It should be clear by now that inertia and complacency are words that simply don’t exist in the vocabulary of French progressive death metal act Gojira, and with the latest album Fortitude (Roadrunner Records) the band have made some of their biggest and most diverse strides to date.
Although not following the likes of Opeth in discarding their distortion pedals, or copying Metallica by writing more commercially acceptable songs, Gojira is just finding different ways to be heavy. The offbeat drumming patterns, trademark pick scrapes, and tight riffing of opener ‘Born For One Thing’ ease you in gently, the looser, janglier sections where vocalist Joe Duplantier sings rather than roars acting as an early indicator to where things are heading.
Drawing on one very obvious influence which will probably result in the band being dubbed either Gojultura or Sepuljira, the deceptively deep ‘Amazonia’ reveals with every listen, while on ‘Another World’ it becomes clear that Duplantier’s cleaner tones are swiftly becoming the band’s preferred style. The emphasis on melody becomes even more apparent on the Wardruna-like intro to ‘Hold On’, a tumultuous track with an upbeat rhythm that still allows the increasingly versatile frontman the space to unleash some of his lowest, fiercest growls to date.
‘New Found’ features some effective low-end harmonics and that tortured cat guitar screech used to such good effect on ‘Stranded’. Enriched by more strong drumming from the absurdly talented Mario Duplantier, the song also features some exceptional bass work from the underrated Jean-Michel Labadie. Acting as a segue to ‘The Chant’, the title track connects the two with a swaying bassline that sounds like Mastodon getting stoned with Black Sabbath.
‘Sphinx’ comes out swinging with crushing riffs and pick scrapes aplenty from Duplantier and fellow axeman Christian Andreu, while ‘Into The Storm’ juxtaposes brutally tight, incisive precision with open and expansive weightlessness. The Devin Townsend-esque ‘The Trails’ allows Duplantier to really stretch his vocals cords, whispering and singing with his cleanest, and possibly best, performance on the record. Closing the album in style, ‘Grind’ is an avalanche of riffs, scrapes, off-kilter rhythms, big riffs, pulsing basslines, and mighty roars which fades out with a beautiful, Opeth style melody.
The most varied and heterogeneous record from the band thus far, some of the more experimental material on Fortitude is likely to be met with a certain amount of resistance, but there’s still more than enough heads down, neck-breaking heaviness to please the most devoted Gojira old-schooler. The vocals might be cleaner, the music more eclectic and eccentric, but for those who embrace progress, the rewards will be many.
Buy the album here: https://gojira.lnk.to/fortitude
9 / 10