Released in 2003 by Chophouse Records
Produced by Voivod
Denis D’Amour: Guitars & Effects
Michel Langevin: Drums & Percussion
Denis Belanger: Vocals
Jason Newsted: Bass
|I Don’t Wanna Wake Up
|Les Cigares Volants
|Strange And Ironic
|We Carry On
Allmusic Review by Thom Jurek
On its 13th album, Canada’s groundbreaking metal veterans Voivod have undergone a renaissance of sorts. With vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger returning to the fold, three quarters of the original band is reunited with a unified purpose. Adding former Metallica bassist — and longtime friend — Jason Newsted to the fold adds new energy and vision. No longer a thrash metal act, Voivod has simply become one of the best hard rock bands on the planet. They write songs with complex melodies and bone-splintering riffs, yet they stick to the roots of their trademark sound. In many ways they feel more like some crazy combination of the 1977-era Saints and Queens of the Stone Age with better lyrics and no stoner quotient. Newsted is nothing less than phenomenal in this new context; check out “Rebel Robot,” with its four-to-the-floor running riff, propelling the drums and pushing guitarist Piggy into overdrive. Stripping the songs to the essentials of shattering guitars, pumped-up muddy bass throb, and heavy-bottom drumming was a plus in the production department. On the opener “Gasmask Revival,” a rebel call to open protest in the streets and the refusal to be “good citizens,” four chords and three riffs crank themselves into a frenzy of jarring, cacophonous, metal garage rock. Things slow down on “Facing Up,” but become heavier in the process with Michel Langevin’s double-bass drumming, triple-timing the super-slow 4/4 grid of the tune led by Piggy’s blues-out crunchy and Newsted plowing through the middle. The centerpiece of the album is “The Multiverse,” a complex, multi-faceted opus with its lyrics inspired by writer Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series of novels. Time signatures shift, blur, change, reverse, and reinvent themselves. Newsted’s bass work here becomes a wall of pure propulsive, sludgy writhe and Piggy’s guitar is knife-edge yet weighs a ton. Langevin’s lightning double-kick drums provide a flawless directional force as Snake soars above the mix telling dark truth after dark truth with intelligence, sensitivity, and a willingness to let the words hold him accountable.
Voivod has always been among the most intelligent bands in any genre of music; they have evolved into an entity that gives up nothing when it comes to pure rock mania, yet offer something more as well: thoughtful songs that provocatively and critically examine the world we live in. “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up,” a mid-tempo cruncher, sums up the state of the masses without condescending to or about them. “Divine Sun,” with its off-kilter bass and guitar lines — they are played in opposition to one another — leaves a huge hole for Snake to deliver his lyrics surrounded by a restrained sonic intensity that busts loose on the refrain courtesy of Langevin’s thunderous propelling tom-tom work. “Reactor” features some of the old Voivod thrash and burn, but with drums that fall just behind the beat, everything is de-centered and tumbling, almost chaotic. The album’s closer, “We Carry On,” like the opening track throws out its garage rock leanings more than it does metal riffing. It’s an anthem for cultural warfare that Belanger snarls his way through, asking hard questions and pointing out the irony in seemingly insignificant contradictions. Piggy’s guitars are buzz saw, cutting through the entire lyrics and into a fractured sonic void. In sum, Voivod is back with a vengeance. This is among the finest records of their storied career, and will be one of the hard rock and metal records (or any sub-genre thereof) to beat in 2003. continues recovery after a life-threatening road injury (Eric: “I feel pretty good. I’m pretty lucky to be able to walk, let alone live, after what I’ve been through. Not too many people can do that after they break their spine in three places.”),
Voivod are readying two albums for release this year. The first, to be released in conjunction with a European spring tour supporting Therion (Christofer is a huge fan), is Voivod Lives, their first full official live album.
Drummer Michel Langevin explains. “It’s coming out probably in April on and Metal Blade in Canada and the States and Century Media in Europe and Japan. And we’re going to Europe to promote it. And then we’re going to come back and hopefully tour Canada once it comes out. But first of all, it’s two shows, one recorded at CBGB’s in New York, and the other one recorded at the Dynamo festival in Holland. Both shows are from 1996. We did record shows in 1998, but we had technical problems and we couldn’t release those tracks. Eventually we’ll have another live album with an expanded repertoire.”
The second album will be the band’s new studio album, hopefully ready for the summer. The music’s been written for two years, and pre-production has been completed, with Steve Albini expressing interest in recording it. Lyrically, Michel says it will be a concept record telling the final chapter of the Voivod saga. Musically, he offers this: “I think when Eric joined the band and we put out Negatron, I thought it was a little bit reminiscent of Killing Technology. And I think Phobos is like Dimension Hatross, and I think the next one is going to be more like Nothingface, with more psychedelia included in the writing.
On the past couple of albums we’ve been trying to cut down on the tempo changes and find a groove that can be heavy without really being fast. And we’ve tried to do a little bit more ambient experimenting with the guitar effects, and not as many sampling as before. It’s more of a real power trio thing but there are a lot of guitar effects of course.”
Guitarist Dennis D’Amour, aka Piggy, echoes this sentiment. “A lot of people who listen to it like it and say they are very surprised by it. But it’s hard for me to comment. But yeah, I agree, there are some surprises. I use different guitar sounds and effects, and the way we write the songs was a little different too. We tried not to repeat the same record.” Eric’s take on it? “I think it’s the type of thing where Voivod fans from War And Pain all the way up until Angel Rat are going to like this record. It’s got progressive moments as well as heavier thrash moments as well as groovy, trippin’ kind of vibes. It’s heavy in spots, progressive in spots, a bit of everything.”
Michel has been thinking about adding as CDROM material, his years of artwork and peripheral writings on the story of the Voivod character and beyond. Parts of his library of work might show up chronologically in book form, available for sale on tour.
Additionally, the band has been involved in the Heavy Metal II soundtrack. Michel: “Yes, Piggy and I did the music for Heavy Metal II, the movie. We did the score for the trailers of the movie for USA in Japan, and then we put a song onto the movie soundtrack. It’s actually not on the CD, but it’s the first song on the movie. Also we did five songs for a video game called Onslaught.”
Finally in Voivod news, in the works is a proposed Voivod tribute album. Michel: “Relapse Records are working to put that. And so far, the people interested, I was quite surprised. There’s Primus, Mr. Bungle, Sepultura, names I wasn’t expecting. So hopefully that is going to see the light of day.”