Posts Tagged ‘ Voivod ’

Renewed Noise: Voivod

When BMG Rights Entertainment secured the rights to the legendary German heavy metal label Noise Records, it was celebrated by a bunch of entertaining compilations. “Amazing” would be one step too far, because they contained nothing new for those who followed the label during their glory days – roughly from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties – but good enough to remind us why it was such a good thing that they put bands like Skyclad, Running Wild and Kreator in the market. A compilation of Canada’s immensely creative Voivod made came later, which is now followed by full reissues of their three Noise releases.

Contrary to the compilation albums, the reissues of ‘Rrröööaaarrr’ (I’m not making this up), ‘Killing Technology’ and ‘Dimension Hatröss’ do contain a wealth of bonus material that was previously either not or very limitedly available. All three releases consist of 2 cd’s and one dvd. This often means that the band or label has cleaned the vaults and just threw every poor quality recording they could find on there. While that is true for a majority of the video footage on the dvd’s, the bonus cd’s all feature soundboard recorded concerts with a surprisingly good sound quality.

Most of these live tracks are from demos and fan club releases that the band has released throughout the years and that might explain why they sound so good. Sure, they’re a little rough around the edges – the ‘No Speed Limit Week-End’ live show that comes with ‘Rrröööaarrr’ is almost too raw – but they’re release-worthy. In fact, the live cd that comes with ‘Dimension Hatröss’ – entitled ‘A Flawed Structure?’ – is more or less on par with the official 2011 live album ‘Warriors Of Ice’. Not only is every instrument loud and clear; the mix is quite balanced, though it does favor the late Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour’s guitars. But then again: who doesn’t?

So should you be getting these re-releases? I would say that ‘Dimension Hatröss’ is indispensable. Though my favorite is still ‘Nothingface’, ‘Dimension Hatröss’ is the essential Voivod album. It’s where they first stretched their sound well beyond the boundaries of thrash metal, creating a progressive sci-fi metal sound that made them a truly unique band. And the bonus live recordings are a very worthy addition to any metal collection. The live footage on the bonus dvd isn’t as good, but at least the entire album is on it in demo form, as well as some of drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin’s cool artworks.

As for the other two: ‘Killing Technology’ is a brilliant progressive thrash record and its bonus live cd ‘Spectrum ’87’ is raw, but very listenable. By all means, get it if it’s not in your collection already, because it’s one of the best thrash albums of its time. That leaves ‘Rrröööarrr’. A record I have to be in the mood for, as it’s basically all fast, all loud, all heavy, all the damn time. It’s good that the album is easily available again, but don’t let it be your introduction to Voivod. If it is, you may not understand what all the praise is really about.

These reissues all come with fairly extensive booklets with essays by UK music journalist Malcolm Dome, decorated with quotes from interviews with all four original members. And while it is a bit awkward to see D’Amour quoted as if he is still alive – he died in 2005 – the booklets do offer a bit of interesting information about the recordings of the albums and the circumstances Voivod found itself in during those years. The band is allegedly planning to record its fourteenth album later this year and if it will be anywhere near as good as their last two releases, that is really good news. Until then, this is a very pleasant way to rediscover the sonic evolution they went through in the mid to late eighties.


Album of the Week 20-2016: Vektor – Terminal Redux

Despite frequently being labeled as a Voivod rip-off, Vektor is one of the most unique bands in contemporary Thrash Metal. Sure, they borrow heavily from the Sci-Fi themes and dissonant chord work of their Canadian heroes, but Vektor plays (much) faster, writes more intricate material and adds quite a few traces of extreme Metal to the mix. After a five year break, the band finally released their third album ‘Terminal Redux’ and boy, it’s a good one! Strangely, it is simultaneously Vektor’s most progressive and their most accessible album. Longer songs, but also stronger hooks. Unbelievable, but the absolute truth.

It’s also their best produced album yet and that contributes significantly to the listenability of ‘Terminal Redux’. Unlike many modern Thrash bands, Vektor’s riffs are generally located relatively high on the necks of their guitars, so the fact that the sound isn’t quite as trebly as before really is a step forward. The riffs have more balls than ever before, Blake Anderson’s snares no longer blast through your ear drums and David DiSanto’s lead vocals – a perfect blend of Dani Filth and Sadus frontman Darren Travis – suddenly don’t feel quite as shrill as they did on the first two albums anymore.

However, none of this would be relevant if the actual music wasn’t so damn good. Technical Death Metal bands should pay close attention to Vektor. Not only because they successfully incorporated the best aspects of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death – the vortical guitar leads and the full-on riff assault – into their music, but also because they know how to write a highly complex song with what feels like a hundred riffs without ever sacrificing the hungry energy and boundless aggression essential to Metal. No matter how technical and intricate the compositions get, Vektor’s main purpose is still to get you to bang your head.

While ‘Terminal Redux’ is best listened to in one sitting – believe me, those 73 minutes are over before you know it – there are still some standout moments. Naturally, those are generally the ones that deviate somewhat style-wise. The relatively straightforward ‘Ultimate Artificer’, for instance, is one of the most memorable cuts on the album. Easily the most notable song is the highly Pink Floyd-esque ‘Collapse’, which despite a few monumental twin guitar harmony climaxes is largely built on beautiful clean guitar parts. Speaking of which, the clean guitars are better and larger in number than ever. ‘Cygnus Terminal’, ‘Pillars Of Sand’ and the mammoth 13 and a half minute closer ‘Recharging The Void’ all alternate their intense riff work with clean bits. The instrumental ‘Mountains Above The Sun’ even consists almost entirely of them.

There’s a little something for anyone here: the almost unending riffing violence should please any Thrash Metal fan, the unpredictable songwriting should be a delight to any progressive Metalhead and the vocals and drums may even draw in some people who generally confine themselves to the more extreme segments of the genre. And what is most amazing is that they tackle every one of these approaches without ever compromising the others. That is quite an impressive feat. From the day I first heard them, I have labeled Vektor as promising. ‘Terminal Redux’ is the transition to simply excellent.

Recommended tracks: ‘Collapse’, ‘Ultimate Artificer’, ‘Psychotropia’

Album of the Week 03-2013: Voivod – Target Earth

While the late Denis ‘Piggy’ d’Amour – who was the heart and soul of Voivod’s music, together with drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – was deemed irreplacable, Martyr’s Dan Mongrain (nicknamed ‘Chewy’ for this occasion) did a fantastic job filling his shoes on the tours following Piggy’s death. When I saw them at the 2009 Wâldrock festival, I was amazed at how well Mongrain covered Piggy’s unique dissonant chords and psychedelic take on Thrash riffing. Now, there’s ‘Target Earth’, Voivod’s first album with Mongrain and all surviving original members. And it’s easily the band’s best album since the incomparable ‘Nothingface’ (1989).

Ever since ‘Mechanical Mind’ first surfaced online about three months ago, my anticipation for ‘Target Earth’ was immeasurable. ‘Mechanical Mind’ showed a Voivod reminiscent of their late eighties heyday of ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and ‘Nothingface’; the guitar riffs are dissonant and intense, Away’s rhythms are an odd mixture of Punky intensity and Jazzy twists, the trademark rumbling sound of returning bassist Jean-Yves ‘Blacky’ Thériault is back where it belongs and the vocals of Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger are as weird as ever, although he has obviously come a long way since debut album ‘War And Pain’. The expectations caused by ‘Mechanical Mind’ were sky-high, but the promise was fulfilled or possibly even exceeded on ‘Target Earth’.

There isn’t one song on ‘Target Earth’ that is a letdown. That in itself is an impressive achievement by a band that just lost a key songwriter. Once the opening title track starts playing, one never has to check if this is actually Voivod we are listening to. And while there are a few hints to the slightly mellower, but still oddball Hardrock of the last few records (‘Kaleidos’ and parts of ‘Resistance’), most of the record is a very welcome return to the Sci-Fi obsessed, psychedelic and progressive Thrash Metal of the late eighties.

Besides the aforementioned ‘Mechanical Mind’, the highlight of ‘Target Earth’ is the first song these Québécois did in French. It’s called ‘Corps Étranger’ and after a short slower intro, it boasts THE riff of the album; the first fast riff is one of pure pulsating Thrashing rage (pun intended) with all the weirdness inherent to a Voivod riff and as such, a total throwback to the awesome ‘Killing Technology’. And it’s not just that riff: the entire song is filled with great riffs, unexpected twists in both rhythm and atmosphere and it’s just extremely well-written. Other highlights include the scorching Thrasher ‘Kluskap O’Kom’ (don’t ask, I don’t know either), the epic, progressive and atmospheric ‘Warchaic’, the powerful title track and ‘Artefact’, especially the passage where the guitar delay, rumbling bass and tom violence on the drums battle for supremacy.

In the end, the only criticism a fan could have on ‘Target Earth’ is wondering why the killer outro ‘Defiance’ wasn’t developed into a full song; it sounds like there was much more interesting stuff after the fadeout. When it comes to everything else, ‘Target Earth’ is the perfect album Voivod could have made at this point. Right down to the eighties drum sound. Mongrain is more than suitable as a replacement for Piggy – Martyr’s cover of ‘Brain Scan’ already made that perfectly clear – and the compositions are nothing short of spectacular. This is not for the conservative Thrasher – let’s not forget that we’re dealing with one of the very few bands who recorded a decent Pink Floyd cover here – but everyone with an open mind should find something enjoyable here. ‘Target Earth’ is an album more than worthy of the Voivod nomiker. Piggy would have been proud.

Recommended tracks: ‘Corps Étranger’, ‘Mechanical Mind’, ‘Kluskap O’Kom’