REVIEW: Gojira – Fortitude

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The past five years have been truly eventful on every level and saw one disaster after the other: from police brutality against POC around the world and the accelerating rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and wildfires in Australia, now to a worldwide pandemic that has drastically changed our lives. If you don’t believe in silver linings, here’s one for you… 5 years after the release of “Magma,” the French progressive metal act GOJIRA have returned with their inspiration sparked by all of these dreadful happenings around the globe. Today, they have released their new studio effort, “Fortitude,” as an effort to encourage people to do better, to be better, and to fight for our planet.

The album starts off with “Born For One Thing,” which was one of the first singles the band released. Opening with a short atmospheric intro, when the track kicks off, you’re instantly reminded of who GOJIRA is. The fact that 5 years have passed since “Magma” almost seems like it was just months ago. One of the most incredible things about this song is the beautiful bass lines that make the chorus stronger and give it more depth. Already from this track on, there is a certain atmosphere in the song present that I just can’t put to words, something special in somewhat of a spiritual sense. Maybe it’s the fact that “Fortitude” is an expression to encourage people to do better. This song has pretty strong roots in that, because in the end, whatever we do, we are all born for one thing: to ultimately die when our time has come. With a song like “Born For One Thing,” I think we metalheads should be pretty thrilled to be alive during the time that GOJIRA wrote music.

Next track “Amazonia” doesn’t stray away from relevant topics. “Amazonia” is a track about the Amazon rainforest and its fate. More relevant is knowing that, at this moment, the regime of Bolsonaro in Brazil sees an acceleration in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation threatens indigenous populations who live in the forest, loss of a precious and complex ecosystem, and a vital carbon store that slows global warming. Imagine the kind of power a band like GOJIRA, which is probably one of the bigger metal bands nowadays, has to raise awareness for something like this. The fact that the proceeds of this track are going to The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) who advocate for environmental and cultural rights of indigenous tribes in the Amazon who have suffered immensely – victims of deforestation, land loss, forced labor, violence, and harassment – make this track so much more important than you’d think, but let’s not stray off the path though, musically, this song is really incredible. It’s a super fun track and it’s honing Brazil’s most legendary metal band SEPULTURA, as it has a strong connection to “Roots.” Yet, these tribal elements are not a one-off moment on this album, there are plenty of moments here that are inspired by them, mostly present in drums, but certainly adding different moods to the music.

Continuing with “Another World,” GOJIRA shows a somewhat different side. This is one of the more mellow tracks on the album that is mostly centered around the atmosphere and has a somewhat unearthly and transcendental vibe to it. The track has a nice analogy to the topics mentioned on this album; all-in-all, the message here is clear: we only have one planet, thus, we can’t escape the consequences of our actions, we should do better and take care of it better.

“Hold On” is the first new track that we haven’t heard yet on this album. It starts off with an acapella atmospheric intro that intensifies with accompanying guitar and drums. The intro somewhat breaks the altogether heavy atmosphere that was present, but continues with a similar atmosphere, although a bit long, it does serve a purpose and builds up tension before a chugging riff reveals the next part of the track. Trademark GOJIRA riffs soon follow, a strong chorus that will be fun to sing along to live, and perhaps the best part of the track really is the short heavy metal -influenced solo.

The next track, “New Found,” lies a bit within the style of “The Way of All Flesh” and will surely be a fan-favorite for fans who have been following GOJIRA for quite a while. Personally, this feels like a highlight on the record, combining elements from throughout GOJIRA‘s career and bringing them together in one song. “New Found” also has a pretty wicked breakdown, which is probably one of the best moments on this record.

Only GOJIRA would pick a simple interlude as a title track, however, there are a lot of elements going on here. This track is probably the most chaotic bit of the album, as tribal elements are combined with a strumming guitar and Joe Duplantier‘s layered vocals, which follow the melody of the next track, “The Chant.” This interlude sounds completely bonkers, but it works well with the combination of the next track. This song was previously released as a single and was perhaps the softest of all singles. Joe Duplantier uses soft vocals, contrasting a lot with the rest of the album. This track also includes a guitar solo, which almost seems like a rarity, but definitely a great addition. Interestingly enough, the song has something very uplifting to it. While not everyone may have enjoyed this track when it was released, I believe that it makes a lot of sense in the context of the rest of the album.

Fans of GOJIRA‘s pick scraping will definitely love “Sphinx,” one of the heaviest tracks on the album. I have yet to discuss how Mario Duplantier‘s drumming is exquisite in this album, in tracks like “Sphinx,” the drums really spice up the track, but there are plenty of other moments that are truly impressive on this record. Take, for instance, the next track, “Into the Storm,” which has Duplantier masterfully playing through polyrhythms as if it’s no big deal. Meticulously calculated drumming like that should be illegal.

The mid-paced “The Trails” is the penultimate track of the album, clocking in at 4 minutes, the track mostly feels atmospheric, centered around Joe Duplantier‘s clean and emotional vocals and muted guitars. Duplantier singing “How can we be so blind?” pretty much pierces through your soul. It may not be the most complex or intricate song, but it does have an important message and it will unleash many motions within the listener.

The last track of the album, “Grind,” is definitely a banger to close the album with. The intro contains guitar riffs that almost feel like a meteor shower and then is followed by very complex and fast drumming. I guess this is pretty much the highlight of the album and considering the album is about such relevant topics, you can feel the anger the band has put in their album in this song specifically. Midway through, Joe Duplantier growls “Go!” and I can already imagine the huge-ass mosh pit that will fill up any venue. After this, an ethereal section is introduced, bringing more emotion and a certain otherworldliness to the song. While the song started in a furious manner, the ending seems hopeful; maybe not all hope is lost with humanity? I guess it depends on our next moves as the human race, anyway the more mellow and relaxed melodies linger on for a little while after and definitely make you reflect on the motions GOJIRA just pulled you through.

“Fortitude” is proof that music can take you on a spiritual journey and provide you enough contemplation to believe in a band’s mission. Bands like GOJIRA, who are advocates of a better world, are important to have in a world filled with bands that have little to no important message whatsoever. Apart from having something real and relevant to say, GOJIRA managed to create a very consistent album. The tracks all include a certain atmosphere, something that is hard to explain but works on an ethereal level, something that wasn’t there before on their prior albums. “Fortitude” sees the four-piece also using more tribal elements in their sound, adding a fresh new take. More importantly, these songs all sound like they are going to have serious raw energy live and will make you as excited as when the intro to “Flying Whales” starts playing before Joe unleashes a wall of death upon the audience. It’s really incredible how something so diverse can be so consistent at the same time and that is precisely what “Fortitude” is.

Tracklist

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

Lineup

Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Mario Duplantier – drums
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Christian Andre – guitar

Label

Roadrunner Records

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