April 26, 2021 Gojira – Fortitude (Album Review)
It’s almost here! One of 2021’s most highly-anticipated Metal releases, Fortitude, the seventh full-length studio LP from the titans in Gojira, arrives on Friday, April 30, 2021 thanks to Roadrunner Records.
If you love heavy music, you know the name Gojira. The French outfit has been climbing the ranks of the elite since 1996, when they were founded as Godzilla and slayed King Kong’s hairy buttocks. Okay, the first part of that is true but the second half, well, not so much. Instead of defeating giant apes, the band would go on to make their debut in 2001 with Terra Incognita before going on to deliver 2003’s The Link and fan favorite, 2005’s From Mars to Sirius. But it was their sixth full-length, 2016’s Magma, that would mark major changes in the Gojira camp, ones that would lead to two Grammy Award nominations and a quickly escalating status on Metal stages across the globe.
So it’s no surprise that their heavily-anticipated latest, Fortitude, picks up where its predecessor left off: continuing to evolve the band’s sound with Progressive notes and a mélange of melody and atmosphere. Produced by Vocalist/Guitarist Joe Duplantier, the 11-song disc sees the band—which also features Guitarist Christian Andreu, Bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, and Drummer Mario Duplantier—passionately embracing change. In this, the album is a stepping stone for Gojira, and one that is a pivotal piece in their unfolding transformation.
Admittedly, it feels like a safe yet wise move to open with the beautifully haunting “Born For One Thing.” Here, the story begins with Duplantier and Andreu’s frenetic guitars climbing into the body of the song where melody eventually blossoms amid the fracas. A blunt look at the taboo of death, it is a harsh but honest reminder that we will all return to the earth one day—better to be aware of this fact and embrace the idea of making something of the time that we are given.
This push toward awareness and selflessness is something that returns for the murky “Amazonia.” With a straightforward simplicity to its lyrical matter (“The greatest miracle is burning to the ground”) that belies the desperate urgency of its cries, the track features what sounds like an Australian didgeridoo, adding a new, experimental layer to their powerful sound.
Of course, Gojira’s musicianship is indisputably impeccable. If for some reason you need proof, check out the whirling dervish of guitar work that cycles throughout “Another World,” the slinky groove of “Sphinx,” or “Hold On,” where the band addresses mental health issues. Couple this with Duplantier’s brutal growls and some equally vicious fret work on the epic “New Found,” and there’s little doubt as to whether or not the quartet has lost their fire.
But the moments that truly stick out as some of the most rewarding show the versatility of the talented group. Like on the titular “Fortitude,” where cowbell sets the pace for a dusty interlude with outlaw grit. When it eventually shapeshifts into the full-bodied sound of “The Chant,” they adapt a pompous stomp that is sheer brilliance, even if the track is short on lyrics. Then there’s Mario Duplantier’s moment to shine, his percussion conducting the ride “Into the Storm,” a languid maelstrom that sets the stage for “The Trails.” With clean vocals and a feel not far off from early Alice In Chains, the track takes the crushing melancholy of its predecessor and morphs it into yet another example of their far-reaching abilities.
As if in response to those that will question and scoff at the melodic moments throughout Fortitude, they opt to go out on the incendiary “Grind,” with Labadie’s jackhammering bass stealing the spotlight from Duplantier’s howls. Much like the album it concludes, the song is a sonic journey that must be personally experienced to be understood. But you must enter without pretense, because there’s a power to the LP that is found in its uncompromising need to evolve beyond ‘heavy for heavy’s sake’.
Though this collection is definitely borne of the steeliest of Metal, it’s a step toward something greater that can be discovered amid the intelligently-crafted moments that step outside the box of genre. By far its biggest successes arrive when Gojira takes their bludgeoning capabilities and reimagines them, sometimes swapping a murderous performance for weighty subject matter. Tracks like “New Found” and “Amazonia” are undeniably stellar additions to the group’s oeuvre of material, erecting a perfect bridge between past and present.
So while their latest definitely plays with further clean vocals and melody, the passion and fire for their craft remains—and it is matched by few! Fortitude, therefore, is an opus that bleeds technical proficiency as it meanders through peaks and valleys, oftentimes seeming to flow from one track to the next without pause; a sign of inspiration overload. And while it is certainly likely to polarize their established fanbase, it stands to be the most impactful 11 songs that Gojira will ever record. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Gojira’s Fortitude 4.5 of 5 stars.