Gojira – Fortitude (2021) – Review

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The Germans have Rammstein, North America sprouts flowers like Nickelback, and the French – well – they boast slightly greenish produce like Gojira. And yes, I mean French. Even if Joe Duplantier likes to reside in New York, many leagues away from his native soil.

In a way, it’s a bit like every nation or region gets the flavor it deserves. All of those bands are … interesting in a geeky kind of way. And they all share an uncanny and tremendous success with the masses.

But until now, those bands boast yet another common trait. And that is this failure to secure space on RMR. Mainly because of a variety of cringe effects and overarching stereotypes. Plus certain levels of nausea that set in after consuming too many minutes of their wares in one go. And sometimes that’s not very many, at all.

Gojira‘s 2016 record Magma left quite an impression at RMR, though. The piece is gritty, harsh, highly personal, authentic – and a pretty wild thunderbolt of an album. Yet, even that one was a bit too near to that dreaded dance metal than we cared to admit at the time. Thus, it, too, was a no-show on this ‘zine so far.

Fortitude and its warrior-bound cover did fill us with foreboding. First, the title already describes a fighter’s spirit, whereas the cover underlines it further. And that takes on more importance, as Duplantier usually creates the album art himself with true meaning1) in mind. So, the album indeed almost died on the review board because of an abundance of ideology. One that trends towards the extreme end of the spectrum. Which – again – could collide with our internal policy restrictions over here.

So, somewhat reluctantly, the RMR deck crew finally decided to let the music speak for itself and see what we might find.

And indeed, this record took off as if the friggin’ messiah just arose in France. Barely two months after its initial release, pretty much all of the European charts show Fortitude around the lower end of their top 10. Follow that up with illustrious boards, like the US Billboard 200, where it peaked at rank #122) with three weeks on the list currently. Spotify already shows millions of plays for every track, yet with large fluctuations. And that’s – undisputably – a stellar performance. Albeit, it also is an enigma at the same time.

Born for One Thing perfectly sports that in-yer-face messaging that comes on heavy chugging, shouted aggressive vocals, and an all-out drum attack. Only that this first track ends so abruptly, it throws a wrench into the process and pretty much kills the flow.

Yet, it is the precise arrangement that leaves nothing to chance that struck me first. That said, the mix and master appear to be equally flawless. And whilst wading through all that perfectly polished soundscape, I started to wonder where this lead guitar lost itself. Methinks that Christian Andreu gets relatively little visibility with some exceptions. Even if aggressively pushing the lead guitar never was one of the strong suits of Gojira. There are a few notable exceptions, though. Like – for example – on The Chant that contains this vicious little solo right out of the left field.

Oh, and did I tell ya? The laid-back earthy combo Fortitude / The Chant always awakens that thirst for freshly ground coffee in me, consumed with a bit of black chocolate whilst the fire blazes high into the dark night sky. And indeed, the tasty groove on these two pieces – and a few other on this record – never failed to impress the RMR crew here.

Yet again, after the first three tracks or so, the record’s energy kinda faded into the Amazonian jungle. Fortitude loses itself in several fillers that just don’t have that spiky grip anymore. And that lack of connection is a true pity. This also shows in the aforementioned numbers of plays on Spotify. Tracks like Another World with its pleasant grind, currently stand at beyond 12 million, whereas the laggards barely make it to some 1.5 million. So, whilst the numbers by themselves may be a wet dream to many bands, the discrepancy is truly massive.

To drive that point home, the top tier of tracks probably relate to Magma‘s gristly allure best. And that’s not to say that this crew here looked for a repeat of a former record, far from it. Only, whilst Gojira‘s last album was hyper-focused, this one here often tends to meander somewhat aimlessly about its prog and alt soundscape.

In the end, however, Fortitude left us somewhat cold. And it’s – yet again – the emotion that failed to kick in. Gojira want to pass a message. And they do that with some sort of a Loudness War 2.0 that comes on an ocean of excellent musicianship, stellar sonic arrangements, a great production, and a ton of angry energy. So, in a sense, Gojira throw everything and the kitchen sink at you with such an icy and technically astute ferocity that it finally didn’t quite connect.

And that just won’t do. Even if it means that we seem to be at odds with half of the world – with a few notable exceptions. But so be it.

Oh, and what about those two remaining culprits on the aforementioned list of Never-Raiders? Well, now that we opened the Gojira gate, they might – just might – find a spot over here, too. After all, the old folks of Rammstein and their dick-crazed politically incorrect societal provocations sometimes do feed that evil twin lurking inside some of the RMR crew. And as to Nickelback, well, we might have to unvow3) all those vows of chastity that we made. After all, we just wanna be rockstars, right? A friggin’ next-generation pandora’s box, that’s gonna be so much fun.

But until that happens, show the folks at Gojira some love. We might even throw in our 2 cents on Magma at some point. Who knows, right?

Record Rating: 5/10 | LabelRoadrunner Records | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 30 April 2021


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