10 – Voivod (Chophouse Records, 2003)
Receiving a tape of a project band, ir8, that he had done about seven years earlier out of the blue from an old pen pal from his days in Flotsam and Jetsam with a short letter saying he was jamming with Voivod, I kinda knew Jason Newsted was joining the band in 2001. After the awful van accident in 1998 that injured band member Eric Forrest (bass/vocals), rumour was the band was done. I was sad! very fucking sad! Then out of the blue I heard through the grapevine that Snake (vocals) was coming back to the band and Voivod was carrying on. I had heard he was doing a taco stand in Canada (I’m not sure if that was true or not. I have asked Snake twice over the last twenty years and he laughs and doesn’t answer me). I knew Snake had also been doing a band called Union Made and got hold of the single. It was a very catchy punk-like thing that was indeed cool. But Snake is the singer for Voivod and he was needed back. The band made all the proper press releases about the formation and soon was releasing their tenth record simply titled Voivod on Newsted’s own label Chophouse Records. Gasmask Revival was my first dose of this era of Voivod and I fell in love with it from the get go. Snake was awkward and weird vocally, Newsted, known now as Jasonic‘s, bass rumbled and cut right through. Piggy‘s guitar was a less noisy attack compared to the Forrest era, with a slight bit heavier edge than The Outer Limits‘ tones and Away found had found his tom drums again! The song was raunchy rock n’roll tinged with a punkish twang thrown in for good measure – very catchy and very instant, and a much different approach from the just about chorus-free Phobos material. And Piggy’s guitar solos were back! YES!
Facing Up was second and continued the raunchy rock n’roll feel with a few more stop/start bits strewn about. Snake’s voice has a bit more of a rough edge on this record that works damn well with the material. The industrial noise stuff was just about extinct and a more metal, riffing approach oozes out of the rock n’roll formating. Blame Us and Real Again are both right in line with a sound that if describing to some one I’d say was a “a robotic Sex Pistols“. And speaking of robots, Rebel Robot takes us back to a Dimension Hatröss vibe. There’s some really HEAVY riffing here! more tunes keep it weird and voivod hints of most eras of voivod, mainly ‘dimension hatross’ through to ‘negatron’ within the songs. lyrically the record is out there with lots of outer worldy ideals. You always expect oddness when pen hits paper from Snake, and Les Cigares Volants, a.k.a “flying cigars’ is a mind fuck lyrically and musically with its futuristic rock approach. Cool, spooky Piggy guitars add to the mayhem!
A stand out track for me is Divine Sun; a haunting ‘out in space’ intro piece leads into some light, jazzy swing beats from Away and Snake goes into psychedelic mode vocally. The bass bends like musical claymation… This is my favourite track from the record! Invisible Planet harks back to those ...Hatröss vibes again but with a more rough guitar and vocal edge. The heavy bits fall into the speed bits nicely. Strange and Ironic is choppy yet moving – listen for the really cool drum patterns on this one. Just about hitting the one hour time mark of the album, the final tune We Carry On (which became the video single) talks of the bands determination through thick and thin to carry on – it’s very anthemish and easily the “catchy” number from the record. A dark verse works well amongst an uplifting chorus, and there’s a touch of Motörhead within this one as well. I really love this record! It’s another dark horse in the Voivod discography I feel. Somehow they touch on a lot of eras of their sound but it has its own identity throughout. Jason I assume put a good bit of money into the guys and with his credentials they got out and played the side stage at Ozzfest. I’m sure many Metallica kids saught it out for Newsted alone, while the other guys just kept on doing it to it on stage, touring all over. The record was everywhere and it varied review to review as to just what everyone thought of it. I read many praisful ones and many negative ones – Voivod thankfully still wasn’t for everyone!! I play this album often and always find more and more weird things inside the music to smile about. It’s awkward yet sing along and was a fantastic record for Voivod in 2003.
9 – Target Earth (Century Media, 2013)
After the completion of the material Piggy had left behind for the band to compose songs from it looked like Voivod would call it a day. I know Away was in a really bad place with the loss of his dear friend Piggy and was kinda in limbo for a bit taking life, and death, all in. But from the darkest of times Voivod arose yet again! Fellow Canadian musician, and life long Voivod fanatic, Dan Mongrain came aboard to play guitar for the band. Away knew it had to be the right guy to keep Voivod respectful musically and the legacy of their fallen friend intact. Add in blower Blacky back on bass and the next era of Voivod was set to go. Target Earth surfaced in early 2013 and many were interested first off to see how Dan would fit in. Opening off with the title cut it was obvious the band was harking back to a much more technical vibe with instant riffs not far off from Nothingface and Dimension Hatröss. With material now being written by Dan and Blacky it definitely had the Voivod charm out of the gate. mid paced and awkward, and gave a big welcome home for those off-kilter melodic Snake vocal bits too; the song reeked of weirdness. and minus a little bit of a guitar solo difference from Piggy was very much whole-heartedly Voivod.
Kluskap O’Kom follows with an up tempo approach and a main riff reminiscent of Order of the Blackguards from Killing Technology. This one really rocked for me. Some shouted back up vocals were weirdly connecting and the blower bass moment into the odd as fuck middle jam is really cool and welcomed. The album’s production is very smooth yet mind ravaging too, with the guitars having just the right Voivodness quirk to them. The mix could use a pinch more vocal volume as Snake kinda gets lost a little at times behind delay effect filled guitar moments. but this record is ploughing right on ahead! Third we get a strange intro into Empathy for the Enemy and then those legendary Voivod chords take charge… the bass gnaws, the drums slinky on down the stairs, and it’s now official, Voivod is home! The mellow bits strewn over this have a real progressive seventies overtone and Snakes nice-to-mean approach gives great dynamics vocally to the cut.
Mechanical Mind screams Dimension Hatröss. Clocking in at over seven minutes its a hybrid of mangled magic that makes this my favourite tune on the record. Another seven minute track follows (Warchaic) and this one goes more down experimental road with some of those Angel Rat-styled dark melodies while mixing it up with some Killing Technology sharp guitar piece getaways. There’s some really good guitar playing on this one, and Away gets some of those ‘is this guy playing with fourteen hundred drums?” sounds going on. Moving forward the record plays out of the box a bit as Voivod tests lots of awkward ideas and arrangements out, some from the past sounds of the band, and some newer “jazzyish” moments showing what the band might be thinking of moving forward musically. I am very happy to see a big difference in the simple musical approach of the last few records to this more deeply arranged record. Its nice to see arrangements with many levels to them. Voivod really are masters of the music section construction and musical personality change moments that weave in and out of tunes. There’s still a tad of punk in here, mainly in Snake’s vocal delivery, and there are doses of rock n’roll and heavy metal trappings as well. Putting all that together makes Target Earth a damn good listening experience. For a first time out after many years with Piggy as the main song writer it’s a hell of a debut with the new line-up. Dan delivers in top notch style to the Voivod legacy and Blacky hasn’t lost a step in his playing. This is a really good record that deserves multiple on top of multiple listens to take it all in, just like Dimension Hatröss all those years ago.
8 – The Wake (Century Media, 2018)
The Wake is a musical mind fuck. Voivod always have been one, even in those early ‘primitive’ days. but this time it’s gone to a different level. If voivod had a “kitchen sink” record this would be the one as of 2021. A spacey mindset going in is required for the listener to sets up for a very intelligent record from the band. A falling out with Blacky has seen pal Rocky Laroche come in to do bass honours. He’d been on the road with them for a few years prior and I’d assume by the time they wrote and recorded this knew most of the charms and moods of the Voivod machine. Snake has a really neat vocal approach to this record; never a natural singer, he really has nailed down some of his most unique, strange vocals this time around. It’s obvious Voivod has been listening to a lot of old prog rock, that’s a given. BUT, along side that the band has incorporated so much Voivod personality into this record that it’s a whole new monster, more so than ever before. Dan’s song writing ideals are all over this record and his outside influences are welcomed!
Choppy/smooth/weird/haunting/sci-fi riffs, bouncing drums, floor filling bass, and those already-mentioned Snake vocals make this album one hell of a fucking INTENSE record. I can see these songs animate before my eyes as they play: Misshapen characters loose in our our world telling of conflict, conformity, and other downfalls of society fill my eyes and skull. Jazz interludes, the Doors-like spooky sing along bits (as well as the Monkees, yes, the monkees), guitars that are 3-d out of the speakers that almost ask you to seat them next to yourself for the listening experience. Theres more of a vocal production then any past Voivod recording. I almost hear outside singers/voices at times joining the party. This album just has a phenomenal mix and production! Titles like Orb Confusion, Obsolete Beings, and Spherical Perspective tell you Voivod is out to give no rest to the listener trying to figure this all out. And as the listener this is indeed a musical puzzle. I’d really like to see the movie for this record though I doubt the images I have in my mind can be put to film. Absolute sci-fi brilliance! I’d also really love to see the album performed in it’s entirety on stage. I havent broken down one song on The Wake up til now as i feel you MUST listen to this record as one big adventure. It prompts so many emotions. The closer Sonic Mycelium sums it all up, and even this track really does take you back to past Voivod moments. so haunting and beautiful, yes, beautiful, is it. This is Voivod’s Sgt. Pepper’s: A unique and special record needed at a time in a musical world full of duds, copy cats, and passion-less goons. Piggy is cheering them on. TOPPEST OF NOTCHES!!!
7 – The Outer Limits (MCA, 1993)
Fix My Heart was the perfect title for the lead off song to the 1993 opus The Outer Limits from Voivod. The band seemed a bit down and a bit out on the mental front and needed some re-ignition. Previous album Angel Rat was a disaster sales-wise due to lukewarm listener reception and minimal touring. and the band had lost bassist and long time friend Blacky along the way. Even then, label MCA hadn’t given up on them and this junior release from Voivod was unleashed full on. Produced by Mark S. Berry – who has worked with Yes (right up Voivod’s alley) – Billy Idol, and Boy George (off-left for sure). A 3-d album art piece featuring a bubble headed spaceman became the cover to an interesting musical book (3-d glasses included). Not locking into a full time replacement for Blacky, the band had a session player in Pierre St. Jean for the four string banging while the other three guys lined up to knock it all out. The aformentioned Fix My Heart came in sounding like a bit of a heavier-edged version of something from Angel Rat. Again, a Van Halen-like main riff paced the tune. Away’s drums were a bit more wide open and live sounding in the mix. Snake brought more quirk back to his voice and the song had a nice and powerful vibe to it. However Piggy was the biggest shining star on this one – his guitar solo is absolutely fantastic within this cut.
Moonbeam Rider comes in, uptempo and carrying the familiarities 0f rock n’roll tradition. It quickly finds itself, a mellow piece that sways in between the uptempo riff that started it all. Delayed out guitar carries the song and Piggy pulls out some really cool choppy bits within those delayed moments; and I can’t go on without mention of the ‘stretchhhhhhhh’ vocal/guitar interlude part that comes around twice in the song. Some psychedelic ‘bong hits in space’- sounding thing proceeds a cool Yes-like guitar solo that’s just fucking brilliant! Hail piggy!! Le Pont Noir (French for ‘The Black Bridge”) comes third and again feels very Angel Rat-like out of the gate. That is, until the HEAVY monster grabs hold of that mellow intro and turns it on its head. Mellow and heavy battle it out for the entire song arrangement wise with some very well sung parts by Snake shining through. ‘The ‘I’m the catch of the day’ vocal line is genuine magic. as the song comes to it’s final minute Piggy finds those ‘nuclear war chords’ to close it out correctly. Perhaps and probably because both band and MCA records were thinking alike, and since the first time out went so well, the band again covers another early Pink Floyd tune. The Nile Song works decently enough within the record but for me this is the albums low point. The original was never anything special to begin with and this album just doesn’t need it.
Lost Machine follows, and a very Dimension Hatröss-like attack is now in full force. This could easily have been an outtake tune from the ’88 era. Away rocks the kit in odd time sequences and the other band members, minus St. Jean whose bass playing holds down the low end fine and dandy but stands out next to nowhere on the record (Blacky is missed!), weird out in super Voivod fashion. And the ‘remain silent’ vocal section even bleeds into Killing Technology territory. WOW! – album stand out moment for sure! Time Warp takes us back to the heavier side of Angel Rat with the ‘happy’ vibe that this time doesn’t seem as ‘sad happy’ as the Angel Rat moments. It’s as if they are starting to see through the clouds around them and rise up… And then the band pulls it ace card…
… Jack Luminous. I first heard this track on a 12-inch promo record pre-album and was mind blown by it then. If St. Jean deserves more than a mention anywhere on this record it’s the bass background he holds down on this song. Clocking in at over seventeen minutes this tune tells of an outlaw of space whose travels bring him to all kinds of tyranny and madness in his journey. And Voivod takes us through his and their musical journey with heavier than fuck times, mellow as hell moments, and odd rhythms/simple rhythms. Then there’s vocal screaming, vocal singing, laid back percussion, in your face drum attack parts, and the guitar sounds of at least ten personalities too. NOTHING IS LEFT UNTOUCHED! It’s as if every moment in Voivod’s music history has fucked and created one mutant musical child. This is absolutely one of the most ferocious compositions penned by Voivod at anytime in their career! So where can they go from here? Well… it’s back to rock n’roll world. A very clean sounding bass intro, that has no blower or anything to it, leads into the simplistic and moving Wrong Way Street. This sorta comes across as a seventies T-Rex style song gone awry. A great bridge gets the listener singing right along, and the ending part is very effective too! And what’s this closing out the album? Why it’s double bass driven drumming steering this space ship now. A ninety-eight per cent up-tempo number that lets us all know something has landed in the field and we all want to know what it is! Well it’s Voivod, and the band is alive and well. They’ve dropped a new record on planet earth to be studied and cherished. and study and cherish it is what I did all year long. Back on tour in America, I saw the band many times. On one of those occasions I had the pleasure of taking a five hour drive with Piggy where I asked many, many questions about the bands music and any and everything Voivod. That day is one of the most cherished musical times in my life. The Outer Limits did not turn too many more heads on album release than before – the band just got out on the road and did what they do, play Voivod music for those that love them for them and nothing more!
6 – Angel Rat (MCA, 1991)
To me Angel Rat is the darkest Voivod record. An aura of melancholy just sits all around it. Even the ‘happy tunes’ aren’t. It reeks of coming down off of an incredible high and never being able to get there again. The band’s second record for MCA divided many Voivod freaks. Some really did lose touch with the band’s musical direction, while others got deeper into the machine called Voivod. I remember playing the very mellow title cut in the car when I was hanging out with some pals and an old girlfriend. She had known Voivod for Warriors Of Ice and Tornado and kinda lost touch with them around ’88 musically. When she heard it she flat out said to me ‘this sucks!’. I spent the entire night explaining to her how it was just another musical emotion to the Voivod band and how it was natural how they got to this sound from the War and Pain days step by step. I told her how this band had no barriers and could paint the canvas with whatever thought colours were oozing out of them that album writing year. Piggy told me the band was delving heavily into seventies rock records at the time; he mentioned Grand Funk, James Gang, and Alice Cooper as examples, and how they were ‘very stoned’ and just wanted to put out a full on rock record with lesser arrangements to not have to think harder to remember them. I told him I guessed that they were burnt out on technical and just wanted to ‘dumb down’ to rock n’roll formulas… he pretty much agreed! That being said Angel Rat is a tremendous, nothing else like it, record in the Voivod discography. It is cartoonish in it’s themes yet still a very dark record indeed.
Panorama opens the show with a very early Van Halen-like rocking riff that carries most of the song through. The production is very simple, handled by long time Rush producer Terry Brown. This is a bit surprising, you would think he’d have been the technical Nothingface type producer and Glen Robinson this scaled-down one. But simple is kinda the song arrangement theme of the record. The basic formula… a banging snare drum holds time, scaled down bass lines (played by Blacky, who had left the band but played bass on the record), and modified, as much asPiggy modifies, guitar riffing. Snake still has the awkwardness in his vocal phrasing but it’s a bit more like Joey Ramone this time than Johnny Rotten. Clouds in my House is song two, released as a radio single, and it’s full of keyboards laid behind the track. Piggy told me that some keyboards were actually added after the band turned in the mix and it was weird to him for that to happen. They actually aren’t out of place but for me they really aren’t needed. The song is more awkward and more choppy than the lead off track (it always reminds me of a metalised version of Cardiacs – Ed). The Prow comes third and has an uplifting melody reminding me of the Yardbirds‘ classic For Your Love. Very simple, very driving, and very Ramones-like. Simplicity is really in full swing but that doesn’t mean Voivod doesn’t tinge it in spots with musical oddity; The middle part of this tune is a prime example of this. Piggy’s solo after that bit is tremendous rock n’roll vibed high moment to the record.
Best Regards comes in and plays like a lost single from the late sixties. My guess is it was inspired by Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s Incense and Peppermints; even the back up vocals flow from the chorus on this one. It’s simple but somehow very weird! A lot of the Voivod sci-fi lyrics this time around are passed up for tales of carnival dummy personalities, letter writing, and fairy tales of French folklore. The title cut is the tune that I think really played with long time Voivoders minds most of all. It’s very laid back for the most part and plays more like a lost the Doors track. Putting this next to Ripping Headaches and saying this is the same four guys playing is a pretty insane thing to do, but this is Voivod! Branching out, selling out, or just being themselves? For each listener that is the decision. Golem follows and has a very rock n’roll vibe yet again. Some jazzy swing in Away’s cymbal hand along with a stop/start verse section keeps it rocking. The use of machine like voices under Snake’s tracks is really cool and haunting. Plain and simple, The Outcast track is Grand Funk. If that’s not harmonica at the start then it’s a very harmonica like guitar effect. Seventies rock inspired for sure! The one tune that plays more like ‘era two’ Voivod (the …Dimension/Nothing… years) is Nuage Fractal. A very futuristic sounding track with a bit of new wave eighties tossed in for good measure, this one really is the robot rock moment on Angel Rat. The neatly titled Freedoom for me wraps it all up of the tale of how Voivod got here musically. Voivod is on top of the world but something has poisoned their well. Happy turns to sad and then to doom. A very haunting, ‘fitting’ track. The piggy one string bits within are a neat touch. One of my favourites on this album is closer None of the Above. The a/b/c/d question asked finale, the moving vocals throughout, the main riff – so simple yet bizarre, and the fantastic guitar soloing to close out the record is pure gold.
The band seemed in a very unsettled mind state coming from the music on hand and they somehow turned it into one special record in their collection of tunes. A fantastic journey down a very dark and doomy road, on it’s release the record tanked. There was no tour of America, and the video for Clouds In My House was a bust. Voivod had quickly lost a lot of the momentum that Nothingface had built, but delivered a very honest record in my eyes in the process. This one’s never going to be for everyone. I suppose fittingly, when I went looking for the full Voivod album to post with this review Youtube didn’t have it complete. This being the first record that wasn’t complete on you tube since album one I went with my favourite track None Of The Above to audio describe the record musically. For me Angel Rat is a personal dark horse album in my Voivod listening world that still stands strong and proud to this very day.
5 – Nothingface (MCA, 1990)
And so Voivod moved into what I call the ‘digital age’ of the band. Major label MCA Records, famous for The Who and Elton John, had picked the band up on license from Mechanic Records and their first record for them was the oddly titled Nothingface. Weird progressive metal rock was what was on tap and it’s all created inside a subdued yet awkardly cool production provided in Canada by New York native Glen Robinson, whose other past work included The Ramones and the Beach Boys. The record has a very unique sound which only makes the band’s songs sound even weirder. The Unknown Knows opens the record with some very cool rocking bits. Piggy’s guitar riffs shine like the cleanest of steel while sharply biting at you as Blacky’s bass is perfectly blended for its own spot in the mix to do whatever he wants to do which is jam, jam, and jam. The drums are definitely tamed down this go round. The beats are wild but just stay in place and don’t attack you like on past records. But that’s ok, for this record it falls right into place. Snake’s voice has more doubling and rounding out. His awkward delivery locks in fittingly as the narrator to the tales. There’s tons to take in with this record musically. Riffs come and go, some played once and never played again, others play out in progression with slight variations as songs go on. Keyboards hide a bit in the mix as well adding depth to the chaos – and chaos is what this is. The many, many off timing arrangements, the hurky jerky vocal melodies, the stop/starting out of left field… this is mind fucking music. But after all that’s said it all still flows like a river and creates memorable hooks, songs you can sing along to like early Beatles with a Yes-like seventies musicianly intelligence hovering over them.
This record really is hard to truly describe. Headphones bring out things that hide on an open speaker playback. Lyrical themes are all over the place including alzheimers’ disease and hallucinogenic sci-fi (or is it?) visions. A cover song is even on hand this go ’round, as early Pink Floyd gets a tribute runthrough of their LSD laced anthem Astronomy Domine, which the band pulls off to perfection, fitting right in amongst their originals. There’s mellow bits where Snake completes the vocal tasks with the perfect mix of charm and oddity. There’s carnival music like riff events that play out like dancing transistors singing anthems over their circuitry boards. As ferocious and barbaric as War And Pain and Rrröööaaarrr were, this really feels like the same band just on another musical plateau. The only real comparison is how Rush travelled to different musical planets as time went on – all on their own accord. Nothing is forced or contrived here. Seventies progressive rock is the big influence to this record, something that definitely wasn’t ‘hip’ during 1989. Piggy and Away’s love for ELP, Nektar, Van Der Graaf Generator comes shining through mixed alongside Snake’s punk charm. This creates a description from me of ‘this record sounds like ELP with Johnny Rotten singing for them’. Yes it’s that odd!
Standout cuts for me are opener The Unknown Knows, the doom laden Missing Sequences which has a melody within it that haunts right at you, the mellow bad trip of Into My Hypercube and closer Sub Effect which chews at you with its off kilter circuitry arrangements. But nothing comes up short, all of it is spectacular. How the band manages to keep the killer/no filler song writing five records in is a gift all its own. far and away to me this is their most progressive record to date. they really just went for it all. the Pink Floyd song got some good play on MTV even away from Headbangers Ball time and it seemed Voivod was becoming more and more known. A tour followed headlining over Faith No More and Soundgarden, two bands that would quickly become huge in the world while Voivod would just be too odd for most to take the next step. A King Biscuit Flower Hour live moment probably is the furthest along US radio airplay ever was for the band (a rare split record with Mr. Big of the recording is out there. but very hard to come by). this record is a special moment in time for me. one of my favourite Voivod records, but you’ll read that a lot from me!!
4 – Dimension Hatröss (Maze Music, 1988)
Now the doors of experimentation were wide open for Voivod. A concept album oozed out of them next. We were all brought to a place called Hatröss. French as the word ‘atroce’, meaning terrible or horrible, but this was anything but that. A story of the Voivod visiting other dimensions and seeing everything from tyrannical governments to full on mind control as well as hordes of sci fi (or is it?) insanity. After branching out vocally on Killing Technology, Snake makes its obvious he’s going to croon the tales of woe that lie ahead. Hints of everything from Johnny Rotten-like quirk to the computer-like voice he unleashed on the previous record are at hand. The production had a more evened out feel with this record, this time those bleeding squeals and feedback-crazy guitars were toned down with a more controlled recording. It wasn’t so much all knobs to the right this time as it was controlled chaos. Bass still hovered under Piggy’s wild jazz, surf, metal, rock, punk, ‘Dead Kennedys on acid’ playing ideals. Cover art showed a hybrid of the Voivod posturing while the back cover showed for the first time the given names of the band members outside their nicknames that sat on the first three albums. The band was growing up a bit and this was them in 1988.
Fittingly titled, The Experiment comes in and sets up the story of how the Voivod got loose outside of it’s safety zone. A lot of double bass sets the energy in the sound, with Away as usual making his kit sound like its got fourteen hundred pieces to it. Those robot rock vocals of Snake fit perfect inside the structure of the song. If anything the guitars are in spots a bit subdued in the mix giving the Voivod attack a bit more of, dare I say it, a whisper in the ear story telling feel. THEN they would suddenly jump out of the mix and become loud like a clanging warning siren of things building up to an awful outcome within the tune. its weird, it’s wild, its VOIVOD! Primal drums set the pace of Tribal Convictions, where an almost Tarzan-like jungle motif visual gathers in your mind. From there its weird speeded-up rock metal that hints more at seventies bands like Nektar than any Slayer or Venom record. The incredible deadly guitar delay bit near the end is so fucking cool. THIS IS BRILLIANT!
From here we are treated to many freakout tales and adventures, all with dark and dismal outcomes. The album never really gets into any genuine speed metal scenario but it’s really unnecessary this go ’round. The entire band is in outrageous jam form and make the most jagged of musical puzzle pieces fit to perfection. The unsung hero this time around is Blacky. his bass playing really holds the tunes in secure place so Piggy can adventure with noises and odd notes outside the box. Blacky weaves around Piggy while keeping perfect synch somehow with the madness which is Away. It is unreal how well this odd collection of ideas makes lasting, memorable tunes. There’s big doses of punk rock stylings inside the song writing and as mentioned the progressive rock vibe mixed amongst this makes everything have such an original feel to it. Macrosolutions To Megaproblems is the perfect track to hear just what I’m speaking of. Brain Scan gets a special mention for the oddball bullhornish bits – anyone familiar with the album will know what I mean. Psychic Vacuum is probably the tune that pushes the envelope of the band’s sound the most this time out with an almost eighties new wave vibe to it in spots; place that style amongst some of the eeriest, heaviest riffing on the album and you got something sounding really fucking cool. The epic Cosmic Drama brings it all home in detailed sci-fi horror fashion and fits beautifully inside the awkward box that is the musical dabbling of Dimension Hatröss.
The band got two videos for the record out and about. Tribal Convictions got some decent play on MTV during the metal times of the channel for better or worse. And the band was becoming more and more in the public eye with touring and good record sales. Some of the die hard ‘blearghhh’ cats were a bit turned off by the lack of ‘grr’ and speed this time out. But many ‘Voivod is different’ weirdos like myself latched on whole-heartedly and went for the musical journey of our lives. This really is one hell of an album that showed inside the laboratory of Voivod song writing, where the band was messing with some very weird beakers, test tubes, and other freaked out substances. NOTHING CAN STOP THE PSYCHIC VACUUM!!!!!
3 – Rrröööaaarrr (Combat Records, 1986)
Rrröööaaarrr was the perfect name for the sophomore record from Voivod. The cover art, inspired by ELP’s Tarkus LP cover shows a tank machine with guns and jaggity pieces amongst a skull face front ready to do battle. And do battle they did! Snake has said this record added to their punkish charm of the debut with hints of the progressive music that was also living in their black hearts. It was obvious from the start speed was going to be more a factor in their attack. Opening with Korgull The Exterminator (later determined to be the creature on the cover art), the sound was a bit more treble and reverbed out. Piggy told me Blacky’s bass head was lost and he just plugged into a guitar head for recording. This gave the ‘blower bass’ a different vibe. The drums sounded like bombs during war, sorta coming from below the ground and shaking everything around. Snake came at you screaming more this time, as if trying to get the vocals out over the immense loudness of war detonating all around. Korgull… had a longer, more thought out approach to it; Piggy’s guitar was so loud any and every time he’d mute or pause for anything it would feedback and squeal, and in post production edits none of that ‘noise’ was left off the chopping block. This really was an all knobs to the right production. Track two Fuck Off And Die came in lyrcially angry as a full-on verbal scorning dedication to Metal Blade Records who had allegedly ripped the band off royalties for War And Pain, making the band up and leave that label (they had moved on to Noise Records outside of Canada and the US). Track three harkened back to that HEAVY rock n’roll love for Motörhead. One of the bnad’s earliest penned tracks, Slaughter In A Grave rolls along with just enough rough edges to keep it the right mixture between off-kilter and smooth.
Thrash/speed is the personality within Ripping Headaches. A video later followed that couldn’t of been more correct in it’s visual presentation. Horror ends side one – otherwise known as The Ripping Side – and gives us a dose of War And Pain-styled morbidity but also shows the speed/thrash craze of the moment through the eyes of Voivod. Thrashing Rage leads off side two (the Thrashing Side), confirming the already known thrash inspirations within. An amazing middle bit that I call the ‘machine gun’ part makes this an epic track on the record. Helldriver comes from the bands past and rock n’rolls right along dirtier than a hookers crotch. Build Your Weapons, later said to be sorta about making their own guitars for musical battle, has all the pieces to describe Voivod to a tee. Snake really gets intense vocally as the ending comes and the rhythm section is locked in while Piggy dances all over the place including his now signature anywhere in the song guitar runs. To The Death! (their slogan) creates an awkward drum pattern skeleton that Piggy fills up with some very weird guitar chugging and riffing. It sets the tone for an aggressive finale to the record. By the time the ‘sing along’ lyrics of DEATH, TO THE DEATH!!!! find you later in the song your ears and mind have been overtaken.t
This record always seems to be an underdog when the band’s discography is brought up. While some have a special love for it (my son being one of them), some have found Rrröööaaarrr to be a little less than the debut. I’m not one of those people. This record is a killer! it’s got an incredible vicious personality inside it that melts your face off and leaves anything within hearing range covered in soot and tar. Voivod was here to stay!
2 – War And Pain (Metal Blade Records, 1984)
If anyone thinks War And Pain is just white muddy noise tripe they really are farrrrrrrrrrr off the mark. The record, as over the top as it is, has hook after hook after hook of blues based hard rock/ heavy metal born memorability. Yes – I said hard rock. you can hear the love for the hardest of hard rock n’roll in the ‘we love Motörhead’ tracks like Suck Your Bone or Iron Gang. You can also hear a seventies era Halford-like attack when the snorts and snarls of Snake unleash. The band pulled from what got them to the times musically and were off and running. You can build as the listener as they did as the creator to the more vicious full on metal material like Warriors Of Ice or the morbidly-tinged haunt of Live for Violence. Or it’s follow up track Black City. See how they started to branch out with longer songs and added dimensions to their ideals?
Stop and start sections sat and gnawed at you. Odd bass fills and drum moments… Piggy showing you through his guitar playing that Ted Nugent and AC/DC were on his record player growing up. The Black Sabbath inspired bells and riff influence into the title track are obvious. It’s the bones that hold the monsters every bit of being together. The loud as hell attack within the drum hits to the all knobs to the right guitar zig and zags hanging like moss over the creations within. The production unfolds as if they paid for the recording in human bones and self made hallucinogenic drugs, setting up in a cavern somewhere underground and shaking the foundations beyond the realms. The cover art sets the tone perfectly as well, the ugly rust-like colours that finally answer for me the question, ‘what colour would the sky be if nuclear war engulfed us all’?
The lyric sheet, scribbled as if on a wall in a dark underground cave from centuries ago, fits snugly along side a band whose every band member is insane with confidence in their craft. This record snuck up on the world and not many knew what to think of it when it arrived. They heard low end tones and thought Venom, they heard weird guitar ideals and claimed it amateurish because what was going on to their ears was not the way they had heard it before and must be ‘wrong’. There was hints of Voivod’s musical influences throughout the record and huge pieces of musical, architectural bricks were being laid from that. Odd lyrics jumped out of the record at you from French/English-speaking minds. ‘Go shit I’m not a fish’ and themed moments of barbaric butchers and advance thermal killers mentioned made you wonder just what the hell they were snarling about. And, of course – “what the fuck is a Voivod?” “is that a real word?”, along side “am I pronouncing it right?” came into the minds of many whose ears this had fallen into. this was plain and simply put… BEYOND INTENSE!
To my ears NOTHING has surpassed this record all these years later for crazy other worldly musical barbarism. This is the one. a masterpiece of ugly, a masterpiece of uncleanliness, the one and only War and Pain…
1 – Killing Technology (Noise Records, 1987)
This was the ‘turning point’ to many for Voivod when it came out. You either simply got it or said ‘what is Snake singing now? – this sucks’. Voivod up til then were called everything from Canada’s answer to Venom to cement mixer noise to talentless metal punk to avoidvod. Killing Technology gave a brand new depth to song structure for the band that added to what they already had, genuine and one hundred per cent not forced or phony. It was unique and showed something to many others that I for one was already sure of – Voivod were their own unique musical entity.
The record is beyond heavy with a production perfectly fitting for the assembly of tunes. The band had become way more oddball; On the first two records it played more barbaric and primal and ‘caveman delivered’, while this album seemed made in a time that hadn’t actually happened yet, more as a foresight to what the future of music would bring. All that said, they actually took the songs even more into a rock n’roll written format but these songs are then savagely attacked and murdered by robotic creature-like annihilation. The drums shoot out of the mix like cannons (have a crank out on those bridges in This Is Not An Exercise and let Away wreck your baby making parts). The bass, cutting through the mix like a sonic cutlass would eat your guts out and loosen the skin from the bones. Vocally snake was odder than ever with a delivery that had so much personality locked inside a reverb tinged mix. He sang like a computerised voice that counts down the end of human form to the planet. Add in the musical genius of them all in Piggy and his shrieking guitars that include an out of this world approach to riffs and rhythms he had only hinted at on past albums and then completely flip the description page for his lead work which is born in traditional rock n’roll; within all of this hybrid, every song is an instant classic and every thing about Killing Technology is perfection! This is the highest calibre of a band delivering on all cylinders! One of the proudest moments in underground metal history… THE ABSOLUTE PERFECT SCORE!!