Gojira – ‘The Flesh Alive’ DVD Review

There was a dark and miserable time when record labels saw fit to release music DVDs of such lamentable quality that they listed as 5.1 surround sound (now more or less a given) in the special features section. Happily acts such as Nine Inch Nails raised the bar on what was (and was not acceptable) in the realms of the music DVD and in recent years we’ve been treated to a wide variety of excellent value packages from the likes of Lamb of God, Black Country Communion and Arch Enemy which have demonstrated just how far the format can be stretched.

Gojira, doyens of the burgeoning French metal scene were never going to let the opportunity to show themselves off in the most glowing of lights pass them by, however, and ‘the flesh alive’, the band’s second foray into the realms of visual media (the first being 2004’s ‘the Link alive’), is a veritable feast of live shows and documentary footage that comes bundled in some ace packaging (neatly aping the artwork to ‘the way of all flesh’) with a CD and a poster thrown in for good measure.

Of the DVDs, the first features footage from Garorock as the main feature along with a brief exert (three songs) from Les Vieilles Charrues, all of which totals up to some 100 minutes of beautifully filmed, perfectly recorded live footage which does an amazing job of capturing the intensity and energy of the live Gojira experience, a task that is no mean feat. Watching the DVD for the first time, as the band tear into ‘Oroborus’, you are struck by the quality of the audio. Available as a PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the sound is crystal clear and for those of you with a home cinema set up the audio is a treat indeed, Remy Delliers’ authoritative mix making good use of the surround speakers and capturing every instrument with devastating clarity. The visuals, filmed in high definition, are also of stunning quality although the pace of the editing is less appealing, director Fabrice Michelin somewhat missing the point of a live show and thus desperately trying to make it ‘more interesting’ by utilising endless jump cuts, high speed tracking shots, black and white portions and fake grain, all of which merely serve to detract from what is a blistering performance before a crowd of loyal and devoted fans. This should not, however, put you off the DVD as a whole as the schizophrenic editing calms down over the course of the show, allowing a more natural view of proceedings and a more enjoyable experience in general as a result. The set list, meanwhile, is a dream – drawing five tracks from ‘the way of all flesh’, four from ‘from Mars to Sirius’ and a handful from debut album ‘Terra Incognita’ – with the highlight being the remarkable, demented ‘a sight to behold’ complete with robotic vocals and awkward time signatures. To add to that, the three tracks from Les Vieilles Charreues are not found elsewhere on the first disc making them a valuable bonus (the furious attack of ‘Indians’ in particular) whilst the more conventional filming style offers a better view of the band’s remarkable stage set and backdrops.

The second disc offers up a whole second concert, this time taken from Bordeaux, with a further eighty minutes of live footage proving to be a real gift to fans, and although it doesn’t offer any extra or different tracks, for those who find the <ahem> enthusiastic editing of the first disc a touch over the top, the straight-forward nature of the recording on this disc will provide a welcome retreat, whilst the audio is, once again, stunning. Indeed, for fans of the band, this excess of material is an unmitigated treat – an opportunity to witness the remarkable Gojira in action in a variety of settings and it’s hard to think of a band who have been more generous with their fans with regard to live footage and extra features on a DVD release. The real meat of the second disc, however, is the behind the scenes documentary which, at sixty-odd minutes, takes you right to the heart of the band and the recording of ‘the way of all flesh’, not to mention the subsequent tour.

 Journeying to a studio that looks for all the world as if it should be populated by an incestuous family used to feasting off the flesh of their mutilated victims, it is here, far from civilisation that Gojira set to work on their universally praised progressive-metal opus. Typically oblique, the documentary is a mixture of fly-on-the-wall footage and random shots of nature with the highlights proving to be the moments that show exactly how the band developed their innovative sound. From the recording process we move into the tour pre-production where we see the band preparing their gear, their set and themselves before jetting off to North America for the first leg of their tour to pay to packed, sweaty clubs full of fans overjoyed to see their heroes in the flesh. The documentary then moves onto the summer tour, all festivals and huge crowds before taking us behind the scenes of the monumental Metallica tour of 2009 for which Gojira were the support act of choice. Clearly a remarkable experience for the band, what is truly impressive is that Gojira seemingly never allow the scale of the concerts to overwhelm them or overshadow the music, and back stage they’re still the same musicians we saw at the outset of the album recording, partaking of a group hug before taking to the stage to unleash holy hell upon the unsuspecting Metalli-fans. The down to earth nature of the band is further emphasised by footage of them taking to the stage in a local cafe in 2010, clearly intent on simply having an awesome time with a small selection of their lucky friends and fans. Another stint with Metallica (this time in Europe) is documented next and this is where we leave Gojira, enraptured by the music, unfazed by the scale of their success and clearly ready to move on to the next chapter of their remarkable story. It is a brilliant road movie, short on commentary and allowing, instead, the pictures and the music to do all the talking. In any other hands a portrait of such intimacy could have gone horribly wrong, exposing all the wrong traits, but the picture that emerges is that Gojira are every bit as in love with their music as fans would wish them to be. Funny, charming, even poignant in places, it is a brave and brilliant movie that will repay repeated viewings.

Overall this is a package that can’t be faulted. Everything from the video content to the animated menus have been meticulously constructed whilst a welcome addition to the set is the CD which features the bulk of the band’s live show on a twelve-track, sixty-five minute disc. The poster is also cool, and a decent size, and a handy booklet provides the song-writing credits and DVD info. In short, what you have is a package that will have Gojira fans weeping with delight, beautifully presented and available on both DVD and BluRay for those who want the best quality possible.

With ‘the way of all flesh’ Gojira thrust themselves into the limelight. A remarkable album, it is no surprise that it featured in many end of year polls as a top album and what this DVD makes abundantly clear is that Gojira have the live presence, the passion and the commitment to back up that furious statement of intent. As blistering a reminder as you could wish to have should you have been to a live show, and all the encouragement you should ever require to go and see them the next time they hit town, on the strength of this DVD Gojira should be well on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world by now.

 

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