Since releasing their straight-to-the-bone debut ‘Terra Incognita’ in 2001, Gojira have evolved from death metal worshippers to something broader and more progressive. In 2016 their sixth album, ‘Magma’, continued to push things forward with the French quartet embracing grunge, cinema and clean vocals. It was to be their breakthrough record, with the band soon headlining festivals, playing stadiums alongside Metallica and even getting a couple of Grammy nods. Instead of playing it safe while on the cusp of this mainstream success, ‘Fortitude’ continues their drive onwards.
‘Magma’ dealt with the death of the mother of Gojira siblings Mario and Joe Duplantier in excruciating detail. Raw, vulnerable and powerful, it wasn’t just the music that was heavy. As a reaction to that, there’s a playfulness in the way Gojira approach ‘Fortitude’. There are bursts of melody across the album – perfect for a stadium show of their own – and the likes of ‘New Found’ and ‘Born For One Thing’ flirt with crushing industrial breakdowns. There’s even a couple of soaring guitar solos in ‘Hold On’. The whole record feels agile, despite the weight.
And there really is a whole lot of weight behind ‘Fortitude’. ‘Sphinx’ is a punishing four minutes of fury, while the thunderous ‘Amazonia’ is a razor-sharp critique of environmental disasters caused by capitalist greed (“the greatest miracle is burning to the ground”). Backed by fundraising efforts that have so far gathered $250,000 for APIB (a non-profit organisation that advocates for the environmental and cultural rights of indigenous tribes in the Amazon), it’s a ferocious anthem to inspire change.
It’s an idea that also echoes across the rumbling alt-rock of ‘The Chant’ as Joe Duplantier sings “let this chant ring in your bones and lift you up… get strong”. The grand thrash of ‘Another World’, though, sees him being a little less optimistic: “Hope for the world, but prepare for the worst,” he offers, doomily.
Recorded in January 2020, Gojira have sat on ‘Fortitude’ for a hot minute. As an exhilarating live band, perhaps they, like the rest of the metal community, weren’t sure if releasing an album made sense without touring. Or maybe they didn’t want its universal messages of unity, preservation and re-education to become lost in the mire of a pandemic. But despite the delay, ‘Fortitude’ couldn’t sound more relevant in a post-COVID world. ‘The Trails’ is an urgent call to action that has more in common with Deftones than Cannibal Corpse, while the bone-crushing ‘Into The Storm’ is exactly the sort of epic metal rager you’d want to hear on Download Festival’s main stage.
Positioning themselves somewhere between Bring Me The Horizon’s future-metal and the brute force of the genre’s legends, Gojira might be the perfect metal band for right now.
Release date: April 30
Record label: Roadrunner