July 4, 2012

Music DVD Review: Gojira - The Flesh Alive

If you like hard hitting metal to groove to that blends extreme with groove and melody and you aren't listening to Gojira, you are in for a treat. These guys deliver pure, unencumbered, heavy metal. The music they produce is a force of nature. Heavy, unrelenting, skull shattering metal. With The Flesh Alive, they have captured their live set in a few different venues and takes us behind the curtain to he writing process and the touring cycle.

I first experienced Gojira in 2007 when they were a part of the Radio Rebellion Tour with Behemoth and Job for a Cowboy. I had never heard them before they took the stage (supporting their then current release, From Mars to Sirius) and I was floored. It was like a cross between Mastodon and Meshuggah while not really being either.

Gojira is proof positive that it is not always about how fast you can play or how many notes you can squeeze in, but about just how heavy you can be. There are few bands that I have encountered so far that can match the sheer bone crushing power that they possess. Like the film legend from which they got their name, Gojira is a true force of nature. This DVD set helps drive that home, as if their music was not enough on its own.

The first disk features their full set from the Garorock festival in 2009. This set features a set made mostly of tunes from The Way of All Flesh and From Mars to Sirius, with a few from their debut album, Terra Incognita, thrown in for good measure. The best thing I can think of to recommend here is to turn down the lights, turn up the volume, press play, and hope not to piss off the neighbors. This is the sort of stuff that is meant to be played at loud volumes.

The stage is huge, the crowd is a veritable sea of thrashing bodies, and Gojira do their very best to fill any and all remaining space with sound, the heaviest they have on hand. Just listen as they start their set with "Oroborus" and you will know what you are in for.

The biggest complaint, and it is a relatively minor one, is the way it was edited. The concert, especially early on, has had the MTV formula applied to it. Lots of fast cuts, quick zooms, filters, and fake grain added and used in an attempt to liven up the proceedings. It almost felt like the director did not trust the music to transport us into the experience. Fortunately, it never gets too bad (I remember an Iron Maiden live DVD that was cut so fast as to be near impossible to watch, I believe it was Rock in Rio) and even settles down to more acceptable levels later in the show.

On the plus side, the concert was shot in high definition and it looks great. So, once you acquaint yourself with the editing, be ready to watch the band shred the stage in great detail. Now, it is not like a Hollywood movie, but it surely looks good to me. Combine that with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (or a 2.0 PCM track) and you have have a very nice complimentary package. They really captured the bone crushing intensity of the live performance with a very nice mix. It fills the soundfield and manages to include some crowd noise in the surounds, never overpowering, but enough to make sure you know it is a live show.

This first disk also includes a three song sampling from a show in Les Vieilles Charrues. This is a nice inclusion as a couple of these songs are not included in either of the main concert set lists. Also, it is filmed in a more traditional fashion, allowing you to get a better idea of their stage presence and intensity.

The second disk is highlighted by a concert recorded at Bordeaux. This set is nearly identical to the Garorock one, except they added "Toxic Garbage Island" to the mix. Now, while the sets may be a near match for each other, the experience of this show is pretty different. It is the smallest stage an crowd of the three venues shown on this set. This is not a bad thing. If anything, the smaller venue offers a more intimate setting where both the band and the crowd can feed off each other. That seems to be exactly what happens.

This recording is free of the editing and filtering trickery of the Garorock show; on the other hand, the show does not appear to have been recorded in high definition either. This is not really a bad thing as it just adds something to atmosphere. This may actually be the more entertaining one and it is because of the raw intensity of the grainy footage and the smaller venue. It should also be noted that you have the same audio options here as on the first disk and the music is captured perfectly.

The next piece of the Live Flesh puzzle is a documentary that runs a little past the 60-minute mark. The style is very, well, not your usual documentary. It is presented in a fly on the wall style. We get clips of them recording The Way of All Flesh in the studio, of them preparing to go on tour, and the various les of their tour, culminating in a 2009 run opening for Metallica. Mixed in are a few interview bits and footage of nature and buildings. It is not exactly what I would term as informational, but it is a fascinating watch as we watch the band create and give back through the recording and touring process.

The last part of this release is a live CD of the Garorock set. It is snipped a little here and there to ensure it fits on one disk. It is a very nice companion to the DVDs. With this disk you can take some live Gojira wherever you go and there is nothing wrong with that.

Highly Recommended.

Article first published as Music DVD Review: Gojira - The Flesh Alive on Blogcritics.

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