Photo by Talon Kane Photography

Back in 2017, I was introduced to a metal band I had never heard of before. And after listening to just one of their songs, I was completely sold and listened to all their music. I then had the chance to see them and photograph them during Louder Than Life 2017. I would then get to photograph them again at the EXIT 111 Festival in 2019. And on October 20th, I was thrilled to get one more opportunity to photograph and review the band. That artist is Gojira. The band is currently on tour supporting their new album Fortitude and with them was Knocked Loose and Alien Weaponry. And with this lineup, it was bound to be a fantastic night at the Hard Rock Live Orlando.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, Hard Rock Live Orlando resides on Universal Studios’ property. After parking in the garage, I made the long trek through the security hub, City Walk, and over to the Hard Rock Live Orlando. The crowds throughout the park were massive due to Halloween Horror nights and when I got to the venue outside was fairly empty, which seemed odd. It was only because they had opened the doors early and everyone was already inside. After getting my bag checked through security, I made my way over to where the media gathers. Inside, the crowd was massive and packed in tight against the barrier. Fans looked happy and excited to have the bands here that night. Heck, I was super excited to have them here too!

Opening up the show that night was Alien Weaponry from New Zealand. The band was formed by two brothers Henry de Jong and Lewis de Jong at a very young age in 2010. In 2015 the band won funding to complete the recording of a single and video. The band won two competitions in 2016. In 2018 they released their debut album Tũ and went on tour with Ministry to support the album. The band then signed on with Napalm Records and in 2021 released Tangaroa. The band consists of Lewis de Jong (vocals, guitar), Henry de Jong (drums), and Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds (bass).

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As the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone down on Henry’s drumset. He stepped on stage, got behind it, and began a Maori Haka, a tribal chant of their ancestors. The band uses the Maori language in a number of their songs. The crowd was getting into Henry’s haka when Lewis and Tūranga joined them on stage as they started into “Titokowaru” off Tangaroa. Lewis sings the song in Maori and the song is hard and heavy with all the band members joining in during the chorus. Lewis had his headbanging and hair whipping around, Henry banged away at the drums with such intensity, while Tūranga strummed at the bass while headbanging and sticking out his tongue at the crowd just as good as Gene Simmons from KISS does. The crowd was absolutely enjoying this kickoff and I knew there was more to come.

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They performed most of their set from Tangaroa following with “Hatupatu”. I love the rhythm for this song for all the music aspects. Great guitar riffs, solid bass riff, excellent drums, add in the Maori language and I was sold. I could easily see a Maori tribe performing a Haka to this song. And let me tell you the crowd was absolutely into this song as I could hear the screams and cheers from behind me as I was photographing. When they performed the title track, I was all in. This song starts off with such a great drumbeat and the guitar and bass blend in so well you can’t help but want to jump and mosh to it. Lewis sings this one in English and Maori and I could hear the crowd singing along with Lewis.

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After photographing the 3 songs we were given, I moved off to the spot they let media stay to watch the rest of their set. I’ve been a fan of Alien Weaponry ever since I heard their first single off Tangaroa. And when I got to see them live at EXIT 111 I was absolutely sold on this band. Their singing, their presence on stage, and the music is so unique and yet so familiar for metal. I like a large number of international metal bands because they write their metal differently from the bands in the U.S. and to me, Alien Weaponry has evolved metal to a whole new level. As I was watching their set and headbanging along, I felt like jumping into the mosh pit with the crowd. They are that energizing. Lewis at one point had the crowd separate to do a Wall of Death and the crowd was happy to abide and when that Wall mashed together it got nuts. Alien Weaponry had an excellent performance that night and the crowd supported them the whole night. I truly wish they had a longer set. You can help support them by picking up their music and merch at their site HERE.

Next to the stage was the metal band Knocked Loose. The band from Oldham County, Kentucky formed back in 2013. They released their first EP Pop Culture in 2014 and followed up with a split EP with Damaged Goods in 2015. The band was signed to Pure Noise Records and released their debut studio album Laugh Tracks in 2016. The band would release their sophomore album A Different Shade of Blue in 2019 also through Pure Noise Records. This year the band released another EP titled A Tear in the Fabric of Life. The band consists of Bryan Garris (vocals), Isaac Hale (lead guitar), Nicko Calderon (rhythm guitar), Kevin Otten (bass), and Kevin Kaine (drums).

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I had only heard of Knocked Loose by name and never listen to their music or seen their live performances. But, the crowd definitely knew them because the moment they came on stage the fans erupted into cheers. The band opened with “Where The Light Divides the Holler” from A Tear in the Fabric of Life. The track is heavy and hard and vocals are pure screaming. The energy on stage was high with Bryan running from side to side, head thrown back as he bellowed into the microphone. Isaac was bouncing and spinning as he made his way from side to side on stage. They followed with “Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory” from A Different Shade of Blue. And continuing through with “Billy No Mates” from Laugh Tracks. 

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Knocked Loose absolutely had the fans enraptured and moshing hard and heavy through their set. Musically, Isaac, Nicko, and both Kevins were rocking the songs. Bryan’s ability to maintain that style of singing throughout that set is definitely impressive. When they wrapped up, the crowd gave them a huge round of applause. You can find their music and merch HERE. Their set list that night was:

  1. Where The Light Divides the Holler
  2. Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory
  3. Billy No Mates
  4. Denied by Fate
  5. Forget Your Name
  6. Belleville
  7. Deadringer
  8. All My Friends
  9. Oblivion’s Peak
  10. Guided by the Moon
  11. Contorted in the Faille
  12. Mistakes Like Fractures
  13. Counting Worms

Finally, we arrived at our headliners from Ondres, France, Gojira! Originally founded under the name of Godzilla in 1996, focusing on metal that incorporates a number of different styles. By 2001, the band needed to change their name due to legal issues and settled on Gojira, the Japanese spelling of Godzilla. During that same year, they self-produced their first album Terra Incognita. Two years later they released their sophomore album The Link and began touring in France and gathering a strong fan base. From Mars to Sirius was released in 2005 and the band signed with Prosthetic Records to gain exposure in the U.S. The Way of All Flesh was released in 2008 and hit the Billboard 200 in the U.S. In 2011, Gojira signed with Roadrunner Records in 2011 and released L’Enfant Sauvage in 2012. One of the most anticipated albums from them, Magma, was self-produced and released in 2016. It received rave reviews and in the U.S. peaked at number 24. Gojira went on a 3-4 year world tour to support the album. It would be 5 years before the band before they would release their most recent album, Fortitude. The album debuted at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and hit number 1 on both the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums and Billboard Top Rock Albums charts. Gojira is Joe Duplantier (vocals, rhythm guitar), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (lead guitar), and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass).

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The moment they stepped on stage the crowd went wild. The fans in Orlando absolutely love Gojira and showed it as much as they could with cheers and applause. Gojira opened their set with “Born for One Thing” from Fortitude. With rapid fire drums raging through the song and Joe’s unique vocals the crowd was getting wild. There was a near miss as Joe stumbled backward and fell on the stage, but was up right away continuing to play as nothing happened. They followed up with “Backbone” from 2005’s From Mars to Sirius, which just lets loose the heavy throughout, especially the breakdown with such fantastic guitar playing from Christian and drumming from Mario. The speed they maintain is just crazy. From there it was onto “Stranded” from 2016’s Magma. 

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As their set went on, Joe thanked the crowd often and asked if they wanted to hear whichever song he named. During their songs, he gestured to them to get wild as they performed. It didn’t take long for crowd surfers to start coming towards them sometimes 3 at a time. Security was kept quite busy that night catching crowd surfers. The mosh pit was super wild during Gojira’s performance. At one point they all sat down on the floor and started rowing together in multiple lines as if they were on a crew team. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in a mosh pit. Outside of that, the crowd was having a blast listening and headbanging and moshing to Gojira.

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Gojira themselves looked like they were having fun too. Joe sang with such passion and smiles as he looked over at his bandmates. Christian at times became lost in the music, totally in the zone, playing his heart out with such speed and accuracy. Jean-Michel wandered about the stage, engaging with the fans, pumping out some killer bass notes that resonated through the venue. While Mario was a drum god behind the kit with explosive beats fueling the fans with each drum hit. Gorija was delivering so much energy to the crowd they used it to cheer them on more and more. Personally, out of all the live shows I’ve been able to photograph and see this year, I haven’t felt so alive as I did photographing and watching Gorija play.

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And they delivered a 15 song setlist that kept the fans entertained for 90 minutes plus. They performed “Flying Whales” off of From Mars to Sirius“The Cell” from Magma“Another World” from the 2021 Fortitude, “L’Enfant Sauvage” the title track from their 2012 album, and closed with “Vacuity” from 2008 The Way of All Flesh. And a special notation to when they performed “The Chant” from Fortitude that Joe had the crowd sing the chant (along with a backing track). It was a pretty cool thing to hear. When Gojira finished their set the crowd gave them the appreciation they deserved. You can find Gojira’s music and merch HERE. Their setlist that night was:

  1. Born for One Thing
  2. Backbone
  3. Stranded
  4. Flying Whales
  5. The Cell
  6. Love/Remembrance
  7. Hold On
  8. Grind
  9. Silvera
  10. Another World
  11. L’Enfant Sauvage


  1. Amazonia
  2. Toxic Garbage Island
  3. The Chant
  4. Vacuity

Overall, this may have been one of my favorite shows of 2021. An awesome night of heavy metal is exactly what one needs to rekindle their fire.

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