Gojira’s new album Fortitude continues from where 2016s Magma left off, moving the band’s sound in new directions while retaining their signature riffing style. Magma marked a change for the band, expanding on the bludgeoning drums and guitars the band was known for and including more atmospheric parts while frontman Joe Duplantier expanded on his use of clean vocals on many of the tracks. The band found success with the album as it entered the Billboard 200 at number 24 and earned them two Grammy nominations.
Earlier efforts by the band displayed their influences front and centre, in particular bands such as Morbid Angel and Sepultura could be heard in a lot of the riffs, but by the time they reached 2012s L’Enfant Sauvage they had managed to define their own sound. Fantastic songwriting and dynamics kept the brutality intact while also making their compositions more memorable as well. The album is a high point in the band’s discography. Frontman Joe Duplantier is another important ingredient as his vocals manage to growl in key adding another powerful layer to the band’s material. I would honestly equate them with another influence of the band, Metallica, as I’ve always thought his aggressive yet clear delivery is like a modern-day equivalent to hearing James Hetfield’s voice on Master of Puppets for the first time back in ’86. It’s this combination that greatly contributed to also making them one of the best live bands around.
So what about Fortitude? The band wants to progress musically and grow their audience and while this is certainly still a metal record they have dialled back some of the intensity and turned up the melody. In this context, the clean vocals probably make more sense than they ever did before though they still don’t land for me on some of the tracks. Songs like “Hold On” and especially “Fortitude” and “The Chant” kind of fall flat for me because of them. “The Trails” is the one exception where I felt they worked well. Still, my preference is when they are tastefully mixed behind Duplantier’s impressive aggressive vocals to great effect in songs such as “Sphinx”. There are some hard-hitting tracks here such as album opener “Born For One Thing” and the very catchy “Into the Storm” but overall there’s nothing that crushes in quite the same way that a song like “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” (from 2005s From Mars to Sirius) does. Make no mistake, this is a good record, the passion and fire are still there, and I think all the band’s hard work will continue to pay off for them, but as far as putting an album on I just can’t see myself reaching for this one ahead of some of their older work.