a disgustingly overpriced bourbon I notice every inch of the pit was now plastered with the autochthons of metal, there was no mistaking it, no holds bar, this was business and business was good. As I find a spot to ingest my already booze riddled body I take my place with all the hesitant Mastodon & Gojira fans waiting intently to see what Scandinavian punk is all about. The mighty Norwegian’s Kvelertak took to the stage like a lightning bolt, with an uproar from the crowd; on moseyed vocalist Erlend Hjelvik in all his Hank Von Helvete-ness and before long the Norwegians had a ‘chokehold’ on fans. These boys are legitimate rockers, no saturated scenery, no trademark trends and in all honesty I wage they hadn’t showered since leaving Norway spouting wild and rebellious proclamations along the way. Kvelertak lyrics were all performed in Norwegian with a strong sense of Nordic Folklore, I got somewhat of a kick out of this as I roughly speak the language however this avenue is hardly innovative. With obvious sound issues aside the Nordic punks did not lose touch with their crowd for even the briefest moment, all members precisely feeding the fans with punk panache and stripping down the instrumentation like a cheap hooker. Punk embraces the DIY tactic and these are the DIY masters.
The HiFi had now become a sardine can, with fans contorting like Tetris pieces snaking through the crowds. The top floor of the venue was opened up, we leapt up the stairs clutching more bourbon along the way and perched ourselves smack bang in the thick of it. After three more bourbons and a lengthy wait…. we were still waiting. Drum techs, guitar techs all designing the flawless sounds were torturing the crowds whose enthusiasm levels were rising faster than my blood alcohol level. As the curtains ricocheted with one last crash of the cymbol - the stage appeared and as the lights bled red, a fire spread through the pit, the thunderous roar from hot blooded fans began as Gojira sauntered to the stage like immortals. With a voltaic blast from Mario [Duplantier] on the drums the omnipotence begins with The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, the mosh pit surging with knotted bodies, then as the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise, Joe [Duplantier] began his predominant death growl, this set the mosh pit off into a frenzy, surging like a black sea they began to soar in unison.
Gojira displayed a strict and almost mechanical set, toying with the crowds like cats with epileptic mice, the amount of precision and discipline the band display commands with it an authority they easily held over the sweat sodden supporters, pulverized and mulched in the pit….. and loving every minute of it. Having been a fan of Gojira for nearly a decade I never underestimated the supremacy they would bring to a live show. With a personal favourite Backbone beginning, it was clear to see the band lacked none of it. A growl I have waited eight years to hear was ripping through us as a knife through butter. Each member exhibited flawless accuracy from riff to riff, it was truly moving both physically and emotionally as I was head whipping my way around the balcony. Gojira left an impression on the crowds of Sydney to say the very least with their musicianship, their technique and undisputable passion. With the chants “Gojira, Gojira” echoing through the theatre. Gojira, truly c'est le sexe pour les oreilles!! (that's enough of that - Ed.)
Dashing outside for an entire pack of cigarettes, the venue was swarming with beer, sweat and brutish chants for headliner Mastodon. The Mastodon set was almost a non event, as electricity issues nearly prevented them from playing “Let’s just see what happens” the band screamed to their optimistic fans. The Atlanta boys had a lot to contend with following the Gojira set and not seeing Mastodon live or following their work since the days of Remission and Leviathan I was still a little undecided. Yet I was pleasantly surprised as the fans of Mastodon were instantly in a fury as the band graced the stage; throwing themselves and nodding feverishly through songs such as Megalodon in which Mastodon took to the sky on the backs of the already zealot like fans. The crowds seized every minute of the unblemished set thrown at them by the sludgy righteousness the four piece are renowned for. With heavy instrumental work and intricate passages the band wiped the floor with groove and squeezed every possible grain of sweat through every strum. This was Mastodon territory; we were the puppets and they were our masters. Holding the crowds in the palm of their hands with veracity and heartiness through the anthemic Crack The Skye, Troy Sanders was matched by the pit word for word. Props for Troy as most of Mastodon's members are shoe gazers, it was nice to make a connection with at least one. With all the positives aside, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the genetic material of the Mastodon fan has been altered somewhat since 2006, with only a handful expressing their amusement when March of The Fire Ants began, ‘Nobody knows this song?’ I shouted, this has a lot to do with the fact that since the release of Blood Mountain the use of a more alternative approach to the music and a cleaner vocal style has been more apparent, bringing with it a modern mainstream crowd, it was no longer the Mastodon I remembered, the Mastodon who toured with the likes of Slayer, resembling garbage demons and wielding enough prog sludge spectaculars to convince even the most arrogant and stubborn of metal heads, Mastodon now play to a crowd sporting Star Wars t-shirts, thick ‘Hipster’ reading glasses and spotless haircuts. It was a sight to witness however, the remarkable diversity of fans entering the HiFi last Thursday with an equal sharing of favorability between all three. and all three leaving the pit in a somewhat distorted orderly fashion to make way for the next, almost like a heavy metal assembly line.