By Dave Pehling
BERKELEY (CBS SF) — For the past 20 years, French metal band Gojira has been pushing the boundaries of metal with its neck-snapping, stop-start riffs and intricate rhythmic onslaughts. Formed in 1996 in the small southern France city of Bayonne by guitarist/singer Joe Duplantier and his drummer brother Mario, the group then known as Godzilla forged a sound built around elements of thrash, technical death metal and progressive metal.
After releasing a series of demo tapes and touring in support of established extreme metal acts like Cannibal Corpse and Immortal, the group was legally forced to change its name, switching to the Romanized version of the Japanese monster Gojira in time for their debut album Terra Incognita in 2001.
Favorable reviews led to more touring opportunities as the band began to make inroads into the U.S., opening for the likes of Children of Bodom, Machine Head and Lamb of God. Subsequent efforts like the concept album From Mars to Sirius and the brutal 2008 recording The Way of All Flesh found the band rising to the level of experimental metal contemporaries like Mastodon and Opeth in terms of sonic density and complex rhythm patterns without sacrificing melody.
While earlier albums focused on environmental concerns — they sang about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on “Toxic Garbage Island” on The Way of All Flesh — Gojira’s recordings have moved on to more spiritual and philosophical matters. Tracked in the band’s newly adopted home base of New York City, the group’s latest Roadrunner Records release Magma was colored by the passing of the Duplantiers’ mother during the recording process.
Dialing back some of the technical ferocity of the past, the songs on Magma offer up zero in on a more minimalist yet more accessible approach. “Silvera,” “Pray” and the stunning title track match monstrous riffing to equally weighty emotional heft that make the album the band’s most cathartic and powerful to date.
Returning to the Bay Area for the first time since their blistering sold-out show at the Warfield in San Francisco last October, Gojira are joined for this concert at Berkeley’s UC Theatre by acclaimed doom metal group Pallbearer. A force on the underground ever since releasing their celebrated seismic debut Sorrow and Extinction in 2012. Weaving elements of psychedelia and progressive rock into their tuneful epics that highlight guitarist and main composer Brett Campbell’s melodic vocals, Pallbearer continues to push the boundaries of doom metal with its latest Profound Lore Records release, Heartless. Canadian prog-metal band and Metal Blade artist ONI — who are the only heavy group on the planet currently using the “xylosynth” as part of their instrumental arsenal — opens the show with their unique, hyper-technical sound.
Gojira with Pallbearer and Oni
Sunday, July 30, 7 p.m. $35