Review: Gojira – ‘Fortitude’

In 2008 when the promo for ‘The Way of The Flesh’ dropped on my desk, I was already aware that Gojira were making some waves after their previous album ‘From Mars to Sirius’. With no disrespect, the French metal scene has never really taken over the world like some of its European counterparts until, that is, Gojira.

‘The Way of the Flesh’ cemented their credentials as a band to be reckoned with on the global stage, clearly evident as they signed to Roadrunner Records in 2011. Since leaving my desk where that promo landed and pursuing other areas of the music industry, I have witnessed the steady rise of the Duplantier brothers and their brand of often experimental progressive death metal, culminating in a sound that they and their growing fanbase feel comfortable with on the 2016 ‘Magma’ album.

The major rock festivals need to refresh the next generation of headliners, and here we have a band that I believe are ready to take on that challenge and crush the swirling mosh pits with relative ease. Emerging from the angry seas of a global pandemic, much like Gojira’s original name, Godzilla, they are ready to wrestle with the existing monsters of the metal scene. If proof is needed, check out their mighty performance at Red Rocks in 2017. Magma saw them win all sorts of accolades: Grammy’s, Metal Hammer Golden God awards, and headlining Hellfest to name but a few. It’s fair to say that ‘Fortitude’ has been one of the most hotly anticipated metal albums of 2021. So, have the environmental crusaders delivered? Yes, I think they have!

No atmospheric intro here, ‘Born for One Thing’ jumps straight in with frenetic drums and guitar before, what I consider their trademark, the ‘shrill riff’ blasts through to deliver a solid start to proceedings. The ringing and earthly tones of ‘Amazonia’ are fitting for a song about the deforestation of the Amazon. An aboriginal undercurrent runs through the track, with sharp twists and turns in the music and vocals. The crushing centrepiece riff an ode to humans’ ability to destroy nature.

There is a similar path followed from their previous album, but like any band on the ascent, they have upped their game sonically. Always technically adept, there is a real sense the band have pushed the boundaries even further for this record. Intricate guitar and drum patterns swirl through ‘Another World’ before winding down into a subtle conclusion. ‘Hold On’ provides a vocal intro above pounding drums and a monolithic guitar riff that lurches into what will be a circle pit heaven. I can see the tornado of bodies now, giant human whirlpools glad to be rid of the restrictions imposed on them by a global pandemic. When it’s safe, of course, hold on tight and dive in!

The aforementioned shrill riff makes a return in ‘New Found’. There really should be an effects pedal or rack setting named after the band for this distinctive sound. The track itself is a monster of a lesson on how to create a technical rock masterpiece. The circle pits won’t be letting up anytime soon. Not halfway through the record yet and it’s already clear there’s more variation to ‘Fortitude’, which does not take anything away from the greatness of ‘Magma’, but this is definitely a further step up in the evolution of Gojira.

The album title track ‘Fortitude’ is a two-minute bass and vocal interlude that forms a pre-cursor track to ‘The Chant’. The hugely melodic almost Nordic-tinged chant forms the backbone of the song, accompanied by some stellar guitar and vocal crescendos. In a heavier turn, ‘Sphinx’ with its rhythmic riffs and more aggressive vocals plays over drum blasts and chugging magnificence. ‘Into the Storm’, following a fast start, produces the type of guitar riff that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If Tool and Mastodon procreated, this would be the result: the young infant running from its parents to fly the flag for a newfound glory.

Joe’s vocals flow over staccato guitar to produce a mesmerising tranquillity on ‘The Trails’ before we drift into the curtain call of ‘Grind’. The album finishes as it starts, straight into a wall of sound that takes no prisoners. The Gojira ‘shrill riff’ effects rack is turned up to eleven and ‘Grind’ pounds along like their namesake Godzilla crushing all in its path before slowly descending into the depths of where it emerged from.

It’s hard not to claim this as one of the most important Metal releases of the year so far. I urge you to go and listen for yourself. See you in the circle pits!

Available now on Roadrunner Records, more information; here.

Review: Dave Blizzard Shaw

Photo Credit: Gabrielle DuPlantier

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