With all the lost dreams, delays and cancellations the current state of the world has wrought upon music, Gojira are yet to waver. They’ve just optimistically announced a North American tour for this fall, and besides that have released Fortitude, their seventh LP and their first in five years since the critically acclaimed Magma. With the high praise that Magma received along with the rigamarole of trying to get this one recorded, one would expect this to be a possible breaking point where the band might crack under pressure and deliver a less-than-stellar product as a result, but with Gojira’s track record of consistently building, improving and delivering quality material, that should be taken as a slight possibility at most.
Starting off the record is “Born For One Thing”, the second of two singles dropped ahead of the album’s release. Bursting forth from an intricate triplet march into the more atmospheric-but-still-heavy vibes Gojira started injecting into their sound on Magma, the unmistakable crushing riff-work and top-notch percussive backbone of the Duplantier brothers carries the album opener and defines the pounding, “Stranded”-esque “Amazonia”. The breaks in “Amazonia” are arguably heavier than the song’s riffy core just off of the massive suspense, establishing the clever minimalism that defines Fortitude’s first single “Another World.” Then there’s “Hold On”; which starts choral and harmonious and inevitably unfolds into an absolute slammer made for a massive pit at an outdoor festival. “New Found” is equally headbangable, just executed on a groovier note than the rest of the tracks on the album thus far.
No, that isn’t a Tool interlude; it’s the two-minute title track of this album, setting up the aptly-named “The Chant”, a fine demonstration of Gojira’s mastery of the slow and heavy approach along with their usual M.O of thousand-pound, technical mid-tempo numbers. “Sphinx” definitely falls in the latter of those two categories, showcasing some tasty melodic moments amongst the madness, while Mario Duplantier lets loose on the anthemic, herta-filled “Into The Storm.” “The Trails” opts for more restrained, spacey vibes after a nonstop pummelling for the past 43 minutes or so, contrasted by the harmonic-and-double-bass-filled “Grind” to close things out. The final track is 2:38 of heaviness and 2:55 of extended, atmospheric outro, a dynamic choice perfectly suitable for the album’s conclusion (although a full-fledged metal ending would’ve been great too).
Records like Fortitude go to demonstrate why Gojira is deservedly acclaimed as one of the top bands in metal. With every record they strive to top themselves and further improve and add onto the unique sound they’ve concocted over the years, and Fortitude shows them at their most refined, precise and intense so far. Hopefully they keep this course and it won’t be too long of a span until the next record comes out, and Gojira do as many shows as they can in addition to their fall tour. Metal like this can’t just be confined to our headphones.