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It is weird, I know, but I actually just recently started opening Gojira for myself. In the past years I heard a lot of their music, I even saw them live back around 13 years ago somewhere in Massachusetts when they opened for In Flames. But I never had a chance to sit down and dig deeper into their music, analyze and truly learn to enjoy and appreciate it.
Yet with the release of Gojira’s seventh studio album Fortitude I pledged to change that. And so, just as we usually do in our review series, let’s take a look at what’s inside this French quartet’s new album Fortitude.
The album opens with a rumbling tribal intro of Born For One Thing. The song itself is packed with descending guitar licks and drum syncopations accompanied by a vigorous vocal line. And while it is a great album opener, it sets a rather misleading expectations for the record’s mood. Born For One Thing is dark and gloomy. And if you are one of those people who judge the album’s sound by its opener (honestly, I’m learning to not do that just now), then this what you might expect from it. Yet it is not. And it becomes clear right on the next track – Amazonia. The song’s intro makes you unwillingly draw parallels with a band which could have been Gojira’s label mates, would they have not left Roadrunner back 20 years ago. By the way, is it only me who, while watching the video was expecting Max Cavalera to jump out on stage and jam with the band? The opening build up grows into a monumental-sounding verse, with a steady and straightforward rhythm section. As you might have expected from Gojira, the band uses this piece to raise awareness of the environmental issues and their affect on the Amazon and its indigenous communities. The band even started a fundraising campaign, a link to which I’ll make sure to leave in the comment section.
The following piece – Another World – is Gojira at its best. Its verse is as heavy as it gets on Fortitude. Repeated guitar lick together with the palm muted riffs and rather pessimistic lyrics create a rather dark tone for the track. And thus even more the chant which comes after the song’s equator pierces the darkness of this ambience like a ray of light, turning the song’s mood from pessimistic to hopeful. Hold On opens with a rather enchanting intro leading into a simple palm muted guitar riff. From the song’s very beginning you expect it to burst into an enraged breakdown. Yet despite the song getting significantly heavier the band doesn’t go full scale insane in it. Rather decides to continue and build on top of the enchantment developed in the song’s first half, especially in the masterful guitar solo.
On New Found Gojira explores a different side of their sound, leaning more towards a progressive and at parts even industrial tune. Yet it is still very much a Gojira song, with ongoing guitar pick scrapes and a memorable chorus. The song’s heavy breakdown towards the end will be a wonderful head banging moment for all future live show, whenever those will resume. The album’s title track Fortitude is a catchy and uplifting instrumental acoustic piece, accompanied by a melodic chant. It grows straight into The Chant (yes, like The Hellion and Electric Eye), which takes on the same melody, yet expands it into an amazing sing along. This duo piece might be the least heavy and possibly the most uplifting song on the record. Its melody will make you dance with your eyes closed, and its lyrics will give you the wings to fly, making you believe in yourself and develop the strength and confidence that no-one can bring you down. Amazing song, especially given its message.
The follow up Sphinx will quickly wake you up from the enchantment of its predecessor. This mid-tempo tune is furious and full of anger and determination. Yet while it’s a strong track, it actually gets lost amid the other ones on the record. Into The Storm, on the other hand, doesn’t. Its intro might be the strongest one on the album and its skull-crushing verse will make you headbang and sing-along from the first riffs. It is definitely the most dynamic and vicious song on the record, whose melodious chorus will get stuck in your head for hours after listening to it. Simply mind-blowing.
The next one The Trails is a slow-tempo piece, reminiscent of the early 2000s melancholic new metal sound. And even though it might not be the most memorable track on Fortitude, it works well as a bridge between the previous masterpiece and the album’s closer – Grind. On that one the band ones again experiments with a blend of a variety of styles, tempos and moods incorporated into this one piece. Its long enchanting outro makes you long for more and hope that all this madness around the world will end soon so that you can enjoy some of this material live.
Overall, this is an extremely strong and solid record. Despite Gojira presenting a blend of variety of musical styles, not one song on the album is out of place, working in synergy with the others to create a cohesive and well thought-through record, cementing Gojira’s place as one of the frontrunners of the modern metal scene.
Verdict: Strong and powerful, 8/10