Without a doubt, one of the most anticipated metal albums of the year, ‘Fortitude‘ is a solid building block to Gojira’s rich back catalogue.
However, if this album tells us anything, it’s that the bands’ approach to songwriting has shifted course towards a more enlightened horizon that presents heavier, progressive arrangements with a maturity that they simply had to absorb in order to move forward with strength and confidence.
Opening with, ‘Born for One Thing‘, we are off to a good start, the Gojira checklist is fully present with polyrhythms courtesy of Mario Duplantier, time-changes, pinch-harmonics and a low-end that could summon creatures from the darkest depths of the deepest oceans.
‘Amazonia‘ begins with a tribal vibe and proceeds to slap hard, all the while offering a wonderful descending chorus that unleashes a chunky, heavy-as-balls, overall approach. It’s here that the band begin to extend their progressive edge, showing the nuances that Gojira are introducing as they mature in sound and confidence.
‘Another World‘ then makes its appearance, closing off, the now, three tracks that have been released from ‘Fortitude‘.
So, for most of you, this is where we venture into the unknown. Track four, ‘Hold On‘ is where we really begin to see a very different side to Gojira.
Opening with a glorious melodic layered vocal intro and a steady beat, before a slow galloping structure comes crashing through the speakers. Joe Duplantier’s vocals continue from where ‘Magna‘ left off, and by that I mean, less of the old-school guttural approach [found on their earlier discography], which very much suites the bands’ current evolving sound.
Jean-Michel Labadie’s bass skills come into play here with delicious low-end groove gliding all over the place, giving an extra portion of ‘heft‘ to, what is, an already blistering cut from the album.
We proceed with ‘New Found‘, a track that launches with so much “bounce” that the pigeons outside my window started throwing shapes and I don’t blame them. Chugging riffs that pulse with major and minor key changes unfold before an ascending chorus (with gang vocals) suggesting that this will, no doubt, be a staple part of their live show.
Title track ‘Fortitude‘ brings us to the albums halfway point and once again, we are presented with a very left-of-centre intro. A simple, almost primitive clean guitar riff is accompanied by some wooden percussion and folky American Indian-style vocals, before subtlely morphing into the slow-plodding of ‘The Chant‘.
Joe’s vocals arrive and are the cleanest and melodic sounding I’ve heard in the bands’ discography. If there was a milestone in the bands continuing evolution, this would definitely be it and will, no doubt, cause irritation to those who get triggered with the concept of a band/artist actually evolving and following their natural creative instincts, rather than re-hashing the same old concept over and over and over again.
We are next presented with ‘Sphinx‘ which brings things back into a more familiar area with another lounging, yet bombastic, pace and vocals that are reminiscent of Nergal’s (Behemoth vocalist), register, followed by ‘Into the Storm‘, which gallops to Mario’s double-kick, before a blissful anthemic chorus, making this a definite highlight on the album.
‘The Trails‘ opens with a brain-hacking intro and unfolds into a very different-sounding Gojira. Clean vocals dominate with strong melodic harmonies and, as much as it will infuriate the elitist, old-school fans, it works in the context of the atmosphere on the album.
The final offering, ‘Grind‘ begins with that traditional Gojira ‘attack mode‘ sound firmly in place, before we are treated to a winding sonic journey through light and shade. Props to the outstanding bass work from Labadie, which will have your guts humming with joy while reaching for that repeat button.
Production-wise, this is the best-sounding album in the bands’ career, to date. It’s perfectly balanced, warm and simply crushes. However, it’s worth taking note that the band are definitely heading towards a more progressive blueprint here and could very well be the beginning of a sonic metamorphosis, much like Opeth’s ‘Heritage‘.
Overall, much of ‘Fortitude‘ sits on a slower BPM in comparison to previous albums, allowing the music itself to breathe, showcasing the bands’ growth, both in the arrangements and songwriting.
Gojira really embraces the concept of song structure on this album and it shows. Intros, verses and choruses firmly represented with meticulous care and consideration and built to absolutely destroy in a live setting. No doubt ‘Fortitude‘ will sell by the boatload and dominate the end of year ‘Best of‘ titles. 9/10
Visit Overdrive on April 14th for an in-depth feature interview with Mario, where he discusses the new album and their plans going forward. Stay up to speed with all the latest by following us on our socials. You can choose which platform to follow us via this link.
‘Fortitude‘ is out via Roadrunner Records on April 30th. Pre-order your copy here. Or contact your local record store.