The French unit further cement themselves among the elite with a grandiose composition.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
For bands with a rich discography and decades of experience on the backbone, it can become easy to phone it in. Their new records could simply follow the same tropes throughout, sticking to a formula that is welcome and accessible to longtime listeners. If this works, why change it, right? That's what a select few would think. However, despite the long years since their inception and the scale at which they've grown, GOJIRA have failed to abide by comfort and continue to stray from linear tendencies, expanding and evolving as a musical being one release after the next. With their highly anticipated new record Fortitude now under two weeks away, the quartet travel beyond the confines into a more progressive territory, one that reflects the maturity in the band's songcraft.
Arriving on April 30th via Roadrunner Records with a cover illustration by their own Joe Duplantier, Fortitude serves as the proper follow-up to the heartfelt eulogy that was 2016's Magma (2016). Like the predecessor, Fortitude wears its heart on its sleeve, only this time, under a much different context that again puts environmental consciousness at the forefront. In true GOJIRA fashion, their lyricism comes well equipped with yet another astounding technical display, one that could be arguably considered their most kaleidoscopic yet. It's refined, controlled, and slightly sacrifices heaviness for a tamer approach that still comprises one hefty work of art.
To ease listeners into it all, the band aptly introduced the varied 11-song selection of Fortitude with singles Born For One Thing, Amazonia, Another World, and Into The Storm, all of which exemplify the more progressive direction that the band have taken here. As great as each of these are, they're but a taste of the depths that GOJIRA have ventured into for this new incarnation. Hold On and New Found follow the singles with a soundscape that largely differs in scope and structure. It's here that we come face to face with the crisp and clear production job that elevates the band's sound to earth shattering levels. Hold On's opening group vocals soar into a head bang-inducing rhythm while the following New Found electrifies the soul with the band's signature guitar slides. Given each track's ability to harness the grit of Joe's conceptual endeavors into an awe-inspiring output, I'm fairly certain that each will make itself onto the band's live setlist.
How does one find a standout among the sea of gems that is Fortitude? Is it the track with the most unbridled aggression? Or is it the one with the most elaborate technique? It'll vary for everyone, but for this reviewer, Sphinx comes immediately to mind as one explosive offering that manages to bridge the two characteristics with cohesion. Joe delivers one of the most, if not the most, vigorous vocal performances on the recording while Mario sets a controlled pace that erupts in spurts with double bass gallops. The controlled rage on Sphinx soars high with an anthemic battle cry that is the chorus, a chorus that will surely shake stages worldwide upon the return of live shows. It'll batter you down and then lift you all up, all within the course of seconds. This masterclass is followed by the drumming excellence of Into The Storm, which presents itself as yet another towering display of the power that is driven by Mario's intricacies. Joe and Christian concoct razor sharp riffs, showing no restraint as Jean-Michel's bass lines rumble beneath.
For as high octane as Fortitude can be characterized to be, it doesn't come without a balance. Tracks like The Chant, The Trails, and the title track provide breathing room and are testament to the band's musical breadth. No low-end vocals here, just soul, heart, and tribal groove achieved through unified cries, rattling chains, and sparse hand drums.
To close the listening experience with conviction, Grind takes no time and kicks things off to a frenzy. This here is GOJIRA at their best. More signature guitar slides enter here and a barrage of sonic wonder swarms the listener, seamless transitioning into a beast of alternating pace. Joe belts out a spine-chilling roar at the midpoint, accompanied by serene guitar melodies that comprise the latter half of the track, which fades into the distance.
Seven full-length recordings in and GOJIRA continue to raise the stakes with each subsequent release. With a meticulous attention to detail and a driving message of perseverance against all odds, Fortitude stands tall among the metal ranks as one well-rounded force to be reckoned with. There's just no phoning it in. This polyrhythmic work of wonder is evidence enough for why the French unit have catapulted to the Bloodstock Festival headlining heights and further proof that as their prominence grows, so will they. Consider the high expectations for Fortitude shattered.
Fortitude arrives on April 30th via Roadrunner Records. Order your copy HERE.