It’s has been almost five years since the release of Gojira’s previous album Magma, which was followed by extensive touring where band managed to play anything from headliner shows, festivals as well as some supporting slots. Afterwards they recorded what became Fortitude and then the pandemic hit. The band decided to sit on it and release the album here, well over a year since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Throughout their entire career, the French band has grown with each next release and their previous album saw them taking a more simplified approach, while at the same time being 100% Gojira. Perhaps not the easiest exercise, but nevertheless the one that Gojira mastered eminently on Magma. The album ended up being as career defining in its own right as band’s 2008 milestone record The Way of All Flash.
Fortitude sees the band stepping out of the theme of personal grief, which marked the previous release and focusing on more global issues, which in a way is very fitting anno 2021. Musically the band expands their horizons once more, and actually even more greatly than we’ve witnessed from them before. On the one hand Fortitude is a bland of band’s previous couple of releases, which gives the album familiar Gojira foundation and overall feel. On the other hand the album also sees the band expanding their palate greatly, so if you thought that Magma, was a radical change for the band, perhaps you should fasten your seatbelt before giving the new album a spin.
The more of an accessible approach which characterized its predecessor is taken a noticeable step further on Fortitude and, most noticeably by implementing more simplistic rock elements. At first glance this approach might shock, but not as much as you’d expect because of the ever-present Gojira shadow. It’s there when band presses hard on melodic passages, tribal aspects, and the above-mentioned rock infused songs and it’s there when they unleash their Tech Death roots some more.
However, broadening the approach also means that some of the band’s trademarks are not as dominant as before and they’ve been replaced by new elements and at times bit too apparent influences. Be it “New Level” Pantera inspired riff in the opener “Born for One Thing”or numerous Alice In Chains nods on the likes of “Fortitude” and “The Trails”, the fact is that the concentrated Gojira impact know from all of their previous releases does share the spotlight with some new(er) ones. Dynamic and eminently delivered “Hold On” is based around a riff that comes bit too close to that of their countrymen’s Hypno5e’s “On Our Bed of Soil, Pt.2” from their eminent 2019 record A Distant (Dark) Source. “Amazonia” of implements the native Brazilian instruments in a way that was made famous in the mainstream by Sepultura in mid 90’s, but looking past that the song itself comes across as a Killing Joke song. And that’s where most of inspiration seem to come, yes, Killing Joke. Musically in form of layered, often simple repetitive riffs and as especially when it comes to Joe Duplantier’s vocals. The impact of the British legends is massive and all this does watered-down the otherwise ever-present Gojira feel, which takes some of the intensity and impact of the album. On the other hand, the band displays such overwhelming control and execution, at all times that it at times is almost hard to comprehend.
Taking into the consideration that almost half of the record was released as singles before the album came out, it does take some of the excitement of listening a collection of songs for the first time. However, some of the most obscure and atypical songs on the album were not released as singles (with exception of “The Chant”), which gives the album solid portion excitement despite everyone already hearing almost half of it before the album even came out.
The band is also good at placing songs on the album adding to its vitality and mastering push-pull effect between the mellower and heavier material. The closing track, “Grind”, which follows one of the mellowest songs on the album “The Trails“ is bombastic and heavy way to close the album and give the old fans sense that this is still very much Gojira. At the same time the band is clever enough to implement the melodic elements in the song, in order for it not to stand out and even closes the track and the album in a hypnotic grungy section, which underlines some of the more experimental, and frankly, key elements of this album. Such closing of this album also works as intro into the perhaps that which is the band’s direction for the future.
Overall Fortitude is yet another colossal display of this bands power and an almost overwhelming skill. The chance of these Frenchmen disappointing is almost down to zero, regardless, if it’s new record or a live show. Fortitude is yet another outstanding achievement which show that band’s growth and expansion is something they are more than capable of handling. Due to many different and quite distinctive influences and inspirations, however, it does feel like a somewhat watered-down Gojira experience. An experience that is still superior to most of band’s peers anno 2021.