Gojira – Fortitude (Roadrunner Records)

Ever since their breakthrough album, From Mars To Sirius, descended like some extraterrestrial behemoth back in 2005, Gojira have strode across the planet, proving they deserve headline status at your nearest rock megafest time and time again.

That they’re still not replacing ‘heritage’ acts in those lofty positions has more to do with music’s economics and risk-averse promoters than any doubts surrounding Gojira’s live capabilities.

Indeed, their supreme talent is rarely disputed.

And with each album, the Frenchmen have sculpted metal into vibrant new forms.

They’ve expanded horizons and combined their astonishing technical abilities with widescreen visions of ecocide and environmental catastrophe.

2016’s Magma pushed the band up a level.

And Fortitude cements their place at metal’s top table.

Gojira’s seventh full-length is not their ‘Black album’, however.

There’s no mainstream-ready, Enter Sandman-aping anthems. That kind of world-conquering lift-off never seemed likely for the quartet, or even on the agenda.

Instead, Fortitude is where the band were ultimately destined to land: an album of more subtle songwriting and wider creative freedom.

Gojira’s elemental power is still present. But it often manifests itself in glistening cascades, rather than raging tumults.

Joe Duplantier’s melodic vocals are sublime and gently caress The Trials and Hold On. His brother Mario is more restrained behind the kit this time too. Yet there’s plenty of tension in Fortitude… and (just) enough of those crushing rhythmic detonations to please fans hooked on the quasi-death metal of Toxic Garbage Island.

Another World sees Gojira escape this dying planet on a cosmic wind of swirling riffs, carrying a message of hope born from pain.

New Found – a journey of self discovery for Joe Duplantier – soars skywards as soon as its cloudburst chorus hits.

The Chant layers vocal harmonies on top of a deep pulse. It’s enthralling.

Fortitude’s heavier moments perhaps don’t connect as immediately as the truly jaw-dropping passages of The Way Of All Flesh and L’Enfant Sauvage. But they’re still surging, imaginative songs that bring a real sense of drama to this opus.

Amazonia, for instance, nods to Roots-era Sepultura and proceeds from the song will benefit the Amazon’s indigenous Guarani and Kaiowa tribes. Duplantier sings of the greatet miracle “burning to the ground” – and the message hits home hard.

Sphinx, meanwhile, harks back to noughties Gojira more than anything else on Fortitude, and sees the Duplantiers connect with Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie in that monstrous, churning groove that has become their trademark.

Into The Storm – themed around civic disobedience – follows a similar thunderous path.

Put simply, Fortitude is an opus Gojira needed to make after Magma.

It’s the work of a band fully expressing themselves… an act in no mood to turn back the clock, but who still hold a strong sense of their own identity.

And it’s a triumph.