Voivod's latest: A futuristic prog thrash space odyssey (Music Review)
New Delhi : Canadian heavy metal band Voivods latest album, "The Wake", coming after a long gap of five years, takes listeners through an epic sci-fi journey and gives their legions of fans something to celebrate.
Formed in 1982, Voivod are both one of the earliest progressive metal bands as well as one of the most overlooked. Formed around the same time as Sacrifice, Razor and Annihilator, these four came to form the Big Four of Canadian thrash metal. Where Voivod differed from their contemporaries was in the flights of extreme imagination in their music. While the band was rooted in metal, their incorporation of progressive (prog) rock and hardcore punk as well as the influence of classical music, was really what gave them their unique identity and made them a legendary band.
Their 14th full-length album, ‘The Wake', was released on September 21. A concept record, Voivod really outdid themselves here.
It is difficult to really place the band in one genre for they are as much crossover thrash as they are pure thrash and sometimes just straight up progressive metal. Inspired by British heavy metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead and Venom, as well as prog rock bands likes Yes, Genesis, Rush and Pink Floyd and hardcore punk such as Black Flag and a bunch of classical composers like Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky, their multitude of influences gives them an extremely unique sound which is difficult to appreciate for they have no standard song structure or melodies.
The guys have always been ridiculously creative, standing on the line between annoying and awesome. The best way to describe them is that they are both. Combining the aggression of Venom, and progressiveness of Rush, Voivod require a certain level of patience and appreciation. Technique, skill and, above all, creativity, Voivod has them all.
Musically, The Wake, is like technical/progressive thrash metal. Very atmospheric in nature, the riffs are ballsy and testosterone packed while having an odd sense of melody, while the solos are technical and have high dissonance though are nonetheless brilliant. Nothing is over the top here. There is certain sloppiness here, though, as per Voivod, it is intentional, and I feel if this album were extremely precise it would not be nearly as good.
The progressive, jazz fusion, speed metal-style drumming of Michel ‘Away' Langevin has always been a pleasure to listen to, though I must say that Denis ‘Snake' Belanger has done a particularly good job on the vocals. The guy is no Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie James Dio, but his blend of hardcore and metal is just very well suited for this style. They are powerful, aggressive and melodic. With original bassist Jean-Yves ‘Blacky' gone, his replacement Dominic ‘Rocky' Laroche nonetheless does a splendid job, for his bass tone is thick and really menacing while Daniel ‘Chewy' Mongrain's guitar tone is both grim and clean.
From start to finish the whole album is tied together really well. The concept clearly starts appearing sonically with the intensity of "Orb Confusion", and grows with the more theatrical feel of "Iconspiracy", though the last track "Sonic Mycelium" is probably the best song in the album. The twelve-and-a-half minute track mashes up sections from other songs and ties the whole album really well.
The album has a very intriguing concept which I will not reveal. I encourage listeners to read the lyrics of the song, which are very well written.
Production-wise the whole album is really well-recorded and mixed for the most part. The bass could have been a tad higher in the mix, though it is a minor complaint. A bigger complaint on my part is that the guitar tone, while good, lacks punch. In fact, if anything, it feels a little too thin. They should have recorded it in a bigger room to give it a more beefy sound. And not just the guitar, but everything including the vocals feel rather tight, the drums feel a bit dry on the mix, but overall the mix does justice to this amazing space odyssey.
With a great legacy behind them, Voivod has created something truly brilliant. While their previous albu‘ 'Target Ear'h' was really good, I d'n't think anything in their discography ever came close to their other '80s masterpieces lik‘ 'Nothingfa'e'‘ 'Dimension Hatro's' an‘ 'Killing Technolo'y'. Well‘ 'The Wa'e' is easily able to rival these three albums, and on its own rightful accord is a piece of true brilliance and marks another magnum opus, in which the band seeks to further explore and add to their progressive metal style.
(Anand Venkitachalam can be reached at email@example.com )