Gojira – Fortitude (Album Review)

Gojira - Fortitude

Gojira – Fortitude
Released: April 30, 2021

Line Up

Joe Duplantier // Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
Mario Duplantier // Drums
Christian Andreu // Rhythm Guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie // Bass 

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Across six studio albums, French quartet Gojira have become known for their unrelenting but reflective brand of technical metal, as well as the unwavering commitment to environmental activism. Whilst their earliest material was relatively standard tech/death metal, commencing with From Mars to Sirius the band have grown into one of the most confident and uncompromising metal bands on the planet. Their most recent album, 2016’s Magma, was rightly lauded for combining precision performance with a melody as they explored the grief after the loss of Joe and Mario Duplantier’s mother. It remains a heavy and textured audio experience, but hardly one that lends itself to a casual listen. With their seventh album, Gojira have taken another step towards global metal domination. Fortitude is an album of blistering heaviness, but has hooks that will light up stages across the world, which in the end serves to spread their message even further.

If you have heard the pre-release tracks then you know the opening trio of this album is some of Gojira’s catchiest material since The Way of All Flesh. ‘Born for One Thing’ builds quickly with the effects of drenched guitar and snare inducing a sense of anxiety before Joe’s vocals jump in and holy shit the mosh pit is going to explode. It’s a rousing call to arms, “born for one thing, tame the greatest fear of all”, with a series of djent riffs and a melodic solo. ‘Amazonia’ already has that amazing video and fundraising campaign behind it. It’s a tribal excursion, though flame and fire, exposing the plight of the rainforest. Far from a lament at man made destruction, Gojira takes the opportunity to ask for help, with the help of a unique and enchanting riff. The use of vocal effects only serves to heighten the spiritual element of the Amazon’s plight.

‘Another World’ was released in 2020 (and made my Top 10 Singles) and remains a stoic and evocative track, with imagery of hope, and a hummable riff. The drum breakdown is pretty sweet and allows the fretwork to shine before the melodic solo. It’s pretty standard Gojira fare, and evidence their standard is higher than most bands. ‘Hold On’ starts with a reverb-drenched, multi-tracked acapella vocal, soon joined by percussion and power chords. It is tribal and inspiring, totally different to the riff fests of the first three songs. The riff that does arrive is straight up groove metal heaven, a headbanger’s paradise. The band’s tight arrangement is almost industrial in approach, the vocal growl inhuman, but balanced by the lyrics and leads. The last minute just lets rip with their brand of technical death metal, developed over almost two decades. An excellent reminder that Mario Duplantier is one of the best drummers in the world.

‘New Found’ is another killer jam, with more growl in the vocals and a huge chorus: the gang vocals of the title will be a highlight of many gigs to come. There are some great harmonics too, with Christian and Joe working together. The closing section involves chanting the title over a tapping riff and hand percussion, before the BREAKDOWN. SO. FUCKIN. HEAVY.

Halfway through the album pauses for the mostly instrumental title track, ‘Fortitude’. This song feels like something new, it is very Sepultura circa Roots, with a bluesy guitar riff and more tribal percussion. The band begins to chant with ‘ooohhhh ohhhh’, seaguing into the next song ‘The Chant’, another monster highlight for future festivals. The clean vocals and the droning guitar help make this track more accessible to new listeners, and it should catch a few ears across streaming services and festival sites. One of the things that strikes me most about this record is that it is largely accessible to new fans. The hooks are big, the use of both growls and clean vocals is distinct enough to stand out from other bands. That said, they have retained a lot of their more recent prog leanings, and as a whole it is still very heavy. ‘Sphinx’ is a great example of this. It has some serious bounce, while Joe’s vocals are at their most demonic with the double tracking really adding to the mythical underworld vibe suggested by the title. ‘Into the Storm’ is much more epic. The bell of an oncoming train reveals itself to be part of the percussion and the riff just shreds. It is an appeal to the faithless to reclaim their rebellion and to “come out… put your fist in the air… now throw yourself into the storm.” It is rousing stuff from the Frenchmen, a sentiment that punctuates the album. The message is clear – the world might be fucked but we can do something about it.

‘The Trails’ brings things down a little, led by Joe’s clean vocals and the muted guitars. This is about as close as they get to a ballad, it is quiet but no less powerful, asking “how can we be so blind?” with more than a tinge of regret. It serves to better the album as a whole. It isn’t a very long song, but the closing leads and drums hint at what might have been a truly masterful prog metal song, one that could easily be extended in a live performance. The journey ends with ‘Grind’, which is a pretty spot on title. The song cracks and roars across each member of the band, the riff twisting and turning across the fretboard with the rhythm section keeping up the tempo. The chorus is suitably huge. Rather than repeat ‘New Found’, the breakdown here is a gift of melody and so it closes the album with gentle finger picking from both guitarists. Maybe they are saying things will be OK? That all the angst and fury of the previous tracks has been worth it.

I can’t recommend Fortitude highly enough. As a band Gojira have now consistently proven themselves to be one of the most forward-thinking metal bands, who have not only carved out a niche but have a distinct sound that is all their own. Each of their albums is different enough to the last, with Fortitude combining many of the previous sonic experiments with a few new ideas. What is most interesting is that this album can open them up to a new audience, the material is both classically Gojira but also has some big hooks. By way of comparison, it reminds me of Parkway Drive’s IRE, in that it has the kind of songs that will keep them main eventing festival stages for many years to come. Such ambition can only help them spread their ecological message and turn some minds as well as ears.

Gojira - Fortitude

Gojira – Fortitude tracklisting

  1. ‘Born For One Thing’
  2. ‘Amazonia’
  3. ‘Another World’
  4. ‘Hold On’
  5. ‘New Found’
  6. ‘Fortitude’
  7. ‘The Chant’
  8. ‘Sphinx’
  9. ‘Into The Storm’
  10. ‘The Trails’
  11. ‘Grind’

Rating: 10/10. Must own!
Fortitude is out April 30th on Roadrunner Records . Pre-Order here.
Some pre-orders include a donation to plant a tree in your country. 
Review By – KJ Draven (Twitter). Instagram: @kjdraven 

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