Inclement weather might postpone a metal show, but nothing can stop it from happening. After a successful evening at Music Hall of Williamsburg the night before, Gojira, Devin Townsend Project, and The Atlas Moth roared into Irving Plaza Tuesday for a varied and accomplished evening of top-notch musicianship and genre-bending rock. The sold-out performance had originally been scheduled for February 8th, but was quickly shuffled further into the month after the blustery mess that was Nemo came to town.
I made it just in time to catch The Atlas Moth’s set. Although the Chicago-based band has been churning out sludgy, doom psychedelica since 2007, to define their sound in such finite terms would be a discredit to their creativity. Throughout their all-too-short performance, the group deftly wove a tapestry of bone-crushing noise that nodded to classic jazz, '90s Norwegian death metal, Black Sabbath, Slayer, The Grateful Dead, and every possible thing in between. Songs liked "Perpetual Generations," "Horse Thieves," and "An Ache for the Distance" highlighted both singer/guitarist Stavros Giannopoulos’ terrifying and assured howls, as well as Alex Klein’s thundering, extra-low bass.
After The Atlas Moth finished plowing through the trippiest bowels of howl, Devin Townsend Project took to the stage. As the diligent techies set up, a screen played a series of classic memes (including the infamously weird poodle exercise video and the hypnotic dancing badgers) interspersed with Townsend’s Ziltoid the Omniscient character. Once on stage, the guitar virtuoso and his crew ripped through a a strong and lively set that included "Kingdom," "More!" and "Liberation"—all from Townsend’s latest effort, Epicloud.
To be honest, I knew very little of Townsend going in to the show, and I feel immensely lucky to have seen such a talent live. His vision and sound is unique and complex; songs seemed to transition seamlessly from operatic highs to hellish, wicked lows. During "Lucky Animals," Townsend even managed to convince a room full of metal heads to do jazz hands during the chorus. That fun moment of audience participation—and the closing song "Grace"—were joyous reminders that metal can have a lighter side without losing any of its raw power or energy.
Despite the excellent showmanship and talent of both opening acts, it was clear the audience was there to support and celebrate France’s Gojira. The quartet opened with "Explosia," and instantly a rowdy and sizable mosh pit formed in the center of the room. It wasn’t long before a seemingly endless stream of crowd surfers hurtled past the stage. The group focused mostly on tracks from their latest release, L’Enfant Sauvage, while including older hits like "Backbone."
Despite this being the last night of a grueling five-week tour, I was surprised to see how energetic Joe Duplantier and company were. Between running around and serious headbanging, it seemed as though no one in the group ever stood still. That was an interesting contrast to Meshuggah—one of Gojira’s most obvious influences—who seemed tired by comparison a few nights prior.
The highlight of the set was Mario Duplantier’s commanding solo and surprise guest performance on lead vocals. Recently crowned the premier modern metal drummer by fans of Metalsucks last year, it was clear that Duplantier certainly earned the title. Playing at a punishing pace that seemed to defy the laws of physics, Duplantier wowed the crowd with a masterful piece of drumming artistry. His death growl proved another thrilling moment for the audience and it was clear he was completely enjoying their adoration.