To get an idea of how influential Gojira has become in the last ten years, go to any ocean related page on Instagram. I can almost guarantee you that you will find at least one reference to the song “Flying Whales” off 2005’s colossal opus From Mars to Sirius under each post of a whale.
As no strangers to lyrics about environmental protection (see “Global Warming” also off From Mars to Sirius), it is fitting that at the height of a global pandemic, Gojira would break a five year silence with their crushing new album, Fortitude.
Kicking off with the heavily syncopated steps of “Born For One Thing,” it seems that Gojira has taken the best elements from their previous album, Magma, and added more of the grooves and polyrhythms that define their signature sound. The nearly Meshuggah like passages will surely keep crowds on their toes when we finally get to hear the song played live.
Moving right into “Amazonia,” the track conjures up callbacks to classic Sepultura with its tribal riffs and haunting vocal passages, appropriate given the title of the song. While capable of incredible drumlines, the simple but punishing beats at the hands (and feet) of Mario Duplantier seal this song’s stature as a certified headbanger. I can already hear “Amazonia” played right before “Stranded” off of Magma, and feel the ground shaking as the crowd tears into one another.
As the first single off Fortitude, “Another World” feels like a spiritual successor to “World to Come” off From Mars to Sirius. Gorgeous reverb washes over the guitars towards the end of the song, before giving way to the soaring vocals of “Hold On.” Leading into “New Found,” we see a return to the over the top Whammy effects first heard in the aforementioned “Stranded.” Pummeling ‘bounce riffs’ hit with hurricane force power, complete with a few moments of reprieve -the eye of the storm- which is then shattered by an unforgiving breakdown.
The title track at last provides a moment to breathe and brings an almost folk-like vibe to the album. Jumping off of the main melody of the title track, “The Chant” showcases guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier’s unique singing voice. I am reminded of the late legends Chris Cornell and Layne Staley, whose work certainly had an influence on Gojira in their formative years as musicians. We hear this again on “The Trails” later on the album.
Don’t get too comfortable in the calm though, “Sphinx” and “Into the Storm” come through next to drag you by the throat back to the mosh pit. Closing track “Grind” brings the album full circle by starting as a furious number before decaying into a more relaxed and atmospheric track.
Tone wise, this is perhaps one of the cleanest albums Gojira has released to date. Everything from the Duplantier brothers comes across crystal clear, as does the mind bending guitar stylings of Christian Andreu and the subsonic tremors of bassist Jean-Michel Labadie.
Bottom Line: A far cry from their days opening for bands such as Job For A Cowboy and Behemoth (the latter of which would also see surprising success later in their career), Gojira has gone from a band that warmed up crowds at clubs in 2007 to one that commanded legions of fans at festivals around the world by the time COVID-19 cancelled all concerts in 2020.
From Mars to Sirius will always have a special place in my heart. Heck, it was during a performance of “Backbone” that my heart almost physically gave out in the pit at Chicago Open Air Festival 2016! That said, there is no such thing as a less than stellar Gojira album, and fans of Magma are sure to love Fortitude just as much.
Visit your favorite record store (or order from them online) and pick up Fortitude, out now on Roadrunner Records.