GOJIRA - FORTITUDE
FRENCH TITANS CONTINUE TO EVOLVE WITH ONE OF THE ALBUMS OF 2021
Gojira are one of the most compelling heavy bands in the modern era with a truly titanic back-catalogue. A unique band with a strong sense of individuality the Frenchmen have patented an enviable niche of cerebral sonic ire that has continued to evolve over the years.
With Fortitude, much of Gojira’s quintessential sound is intact: the pounding precision, tectonic blocks of riffs and sheer atmospheric heavy vastness. The band always had a distinctive delivery with mechanically calibrated brutality distilled with seismic earthiness. This is typified in the album opener, for example, Born For One Thing an embodiment of what is most familiar with Gojira: the caustic battery of chain-like percussion and huge juddering rhythms.
On Fortitude, however, the intense soulfulness and reflection which began to permeate Gojira’s shock and awe in 2016’s magnificent Magma now truly flourishes. Born For One Thing escalates into higher altitude meditativeness with distant vocals and soaring vaporous guitar. That Gojira are pushing themselves once again is demonstrated early in the record and Amazonia is unlike anything they have tried before now. Inspired by and incorporating tribal hypnotism and chanting, the song is underpinned by a simple pulsating bass and mesmeric swerving main riff; the amalgamation of primitive influences should not work but does so brilliantly. The band have been open about their environmental activism and the song is clearly a call to ecological arms with the refrain ‘the greatest miracle is burning to the ground’ – the song will simply slam in a live setting.
Much has been made about prog dimensions developing in Fortitude and, while at least some of this is perhaps over-stated, there are discernible progressive manoeuvres. Hold On, for example, has a vast, tropospheric dreaminess and some rather epic glissading solo noodling. The Chant, meanwhile, with its plodding head-nodding approaches the orbit of the accessible mainstream – a quite incredible move from a band as downright heavy as Gojira.
Consistent throughout Fortitude, whether it be at its most crushingly heavy peaks or softer meditative phases, there is an omnipresent intensity distilled in these songs. At times – such as in The Trails – the brooding energy is more latent with its muted forest canopy-like restraint and airiness. While it feels tense like a dam of noise could burst at any second, the band keep it in control and the song is all the more plaintively powerful as a result. In any case, Gojira can still effortlessly switch gears and ramp up their celebrated fury with the likes of the concussive juddering of Sphynx or a rampaging blaster like Grind which bookends the album.
Unlike Gojira’s early work, Fortitude does not easily fall into the category of death metal and is, in fact, difficult to classify generally. In this case, however, that is entirely positive. What have been cited as prog influences have been thoughtfully and naturally spliced into the established round rather than simply being tacked on to it and this is a natural maturation from Magma. Fortitude is still earsplittingly, denture-bothering heavy but Gojira have tried some novel moves and come out trumps. In terms of emotional punch, originality, and robustness Fortitude is a triumph of independent mindedness from originators not imitators. The term ‘uncompromising’ is often used to describe a difficult, abrasive or inaccessible sound – but here this s simply the natural spring of artistic individuality. Indubitably one of the albums of 2021.