Reviewing bands that you do not have much of a relation to is somewhat of a divided affair. In a way, it’s a bit tricky because you don’t know what to expect and you don’t have a point of reference, but at the same time it’s very liberating because you’re not limited by any preconceived sentences.
Canadian legends Voivod goes well in between all that, causing another level of confusion. I own some of the early Thrash Metal-albums with the avant-garde forefathers, but I have never been a major fan of the group and thus newer followed their activities in detail. I know how they used to sound but have no idea what to expect nowadays.
Voivod, after releasing a bunch of groundbreaking albums in the eighties, whose rowdy Thrash Metal either gave you a headache or something of a revelation, brought a less thriving existence during the nineties and despite a faithful fan base, Voivod was more and more bound to be a legend than an actual band to be counted on.
In 2003, Voivod gained renewed interest when the Metallica-drop out Jason “Jasonic” Newsted, joined as bass player on the bands reunion album, “Voivod”. Apart from the initial hype, the record was met by a certain measure of scepticism because its far going flirts with the alternative rock scene and that the more metal side of Voivod was heavily toned down.
Voivod have since then, despite the demise of their original guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amours in 2005 (Piggy takes part posthumously on the 2006 “Katorz” album, which is largely based on Piggy’s pre-recorded song ideas) and Jasonics leaving after three albums, released new albums at regular basis but I never really bother about those records so I could only guess how Voivod of today would sound.
My hope is of course that they have steered the ship back into a more metallic direction, but I realize that the risk of them drifting further into the slimy passages of alternative rock, with 2018’s “The Wake” is imminent.
However, I’m pleasantly surprised when the first song of the album, “Obsolete Beings”, after some compulsory space noise, explodes in some really fiery and tough guitar riffs! Everything sounds very much like Voivod (according to my limited experience) and although Dennis “Snake” “Bélanger’s vocals dwells on the border to that dreaded alternative rock, in the verses, the music never loses its intensity because of Michel” Away “Langevins pumping, punk style drumming and everything takes of again in a wonderful thrashy chorus, where Snakes vocals gets far more harsh, far more “metal”.
Talking about Snake’s vocals they seem to have grown since the early records, and to me he sounds like a cross-fertilization of Layne Staley, Snowy Shaw and Tom G Warrior, and with a mix of those guys its hard to go wrong!
In general, the pure Thrash Metal moments are quite sparse on the album. Instead you get a cavalcade of more laid back parts mixed with hard knuckled metal, some parts that must be classified as punk and, occasionally, one and another of those Thrash Metal eruptions. Everything is of course really screwed up and a melody in the vein of Voivod never turns out the way you think a melody would sound and a Voivod style riff rarely sits back comfortably, happy with the fact that it should sound anything like any ordinary riff.
I guess that “The Wake”, like most Voivod albums is a bit of a watershed album. Either you love it, either you hate it, and I find myself liking it quiet much! The songs are, with the exception of the main verse-refrain part of the slowly grinding “The End of Dormancy”, extremely varied and one get tossed around quite a bit in a sound scape, which, as said, is very hard to predict. Yes, everything is so wacky that when “Inconspiracy”, one of the albums more aggressive tracks, is interrupted by a string interlude in the middle, the reaction is more off the strange thing in Voivod using such a common “trick” as classical strings, not to least due to the fact that the melody actually keeps within the more reasonable frames of music. The “normality” in the whole, makes it just a bit crazy!
The album ends with the twelve and half-minute mastodon “Sonic Mycelium”, a song that even without Voivod’s unusual take on music, could feel toilsome in its sheer length. But the song, that can be seen as somewhat of a summary of the album, including some flashbacks to the previous songs, manage to keep the interest up all the way to the end.
I’m not a giant fan of either avant-garde (unless you count Celtic Frost, that is) or the more progressive style of Heavy Metal, but Voivod’s odd ideas appeal to me. This is necessarily nothing for you, whether you like Jethro Tull, Rush or maybe early Kreator, but whatever musical preferences you have I think that, as long as you have a reasonably open mind, you should give Voivod’s new album a chance, because one thing is for sure, you’ll never get bored during a listening to “The Wake”!
Title: The Wake
Label: Century Media Records
Date of release: 21/9-18
Playing time: 55:57
Stand out track: Obsolete Beings