Gojira / Devin Townsend Project / The Atlas Moth Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, February 13

Gojira / Devin Townsend Project / The Atlas Moth Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, February 13
Photo: Adam Wills
Before the audience's frail cocoon of humanity would be burned away by the cleansing metal flames of Gojira, the Atlas Moth and Devin Townsend Project performed excellent sets.

The Atlas Moth surged in popularity when they released the stellar An Ache for the Distance in 2011 and have also been cultivating a reputation for powerful, plaintive live shows. This was no exception. Their set was characterized by a surging, insistent energy that would crescendo and then drop back to a throb. By far and away the most restrained band of the night, they still made a deep impression and proved that they deserved to be on this extraordinary bill.

Any show by Devin Townsend Project is an act of celebration: of internet culture, hardcore nerd humour, and unabashed love of all things heavy and loud. Heavy Devy was in fine form, contorting his face almost lasciviously at the audience. The set was hard and fast, drawn primarily from Epicloud's and Deconstruction's most energetic and driven material. In between jokes about his mother's "catcher's mitt-sized vagina" and mocking his band's minor technical difficulties when the drum sound partially cut out ("We don't need a kick drum, my penis is fucking huge!"), Townsend was sure to let the audience know that this set was all about positive energy and, yes, even love, which was driven home by the closing song, "Grace."

And then Gojira, who brought a set that was nothing short of rapturous. Drawing deeply from their latest release, L'Enfant Sauvage, the French extreme metal prophets led the audience through a crucible of aural purification. From the opening strains of "Explosia" to the extraordinary encore of "The Gift of Guilt," each track was more powerful, more soulful than what had been captured in the recorded version.

Behind them was a backdrop lit to look like the pinprick light of stars, and the silhouette with a brain filled with branches that adorns the album cover rose behind them. Throughout the set, the silhouette was lit differently, sometimes making the branches look like flames or water. Later, black and white projections of architecture and plant life were juxtaposed together, drawing parallels between natural and artificial constructions.

Frontman Joe Duplantier controlled the energy of the night with a grip and presence somewhere between that of a wizard and a priest. At one point, he switched places with his brother Mario, taking over the drum kit so Mario could lend his deeper, rougher vocals to the performance. By the final three elements of the set — an explosive drum solo that gave way to "The Axe" and then "Vacuity" — it was easy to believe that some alchemical reaction had taken place leaving everyone in the audience forever altered.

Don't be surprised if this show ends up triggering cocertgoers latent superpowers.