Fortitude: can Gojira finally take their place at the top of the metal world?

Gojira has been one of the most popular and praised bands in heavy music for nearly a decade now. Being seven albums deep with their 2021 release, ‘Fortitude’, the band has gone from strength to strength each time – slowly progressing in size and mainstream appeal throughout each release. I have to admit I am a relatively new fan of the band, first listening to them around the release of ‘L’Enfant Sauvage.’ However, since then I have become a pretty big fan, checking out their entire back catalogue and loving all of it, so this album has been one of my most anticipated of the year. So far, the singles I have heard do not disappoint – it’s time to see how it is as a whole!

The lead single from the album, ‘Born for One Thing’, kicks it off. Opening on a building riff was an interesting choice, a great drumroll behind an interesting guitar chord and some wah. It soon explodes into a huge verse riff, the typical speed and heaviness that the band is known for these days driving hard behind Joe Duplantier’s fantastic, powerful, harsh vocals. The slower riffs between the verses are amazing and when it drops back even more for the chorus, it gives the song some great dynamics. It strikes me as a pretty radio-friendly song, outside of the verse vocals, something that could help catapult this band into an even higher position than they were already. Don’t get me wrong, though, it is still a HEAVY song. A great way to open the album, a lot better than Magma’s opener in my opinion, and one that easily makes the playlist!

Time for another single and another I’ve heard before the album release, ‘Amazonia.’ This was described by all the media platforms and fans upon its release as Sepultura-like, and it is hard to deny it really. It opens on a fantastic, simple drop-tuned guitar riff, some tribal-sounding instrumentation accompanying behind it. The chorus riff is fantastic too, simpler guitar work but the chords are heavy and fit the tone so well. The song gets even more fitting of the title after the second chorus, the guitars and bass dropping out, leaving just the great drumbeat and the tribal-like instruments and backing vocals/throat singing. Another easily playlisted song.

A song that for some reason I was under the impression wasn’t going to be on the album, ‘Another World’, is up next. I have to admit I wasn’t all too sold on this single when I first heard it and I don’t think multiple listens have changed my mind. The intro riff is great and pretty complex, yet it feels weird to just burst straight into it. The verses and chorus all kind of feel a little bland, in my opinion, especially considering the quality of the previous two songs. It feels like a layover from Magma, and not one of the great, heavier ones. It’s still a good song, one of the better ones to be released last year, but it isn’t up to the standard Gojira usually set for singles.

The first non-single on the album, ‘Hold On’, opens on vocals, which immediately threw me off. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but actually it sounded awesome. The multi-layers and harmonies reminded me a little of some of Machine Head’s more recent stuff (Locust and Bloodstone, not the atrocious Catharsis). We come out of the build into an almost Tool-esque riff before, in typical Gojira fashion, they make it HEAVY. The vocals stay fairly calm and clean(ish) through the whole song, the heaviest part of them being the gang vocals in the choruses (which sounds amazing.) Another fantastic song, a pretty great blend of their last two or three albums together into one epic, 5-and-a-half-minute song. It’s slow at times but can also heavy it up perfectly, the outro being a great example.

The longest song on the album is up next, the over 6 minute ‘New Found’. It starts in typical Gojira fashion again with a fast, heavy and unusual time signature. It reminds me of Flying Whales when that kicks in, and in no way is this a bad thing. The French riff-machines are on top form here, hitting us with heavy riff after heavy riff. Even their slower, more open choruses are still heavier than 95% of stuff around these days. Whether it’s their guitar tone, the massive drumming constantly, the de-tuned instruments, or what, they always have a way of making it sound dark. As much as I loved this track though, I don’t think it quite justifies its length. A fair amount was going on here, but there was also a lot of stuff that was repeated frequently or went on for a few bars longer than it felt like it should have. Heck, the outro alone is the same riff for two full minutes. It’s a great riff, but it got old fast – not to mention doing the cardinal sin of fading out. Still, whenever the heavy, chugging riffs come in, it’s impossible not to love it.

The album’s title track is up next. Being an interlude track it’s a nice little palate cleanser with two minutes of a great acoustic guitar riff, some simple percussion and melodic, distant harmonized vocals. It also works perfectly as an intro track for the next song, ‘The Chant’. How very Tool of them. This is the only pre-release song I hadn’t heard before doing this, and I have to say straight up from the start, I love it. Forget what I said about the opening track, this is clearly the radio single of the album. The chant itself is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard so far this year and the guitar riff works so damn well behind it. I HAVE to see this live. The vocals throughout are also maybe the cleanest I’ve ever heard Joe sound and I love it. I love his harsh screams too, but I wish we got more cleans from them. Hopefully, it is a direction they will continue to explore in the future. It kind of gives off Mastadon vibes that may just be because the vocals sound so similar. Heck, we even get a slight guitar solo which was a welcome addition. I loved everything about this song; the multiple vocal tracks gave it such an epic feel to it and it was basic yet so massively effective. This may go down as one of my favourite songs by the band and easily one of my favourites from the year so far. Playlisted!

‘Sphinx’ immediately heavies things back up again with a HUGE riff or three. As if to make up for the clean vocals in the previous song, Joe goes as heavy as ever with a low scream that almost made it a death metal song. The chorus is another catchy one and there are some amazingly heavy riffs packed into the relatively short (for Gojira) song.

The final single, ‘Into the Storm’, opens at a crazy fast pace and the cymbal work almost sounding like a train crossing bell. It builds perfectly into another massively fast, chuggy verse riff, reminding me of Stranded quite a lot. The vocals are pretty clean and catchy over the top of the chuggy guitars, clearly learning from the popularity of Stranded. While I loved it, I wouldn’t put it quite on the same level as some other tracks on the album. It is definitely single-worthy, but when compared to the likes of ‘The Chant’ and ‘Amazonia’, it feels just a tad “been there, done that.” The chorus is one of the best on the album though and one of the best they have ever done. Again, it channels more Machine Head vibes.

‘The Trials’ is the band’s version of a slow song, built mainly around a single riff and the vocals featuring very little in terms of heaviness or distortion. It’s a nice change of pace to keep things interesting towards the end of the album, but there isn’t much for me to talk about given that it is so simple and similar. Meanwhile, ‘Grind’ finally does what few modern albums seem to do these days and ends the album with a bang. It is full of fast, great riffs, low screamed vocals and enough heaviness to make you gurn throughout. While not the best song on the album, it is a fantastic closer and has some of the best riffs – making it a suitable end to a great album.

Overall: Given the high standard this band has set for their fans and the metal world in general, they never seem to disappoint. This was a great album that featured a variety of what they have to offer – a culmination of almost their whole career so far. It was also filled with catchy songs, something that I do truly believe will catapult the band to the next level. It lived up to the hype I had set and then some more; it is definitely one of the best albums of the year and a worthy follow-up to ‘Magma’. I honestly cannot gush over the musicianship enough with these guys and if you are into heavy music at all I would wholly recommend checking them out.

Score: 9/10

Liked the review? Check out more of them here.