I first discovered Gojira back in 2016 with the release of their well-praised progressive opus Magma, then had the pleasure of seeing them perform the stadium-ready album at a festival a year later. The French act have, in their more than twenty year crusade, have amounted a hefty collection of albums that speak to their seismic sound, and their most recent album Fortitude is no less gargantuan in scope. Although less memorable than their 2016 effort and perhaps not up to snuff compared to their greatest work, the group continue to stand leaps ahead of their metal contemporaries in many respects.
Fortitude sticks to many of the staples of Gojira's modern sound - heavy grooves, expansive instrumentals, and subtly gorgeous melodic moments. It also continues the groups call-to-arms, offering anthems to ponder on the ills of environmental concerns that plague society. The group also don't sacrifice their penchant for experimentalism, like the track Amazonia that utilizes non-traditional indigenous instrumentals, which was used as a vessel for charity toward Brazilian indigenous rights. All these aspects of Gojira impress as always, with well-paced metal epics that provide equal parts girth and harmony.
The most impressive piece of Gojira, however, continues to be their production work, both for its DIY ethic and precision. Gojira have an innate clarity to their modern work; their chugging grooves, pinch-harmonic slides, and massive vocal melodies all come with clear precision and meticulous sound structure. That their consistently tight production is crafted by lead vocalist Joe Duplantier speaks to the groups talent and dense knowledge of music. It makes each song immaculate in scope, less quick metal numbers and more anthemic eruptions. Unlike many metal groups who attempt for something consistently aggressive and punchy, Gojira are unafraid of going in more airy and stunning directions that diversify them from others in the genre.
All this being said, as big as their songs can be, many songs fade from memory given that the group have a consistent sound that, although incorporates multiple aspects, uses them all without inhibition. Many of the thick grooves resemble those we've heard in the past, like on Hold On which could likely have fit on other albums without much alteration to the integrity of its sound. Deviations certainly exist, like the song The Chant that has less metal signatures and is more strictly melodic. The Trails acts similarly, with fiddly and progressive guitar riffs that feel rooted in metal but never rise too large. As enjoyable as the standard Gojira songs are, they tend to keep to their strengths without veering too far from course; the additions of the aforementioned songs help to add necessary changes to the album without feeling separated from the themes.
Gojira continue their impressive streak, producing one of the best metal albums of the year and a surefire success in the eyes of stadium-focused metal fans without losing the snobbier end of the genre's fanbase. As the French veterans continue to rise in the metal mainstream, expect Fortitude to maintain that ascent, luckily without sacrificing their notable strengths and willingness to make metal more meaningful.
Favorite track: Born for One Thing