19.7.2022 Employed to Serve, Alien Weaponry, & Gojira @ Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki

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French progressive metal act GOJIRA released their latest outing, Fortitude,” in 2021; a good reason to embark on a European tour. The band had announced their show quite a while ago and due to reasons known to everyone, had to postpone a few times and even upgrade the venue. July 19th, 2022, was finally the date the French proggers could go ahead with their sold-out show in Helsingin Jäähalli, along with British EMPLOYED TO SERVE and Kiwi ALIEN WEAPONRY as support.

I’m one of these people who doesn’t look up support acts beforehand if they are not known to me, as a result, I had no clue what EMPLOYED TO SERVE would have in store for us. The band opened up with “Universal Chokehold,” which had a beautiful acoustic intro. This intro was deemed to be a bit misleading, considering after a minute or so the song switched into the next gear and the band started headbanging. Next track “Exist” continued the metalcore-infused feast, which made it clear the 5-piece has energy for days. Singer Justine Jones was a demanding presence on stage, while the rest of the band tried to hype up the audience. If you’d think they would slow down from there, the band went on with the even heavier “Force Fed.” I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in the crowd a mosh pit had erupted right there – you can’t really see these things from the photo pit. With about seven songs, the band played a relatively short act, but it was an appropriate amount for anyone new to their music to get acquainted with it. Altogether, they definitely earned their spot supporting GOJIRA, as they definitely knew how to warm up the audience.

Since a lot of our readers are into ALIEN WEAPONRY‘s music – including us – we just had to check their show out, since only a few of us attended Nummirock this year. While their debut album, “” had a more groove/thrash metal-oriented sound, the recently released “Tangaroa” at its core had a lot of progressive influences. No wonder the trio were asked to support GOJIRA. It’s obvious that Finland has welcomed this band with open arms, as the crowd had grown considerably when ALIEN WEAPONRY‘s show was about to start, not to mention a filled-to-the-brim Kattilahalli during Tuska Festival 2019. As per usual, the show started with a haka, performed by drummer Henry de Jong, who entered the stage first. He soon got joined by his brother Lewis and their fresh bass player, Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds, who only recently joined the band after Ethan Trembath‘s departure. After the traditional haka was done, the band smoothly transitioned into “Raupatu,” an excellent opener to the show.

The Kiwis played a mix of songs from both albums, with atmospheric lighting. The focus seemed to be more on the Te Reo songs of their repertoire, with the exception of “Holding My Breath” and “Tangaroa” (which is mixed in with English lyrics). However, that didn’t stop the audience from singing along or at least shouting something randomly with rage. Sadly, because their set was way too short, it meant the band also had to cut out some songs from their latest record that are probably also great live tracks, such as “Buried Underground.” If EMPLOYED TO SERVE warmed up the crowd alright, ALIEN WEAPONRY took it to the next level, unleashing some of the most vicious walls of death I have ever encountered in Finland. Let’s hope Finnish booking agencies took note of their performance since these guys really deserve to get their own headlining show here – although they might want to have the Red Cross as a sponsor, as their show goes hand-in-hand with vile mosh-pits and sore necks from headbanging – at least we could get a discount on being tended to.

Before GOJIRA‘s show started, the crew installed a large white screen in front of the stage. Nearer to the show’s start, an atmospheric intro started playing, which towards the end also got a lot of electronic influences, and at time even felt inspired by ’80s game music. Soon, a large countdown was projected on the screen, second-by-second, from 200. The audience got more and more excited by each second and when there were only 10 seconds left, it got intensely loud. Instead of dropping the curtain at 10, the band came on stage and started the “Born for One Thing” intro, their silhouettes visible on the curtain. Right as Joe Duplantier started singing the first words to the song, the curtain dropped and thus marked the beginning of the show.

The set was dressed fairly minimal, with a large projection screen behind the band, Mario Duplantier on a drum riser, and other than that there were not all too many gimmicks, except for some smoke, which appeared on stage as the band continued with the heavy banger, “Backbone.” At first, there was a cool illustration projected behind the band, but it soon switched to something more atmospheric and animated. Next track “Stranded” got a very loud response from the audience – after all, it was a huge hit song and who doesn’t like to sing along to the wa wa wee woo-riff. The screen changed up to some nice bokeh and even though, to this day, I don’t know how it relates to the song, it surely is a great effect.

GOJIRA fans will be excited that this tour includes the long “Flying Whales” intro that features… yes, the whales (and also includes the legendary wall of death)! On top of that, it just had the most marvelous atmosphere, created by lighting and other crazy effects. I don’t know if this was felt throughout the venue, but from in front of the stage – in the photo pit – it almost felt like we were part of the ocean as the light had a sort of sparkly water feel to it and it felt like it was moving along with the waves; simply beautiful.

Due to having to leave our gear in the cloakroom, unfortunately, we missed out on “The Cell” and at least part of “Love/Remembrance.” When we had re-joined the audience and found a good spot with a nice view of the entire stage, the band had already started playing “Hold On,” one of their latest songs, which turned out to be a killer live track. The most important words were projected behind the band so that the audience could shout “Fight!” After “Hold On,” there was a moment for drummer Mario Duplantier to toy with the audience, as he started off a drum solo to hype up the crowd. During his solo, he held up a sign saying “Ei vittu kuuluu mitään” [trans: can’t hear anything / nothings going on in life] and when the Finnish crowd was done giggling, they raised their voices even louder, to which he held up “Erittäin hyvä.” [trans: all good]

“Grind” turned out to be a very heavy live song, but didn’t leave much room to breathe for the always awesome “Silvera.” The great thing about this setlist is that it also included a lot of classic GOJIRA songs along with brand new ones. Another feast for the audience was “Another World,” which included their beautiful animated music video in the background. As the end of the set was near, GOJIRA saved some of the most intense tracks for last: “L’enfant sauvage” and “Toxic Garbage Island.”

Joe Duplantier asked the audience to sing along to “The Chant” and even in the back – where we were standing – people were singing along loudly, giving it the massive chorus that it deserves. This must be a chill-inducing moment for the band, whenever they play it on tour. After the track, Duplantier was fooling around with his guitar, fiddling a casual “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” before the band headed into “The Gift of Guilt.” The band left the stage, but obviously came back for two more (new) songs: “New Found” and “Amazonia,” the latter being a truly amazing live track. As I looked around, I noticed a lot of people were either dancing to the track, headbanging, or then in a mosh pit, but nobody was left still, it was all-in for this one last song.

Thus, concluded a lovely evening with a lot of metal and GOJIRA. The set included a lot of classic GOJIRA songs and naturally, a lot of songs off “Fortitude,” with the only setback being them not having played “Sphynx.” The selection of songs, however, worked and there were a lot of high-energy and groovy tracks, but altogether the dynamics were kept high throughout the whole show. The best thing, however, was perhaps the production of this concert, which really lifted up the performance to the next level. Both the projections and the lighting were really nicely done and really fit with each song (for instance, during “Amazonia” there were huge flames projected and red lighting, creating an ominous atmosphere, obviously referring to the current politics in Brazil that allow the Amazon Rainforest to be burnt down. In fact, proceeds of this song went to indigenous tribes in the Amazon who have suffered immensely – victims of deforestation, land loss, forced labor, violence, and harassment). Everything just felt right, thought-through, and really translated well on stage; a must-visit show!

Text and photos by Laureline Tilkin

Setlist

  1. Born for One Thing
  2. Backbone
  3. Stranded
  4. Flying Whales
  5. The Cell
  6. Love / Remembrance
  7. Hold On
  8. Grind
  9. Silvera
  10. Another World
  11. L’enfant sauvage
  12. Toxic Garbage Island
  13. The Chant
  14. The Gift of Guilt
  15. New Found (Encore)
  16. Amazonia (Encore)