To assess Gojira's latest offering, two Village-dwellers took up the pen, making for a rare double review 'round these parts. Enjoy! - Ed.
Written by: Izzy
I think for many metalheads, Gojira is a very nostalgic name. I personally got into them very early on in my exploration of extreme metal and they have remained a band I look to very fondly, even if in recent years they’ve departed from their death metal roots and taken a more accessible, straightforward prog/groove/alt metal sound. I still think the material put forth on their previous two excursions, L’Enfant Sauvage and Magma, while not their best, still had their own appeal that kept me returning to them.
But there was a palpable feeling that as they stripped away their extreme metal leanings and got softer and included more clean(ish) singing, they’d eventually morph into just another mediocre alt metal band, and I feel this concept has reached its logical conclusion with Fortitude, having scrubbed away almost any remnants of death metal in their sound and leaning harder and harder on creating hooks and choruses rather than the vast odysseys of From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh. I think we’ve reached a point where I truly can’t find a reason to look forward to a new Gojira album after this.
A band getting less heavy doesn’t really matter to me as long as they still make good music, and I’m one of the few Magma defenders you’ll find lurking around so I originally had decent hopes for Fortitude as a follow-up, my distaste for this release wasn’t a sudden shift to cynicism but more of a sad realization. If this new album had its own "Silvera" and "Stranded"--tracks that would stand out amongst the muck--it was in the running to still be something good and worth listening to. While the singles weren’t anything amazing, I figured I’d maybe enjoy them more in the context of the whole album, but as time passed and more tracks got released I felt the knot in my throat regarding this album grow. Similarly to last years' Deftones album I had to come to terms that this band I love has hit a new rock bottom, feeling more and more like they’re rapidly run out of ideas and losing what made them great in the pursuit of keeping ravenous fans satisfied by releasing new marketable albums semi-regularly that major metal publications will eat up and praise uncritically.
Fortitude is really bad. Like, maybe not bad in the same way as a genuinely unlistenable trashfire with zero redeeming qualities is, but more so by it being Gojira’s worst album and potentially the most boredom-inducing and disappointing experience with music I’ll have all year. There’s a distinct feeling of disillusionment that comes with seeing a band you love fall so hard so fast. I can’t put my finger on exactly one thing that ruined this album for me, but a combination of lackluster songwriting, muddy production and very poor mixing, and a disorganized tracklist ordering leaves the album feeling extremely unbalanced, and it all culminates in something completely lifeless, forming a bad omen that will hover above Gojira’s discography for the foreseeable future, and a worrying sign that they’ve officially left their golden years and entered the dark ages of their career.
Even the tracks I did enjoy on their own as singles, like "Born For One Thing," lost all their appeal when I realized the whole album was gonna be like that. Nothing about Fortitude really draws me into it or gives me a reason to care about it past my cursory listen. The tracks begin to blend into one another until by the end it felt like nothing really happened while still leaving me exhausted like I ran a marathon. While Magma and L’Enfant Sauvage had both highs and lows, Fortitude is an amalgam of the worst aspects of Gojira’s recent material and results in an album that is back to back lows. And, so, rather than spending 52 minutes of your brief time on this beautiful planet listening to this album, instead go for a walk, read a book, hug your mom, play catch with your sibling, smoke weed, really almost any usage of your time will produce a more worthwhile experience than listening to Fortitude.
Written by: The Administrator
I’m writing the review prior to reading what Izzy had to say, so I’m not entirely sure the extent of the devastation wrought and earth subsequently salted. In any case, I’m going in with several preconceived notions based upon our prior conversations regarding the legacy of the mighty Gojira. I assume that the above review is fairly negative, and I also assume that our points of criticism overlap fairly significantly. That said, I also assume that my overall view of Fortitude is much, much more favorable. And....y'know what? That's how it is. Music appreciation and criticism is a supremely subjective affair. Reviewing is a fickle business.
So it goes.
Getting right into it: I really enjoy the step back that Gojira have taken, both from overt aggression and from the overt progressive tendencies of Magma. The greater emphasis on straightforward and anthemic rockers makes for an obviously less cerebral experience, but this sound translates to a nice listening experience, and that counts for a lot in this villager's book. These feel like tracks designed for an arena, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what it is you're looking for out of a Gojira album. The tracks contained herein, on an individual basis, land quite nicely for the most part, with most of the singles and a few deeper cuts delivering the kind of chorus-driven hookiness that indicates a certain staying power. It's not a characteristic that reflects Gojira's days of death metal yore, and frankly, I'm kind of done with those days myself.
I've listened to this album a whole lot over the past week, and the relative strength and replayability of tracks such as "Born For One Thing," "Another World, "Hold On," "Sphinx," and the spectacularly simplistic "The Chant" tip the scales in Fortitude's favor. Whether leaning into death or alt metal or prog rock, Gojira are clearly masters of immediately compelling songcraft, and I think this album demonstrates that better than the majority of their storied discography.
But...there's a big but. The album simply does not work all that well as an album. As a series of separate singles, it would be fantastic, no question. But as a collection, Fortitude simply lacks the special sense of cohesion that elevates albums such as FMtS or TWoaF into the the realm of god-tier. This isn't exactly helped by the track order, which feels so distinctly random that I have trouble believing it was an honest-to-god deliberate choice. The abrupt changes of tone and pace are quite jarring--take the moment between "The Chant" and "Sphinx," where two otherwise excellent tracks are marred by their nonsensical proximity. Without a central motif or clear movement through the different aesthetics Gojira establish, the listener is pulled around in a fashion that is pretty damn distracting. When the album ends, there's a pervading sense of confusion without closure, and that is frustrating. And, on the topic of conclusions, the last few tracks don't really do it for me in terms of fresh ideas, which leaves Fortitude ending on a gasp rather than a Gojira-ian roar.
In sum? Yeah, I'm quite conflicted. The majority of tracks here are very likeable. I enjoy the more gentle and, yes, accessible direction, and think it has the potential to open a lot of doors in the same way that Mastodon's evolution allowed for significant exploration into proggier waters. I certainly don't feel like Fortitude is the sound of Gojira phoning it in or giving up, which seems to be a fairly common perspective. But at the end of the day, I am having a hard time understanding--or seeing, for that matter--the underlying threads that serve to make this an album, rather than a bunch of very enjoyable songs.
I am a firm believer that Gojira have yet to release a bad album--and this isn't, it's worth saying, my least favorite Gojira album. It will ultimately settle somewhere in the middle of the pack--an excellent album by the standard of most bands, but not close to Gojira's own high bar. As such, I do recommend Fortitude, and I particularly recommend it to people who have ventured into metal fairly recently. This seems like a stellar gateway into the inevitable heavier stuff, and that is a quality worth celebrating. For hardcore fans, however, I can understand why it disappoints.
Gojira - Fortitude was released April 30th, 2021 via Roadrunner.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!