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Voivod is something of a unique beast. While the band started off playing raw and primitive thrash with heavy punk leanings they quickly evolved into something more mature and began producing some of the most unique and innovative heavy metal to come out of the 80s. Even today I can't quite think of anything like Dimension Hatross or Nothing face. I particularly like that these are experimental albums that don't just feel like a combination of different styles of music that they were influenced by but more like Voivod was just doing their own unique thing that nobody else was really doing. Of course this review is about Nothingface so let's turn our focus to just it.
As I've said Nothingface is a very unique album. It's not an easy album to describe though I should go ahead and point out with this release Voivod has pretty much removed all thrash elements. In all honesty it hardly feels like a metal album, it reminds me a lot more of early prog rock back in the 70s though a bit more modern. The atmosphere is lighter than the previous albums this one feels more quirky than the others and listening to it I can imagine myself on this bizarre alien planet surrounded by all kinds of whacky creatures and plant life. Snakes vocals in particular are much more clean sounding and have a more commercial vibe to them though still sounding eccentric. His singing on this album is definitely an acquire taste that I can understand why some would hate it, but to me it helps add to the personality of the album.
Really I think all the members are top notch at playing their part. One of the things I think really makes this album for me is I never feel a note is unnecessary or any part drags on too long. The whole album just feels so perfectly refined and nothing needs to be changed. If I needed to name my favorite tracks well to be honest I don't think I could. Each song really does its thing to add it's own element to the album. There's a lot of catchy hooks and the compositions are always interesting. There's just nothing bad for me to say about this album. It's a masterpiece through and through. I wouldn't even feel it's a stretch to call it the greatest metal album of the 80s.
Everyone knows the age old argument that comes up if you’re talking to a hardcore fan of a band or album, and you say you didn’t like it. They’ll say you don’t get it. You don’t understand it the way they do. In most cases, what isn’t being understood is the fact that as people we’re allowed to have different tastes in music, and just because they like something, that doesn’t somehow make it inherently ‘good.’ However at a certain point, consensus does become pretty powerful, and this album certainly has a large fanbase. But I’ve tried many times to sit down and hear what most people seem to hear in this album, and I simply don’t. And in this case, maybe it’s entirely possible that there is something I just don’t get.
The guitar sound is cold and sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, and the riffs are dissonant, maybe even out of key. The vocals are neither offensive nor impressive. They merely do what they need to do. None of this is inherently bad, and actually the ideas make for a cool sounding idea for a sci-fi concept album or something. But the music just isn’t performed in a way I’d consider interesting. There are a few moments, that are cool, but they don’t often last very long before going into another psudo-prog off key palm muted repeated powerchord verse or repeated machine-sounding squealing riff.
The majority of the interesting part of most of the songs is the choruses, many of which are actually pretty catchy, but also mostly very short. There is clearly talent here in the band. Unfortunately technicality doesn’t always equal good music.
A few compliments are in order though. I do find that for each song there will be a few individual moments I wish go on longer, so there is definitely some good on this. Unfortunately it’s buried between forced progressiveness. The Pink Floyd cover of Astronomy Domine is pretty true to the original, while adding a few original moments and it’s actually very cool, speaking as a fan of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Missing Sequences has a fabulous moment of beauty before it’s awkward rap moment (“Down. Down. Far Underground…”), which is actually followed by a cool thrash piece, which is then quickly ended in favor of yet more faux-progression. The first part of Into My Hypercube is fantastic, and I was so sure it was going to be that one song that I loved. But as it drags on, it loses its melodic strength to continue the albums overall feeling of mechanical oddity.
I’d say that the biggest problem with the album is that it tries very hard to be strange and progressive. Not bad qualities in and of themselves, but I feel as though the album tries too hard, to the point that the sound is forced. I’m not at that “this is the worst thing ever, and it has no musical value” point here. I’m merely underwhelmed by a choice by Voivod to purposely make such an album, as though they wanted to be The Residents of heavy metal. It seems someone in the band decided that dissident atonal riffs instantly made music sound progressive and cool. I’m sorry, I disagree.
I’ve tried pretty hard to like this album, probably four or five times, but it’s just not my cup of tea. If you love this album, then fantastic, more power to you. I found it overwhelming and not nearly worthy of the praise it deserves. Maybe one day I’ll get it, but until then, I’m just going to stick with Katorz.
I've been preparing to write a review for this album since I got it early October this year, and I find myself just as baffled as when I first listened to it. This has to be the strangest album in my collection. Classifying it into any one genre would be impossible and foolish (unless we call the genre Voivod), but that's not even the half of it! It has punk(ish) vocals, industrial-like dissonant guitar progressions, TONS of loud, distorted bass, and some of the most imaginative lyrics of any metal album from its respective, or really any, era. Structurally, the album is more of a '70s prog/psychedelic piece that hardly clears up any of the already numerous amounts of WTF!?s already in my head.
I'll start by commenting on the one thing I can be absolutely sure of - the packaging. The artwork is completely awesome with corresponding pictures that go along with each song. All of the pictures are done by the drummer, Away, and have that modern surrealist touch blended perfectly with the dystopian, sci-fi aesthetic. My favourite is probably the picture for Into My Hypercube; I just love the chill robot dude sitting in a box. If you have the poster insert pressing like I do, the artwork folds out with the lyrics, credits, and all of the awesome artwork on one side and a sweet band poster on the other. If you've read any of my other reviews, you know I'm not one to dedicate time to the packaging, but not only is the packaging here great, but I have no clue where else to start.
I suppose I can discuss the production. If you love bass like me, then this is the type of mixing you like to hear. It is LOUD. REALLY LOUD. And it is AWESOME. It just thunders over the rest of the instruments (not in a suffocating 'where the hell are the other instruments'-type of way) in all its popping, distorted glory. The rhythm section is dominated by the bass's power and is the primary reason why this album's production is just as crazy as everything else about it. The guitars are more of a atmospheric driving force, providing dissonant harmony in the background or creating soft atmosphere rather then being the wailing solo juggernaut as is the norm. Piggy has always been a unique guitar player, but on this album he abandons essentially all thrash norms and writes his own weird book on how to play the strings.
The drums are pretty low in the mix and while listening are scarcely my focus, but that is not to say they are poor in any way because Away is a rhythm master. Plenty of nice fills and no long, boringly simple patterns, just great drumming. Snake's vocals tend to be a factor of dissent, but I will always defend the man. His punk vocal aesthetic mixed with a psychedelic softness fit perfectly with his bizarre lyrics, and though there are no crazy King Diamond-esque acrobatics, the vocals are great and an important part of the album. Songs like The Unknown Knows, Pre-Ignition, Nothingface, and Into My Hypercube I find particularly rapturing, but the whole album is listened to beginning to end whenever I listen to any of it.
But all of this rambling are just my guesses. This album is so so so odd, that I honestly am not sure. Seriously, I have no score in the box right now, but as I sit here trying to think of a flaw, a poor song, an overly-long passage, bad vocal lines, ANYTHING.... I just can't. Whenever I listen to this album, I push play and listen until the end, lost in its deep musical labyrinth of craziness where nothing really makes sense and you don't want it to. Perhaps that's what this album is supposed to be. It's Nothingface. It isn't trying to be anything else. It was the blending of Snake's odd vocals, Away's bizarre artwork, Blacky's atomic bass, and Piggy's celestial guitar atmosphere with lyrics that I will be reading when I'm 70. You know what? I'll be revisiting this album when I'm 90! I may never fully understand it, but goddamn, do I love it. Fuck it. Perfect score or a five out of five.
All of it,
None of it
I don't fucking know.
Just buy it
Listen to it
And choose for yourself.
Something I rarely seen spoken of Nothingface is just how prescient it was, not in terms of its outlandish musical aesthetic, but as a work of science fiction. Though its setting and subject matter could hardly be considered novelties by the late 80s, mirroring everything from Asimov to Borges, I like to imagine the Wachowski brothers had worn out a few copies of this album when coming up with the 'awakening' sequences for Neo in the Machines' human battery incubators. The overwhelming level of synesthesia created through the narrator's stream of consciousness reads like an earlier draft of Greg Bear's 2010 novel Hull Zero Three. Nothingface doesn't just tell the listener, it 'shows', in the accumulation of first person imagery and the cloudy dystopian nature of the music.
It's the most cryptic of Voivod's records, in that the audience is thrown so deep into its universe, the chilling images coming on in such rapid succession, that it plays out like psychological warfare; like Anthony Burgess' Alex undergoing a Ludovico Technique not of reconditioning violence, but force-fed domestic bliss. In stark opposition to the central character of Dimension Hatröss, we're dealing not with an outsider looking in, but an insider finally escaping a dream-haze, glimpsing for the first time the cold shell of a world that surrounds and supports its slumber. Nothingface was certainly impressive in theme, exponentially more compelling and intelligent than the vast majority of crap choking up the airwaves, even in harder metal; and yet it's not so brainy that a barely literate fan couldn't tune into its eclectic threads and ride the revelations. Once more, the Canadians had gifted us with a concept that can be unraveled in multiple lairs, grandiloquent metaphor that can resonate far beyond the bounds of the actual narrative. For example, how many of you office employees and salary men/women could relate to "Into My Hypercube"?
Nothingface is also one of the first authentic cases of 'post-metal' in memory, in terms that it so far removes itself from the precepts of the genre that it's difficult to even compare with its own predecessors. Perhaps a more appropriate tag might be 'post-thrash', steeped in progression and psychedelia like a tea leaf in heated water. Clearly there are still a few surgical muted, aggressive intricacies to the guitars in "Nothingface" itself, "Sub-Effect", "X-Ray Mirror", or the stomping staccato chord barrage in "Missing Sequences" that plays out like a muscular Rush. Denis D'Amour has refined many of the dissonant and jazz-based, atonal chords he experimented with on the prior albums, but here they've been grafted into a mechanistic haze that becomes the rule and not the exception. The distortion is also dialed back an increment, to match the cleaner, clinical atmosphere of the story's setting. Beyond the fact that there is still an investiture of anger and confusion inherent to the music, understandable in the narrator's situation, one could honestly get away with not calling this 'metal' or 'thrash' so much as its harder and more nihilistic predecessor Dimension Hatröss.
Ultimately, though, whether one defines this as interstellar ukulele robofolk or Asimovian progressive metal, the album is fucking outstanding, with not a single second of compositional choice detracting from its depth of message and character. I doubt I've ever heard much bass playing that can compare to Blacky's work here: nebula-surfing grooves ("Missing Sequences"), apocryphal future funk-punk ("The Unknown Knows"), or android assembling schematics ("Into my Hypercube"). Maybe he's not the fastest, or the most technical performer, but in terms of the lines he writes, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and Flea can all eat their fucking hearts out; and the decision making on when to apply a little distortion or not is spotless. Piggy also earned enough of a creative paycheck here to retire (though I'm glad he didn't). Despite the fluidity of his four string counterpart, he truly takes the helm on the album, steering us into a dream state of eloquent oblivion with hundreds of brilliantly conceived chords and picking sequences. Seriously, there is not a single phase of Nothingface upon which something interesting is not happening, no corner you'll turn where a wonderful hook or bass line won't attract your attention, whether the album's intensity is expanding or retracting.
Michel Langevin's drums are likewise reflexive and perfected, manifesting all manner of cadences, jazz techniques, double-bass rolls and killer fills which you can hear rumbling through your gut as clearly as anything else on the album. His performance is actually more important than on any prior effort, not that he wasn't giving it his all then, but because his interactions with Piggy here provide that callous, mechanical substrate of the setting's fallen society, so crucial to its effectiveness. Perhaps the only member who has not technically upped the ante here is vocalist Snake, but I don't think his evolution was quite as necessary. In fact, since he's polished his inflection of most of the haughty shouts and grime from the earlier efforts, we're getting that pure, crass, punk delivery with almost no exception save for a few harsher barks (as in "The Unknown Knows"). Still, it adheres so wonderfully to the groove of the bass and the collision of the varied riffing sequences, and the more tranquil passages ("Missing Sequences" intro, for example) that I wouldn't have changed a damn note.
I do regret that the album was most known at large for the cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine". A brilliant choice, mind you, and the Canadians' mutation with heavier guitars, harder percussion, and textured cosmic serpent vocal harmonies is the best rendition I've ever heard (possibly even superior to the original); but I'd have liked the album to break out for one of their own pieces, which in my estimation are every inch as brilliant as their progressive forebears. It was a little disheartening to have someone approach me in high school and ask if I'd heard this 'cool new band Voivod with the Pink Floyd cover!, which generally resulted in a response of 'have you heard all the other great music, you know that they've been releasing for fucking YEARS now?' dumping a classroom trash can over their heads and kicking it repeatedly. Yes, I was one of those assholes who couldn't stand peoples' sheepish predilection to allow MTV to do their thinking for them. I went to find the music, I didn't always wait for it to find me. Especially after the previous year's Dimension Hatröss, to which I had practically built a shrine and handed out leaflets of information, with null response.
But, hey, that's not the band's fault, and the tune fits in fluently to the remainder of the album's narrative, not just being wedged in at the end. Funnily enough, though Nothingface was the band's best selling album, and even had the Canadians headlining a tour with Faith No More and Soundgarden of all fucking bands (back before they both exploded, obviously, and were themselves putting out some of their finest work), its impact beyond the loyal niche of progressive and thrash metal fans was negligible at best. Voivod's ensuing efforts Angel Rat and The Outer Limits, while both excellent, never hit the same buzzing stride, and the flame of science fiction-themed metal temporarily quelled, or handed off to extreme metal outlets like the Floridian Nocturnus, who were no more successful despite their own earnest efforts. People didn't want to dream in technicolor and static, or explore the Outer Rim: they wanted doc martins, Perry Farrell and Eddie Vedder, and had begun to converted their morning coffee to a cappuccino.
Alas, Nothingface is still considered by many to be the Canadians' finest hour, and its a sentiment that I find difficult to argue. Certainly Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss appeal more to the thrasher within me, and my taste in apocalyptic, frightening savagery. The latter of those is probably my favorite to this day, but this 1989 gem is nonetheless immortally haunting and awe-inspiring, and it stuck its nose out the furthest from the safety net of its predecessors' extremity. Forty-five moments of perfection translated through a cautionary escape into the perils of the mundane, the inherent entropy in ultimate order, and the potential threats of eternal, unchecked apathy in civilization; all cloaked in musical expression so thoughtful, creative and forward thinking that almost a quarter-century later, few can even comprehend it, much less match it.
Although I would consider myself to be a fairly well-versed metalhead through and through, thrash metal is not a genre I have ever had much luck with. Being introduced to thrash by such albums as Slayer's 'Reign In Blood', I was never impressed and found the obsessive tendencies towards soloing and speed to be somewhat tasteless. Now, enter Voivod; a progressive thrash metal band from Montreal that would not only change my view on thrash metal, but also my perspective of how one could play the guitar. Since being introduced to this majestic album, I since consider it to be one of my favourite metal albums of all time, and for very good reason. 1989's 'Nothingface' is a unique album like no other in thrash, and with its combination of powerful originality and strong songwriting, Voivod have created what I now easily consider to be the greatest thrash album of all time, bar none.
Starting out as a more typical metal band, 'Nothingface' would see Voivod inherit even more progressive trends into their music. Changes in time signature, hallucinogen-addled lyrical themes and experimental musicianship would equate to a sound quite far flung from virtually all of the other metal released in its day. Like all of the best bands, Voivod's sound is equally divided amongst its four members. Perhaps most important is the atypical and disharmonic style of riffing from Denis 'Piggy' L'Amour, now unfortunately laid to rest. A very clear alternative to the 'skill through speed and soloing' approach adopted by most thrash musicians, Piggy makes his talent shown through using very irregular, at times unsettling chord structures and frantic switches between riffs. As a guitarist myself, Piggy's intricate work with chord experiments and unique tone stands as being one of my greatest influences; a guitarist who showed me that there was much more to metal guitar than going down the route of shredding. For that, I am indebted to him.
Also here are the keen bass lines of Jean-Yves Theriault. Usually the bass is not a particularly important instrument (instead gravitating towards a back-up), but Voivod makes it nearly as important as Piggy's guitar in the mix. The result is a mixed sound that has a much deeper resonance to it than most other bands. There are some surprisingly technical bass riffs here, which add to the already schizoid nature of Piggy's riffs. Denis Belanger's vocals on the other hand are not nearly as skillfully accomplished as the craft of the bassist or guitarist, are full of charisma and expression. An incredibly unique voice with a bit of a Francophone tinge to it that can only be found in Quebec, he leads the band very well, although some of the lyrics can get weak and amount to little more than technobabble over abstract science fiction concepts. The least remarkable aspect of the performance on 'Nothingface' is the drumwork of Michael Langevin, but it remains quite strong, leading the time signature changes with precision.
'Nothingface' is easily one of the strongest metal albums ever made. Some strong songwriting is made even more incredible by the band's innovative performance. If you're like me, you might be starved for some really original sound in the genre of metal. Voivod has accomplished this with 'Nothingface', and in doing so, they have made what is one of my favourite metal albums ever.
This album is Voivod's progressive metal masterpiece and maybe their most diversified and technical album. Every fan of this band that I know considers this album as a brilliant masterpiece and one of the top three album of the Quebeckers and so do I. It is a shame that this album is not available on CD nowadays and I hope that Away's promises will come true and that he will rerelease the old albums with some bonus material.
The album is somehow divided in two parts: A very catchy and easily appreciable first part and a more technical and complicated second part.
The first half starts with a very floating and dreamy atmosphere that makes you travel on the waves of space and time during the short introduction and the first song "The unknown knows". This song is progressive but still heavy and straight and has an amazing chorus and is like nothing you have ever listened before. There are more details in this song than other progressive or science-fiction influenced bands put into a whole album.This high level continues throughout the next songs. I have to mention the Pink Floyd cover song "Astronomy domine" which is even darker and eerier than the original version. I doesn't appear as a cover version at all and is perfectly integrated in the whole album concept. This song is what I would call "space metal" if such a genre exists and it is an eternal classic in the band's career. This song addicts you the first time you listen to it and drowns you in a really special mood. This song is simply out of this world!
The album is very technical and not always easy to approach in its second half though. A good example for this is the song "X-ray mirror" which is as strange and bizarre as its title. You really have to take your time to discover those songs of the second half and understand all the changes and details within them. But I think that Voivod sadly concentrated too much on the technical and conceptual aspect in some of the songs and forgot about the eerie and floating catchyness of the first four songs. Some songs like "Pre ignition" are really uneasy to listen to and destroy the interesting flow which the first songs elaborated. From a technical or creative point of view, there is not much to argue about though.
All in all, there are the four first perfect songs that make you lose your sense of space and time and travel through a diversified and strange galaxy you have never heard about. The second part is less intense but may impress you with its technically perfect and somehow very intellectual approach.
This album is also a turning point in the band's discography and the beginning of their progressive years. This album leads logically to "Angel rat" which is my favourite album of the band and redefines the definition of progressive rock.
I'll make it clear that the lyrics, Themes and the overall direction of this album makes absolutely no sense. I do not recommend this to anybody as i don't think this is something one would want blasting through their speakers on a saturday night. This album has a weird feel that gets you hooked, Much in the same fashion as drugs or alcohol. That's the best way i can begin to describe this.
There is no angst, social commentary, politics, sex or any of those themes, All we have is strangely disconnected science fiction and randomly put-together sequences of words and catchy choruses. The guitarwork has a distinct futuristic vibe to them, Almost as if this music made it's way here from another planet. The vocals fit well with the instrumentals, Makes you wonder why the vocalist used such painful and unbearable vocals on their first three records, take 'War and pain' for example, which had really terrible vocals. Most of us oldies know that voi-vod nearly hit it big back when this album was released, A couple of music videos from this band were floating around TV.
The material on this album is extremely original, Unlike pretty much anything you'll hear from any other crossover/progressive thrash metal band. There are really no outstanding soloing on this album. The drumming is extremely solid if a little unremarkable if you're looking for individual brilliance. The choruses are very catchy and the vocalist's new approach make them memorable. Take the song "Into my hypercube" for instance, Some of the lyrics are
Does that make any sense?. Well. Absolutely not. Not even an extremely nerdy star wars fan can make sense of those lyrics. But they are addictive as hell. This strange brand of "noise" is very original and is a higher work of art. They are certainly one of the more creative bands and a band who where "light years" ahead of the rest. If there are aliens out there in the universe. I'm pretty sure this is what they would be listening to. The themes aren't very clear but after a few spins you will likely get the thought process behind the song writing. The themes here are not much different to movies like "The matrix", Machines making humans etc on the track "nothingface"
The best track on the album is "nothingface", which is the title track. The lyrics are very catchy. Snake's older vocals would never work here. There is an increased sense of atmosphere here rather than the uncontrolled chaos of his original vocal style. The album is produced pretty well. The guitars sound sharp, The drumming is leveled well among the rest of the noise. The bass is audible. "Pre-ignition" is another good track. Snake's vocal range is actually very limited but he does know how to make good use of it. The sound is overall very smooth and flows very well, Despite having some pace changes, It never really falls under it's own weights. There are some "Poppy" sections on some of the tracks which makes this more likely to attract mainstream music fans than their previous efforts.
Try some of the songs before getting this album, It may take a while before you can start enjoying this one. The average "brutalz" metalhead could never make heads and tails of this one. If nothing makes sense to you, Try getting high and this album will make sense to you. Voi-vod rule!.
This one is a little weird. Voivod is a progressive thrash metal band from Canada, Quebec that is. It is a fairly recent addition to my tape collection. I just picked it up off of ebay for fairly cheap. Voivod in general, and this album in particular, seem to be a love them or hate them type of band. I have seen opinions from individuals who absolutely hate Voivod, and I have read one noteworthy blog post that stated that this album was one of the greatest albums of all time and he didn't seem to understand how anyone could think otherwise. Well, I'll answer that question, this album is strange.
I have been familiar with Voivod for quite some time. I have two compilation albums with a Voivod track on them, I have a dubbed tape from the radio when they had the Power Hour on, one track from this band was dubbed, I also have their 1995 album Negatron. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from this band. One of the songs on this album was even on one of the aforementioned compilation albums. But I was wrong, this album is very odd.
Voivod has always centered their lyrics around science fiction, and this album is no exception to that. This can definitely be seen in song titles like "Astronomy Domine" (actually a Pink Floyd cover) and "Into My Hypercube".
Musically, Voivod definitely shows that they have chops. They often use strange song structures, there are no verse-chorus-verse structures here and Voivod is no pop metal band. The songs often extend longer than they feel like they should. This causes the album to drag in places. The music is not radio-friendly due to the difficulty level of getting into them.
The music is driven by the bass. The guitars are mostly rhythmic instruments with the bass leading the way. The guitars come crashing in at times with staccato riffs that seem to come out of nowhere. The drummer is technically proficient, filling in where necessary.
The vocals are where the problems lie. The singer uses more of a spoken or shouted hardcore type of vocals, they are definitely not thrash vocals. It's not that the vocals are bad, they are unexpected and can be a bit abrasive at times.
Altogether, the atmosphere of the album fits in with the science fiction nature of the lyrics. The album sounds futuristic and spacey. It comes across well, but it did not age very well. At the time, this was probably a landmark, ahead of the times album, now it seems a little cheezy. It is not a bad album, but it is strange and challenging, once the challenge is met however, it is a rewarding album. It is very well-written and a fun listen.
Voivod is a hard band to place. "Progressive/Thrash metal" is probably the most accurate description of this album's genres, but also among the most misleading. This is not an album that will pummel you into submission with 130 riffs at 200+ beats per minute, nor is it a technical wankfest with 120 key and time signature changes in six minutes. Yet it is progressive, and it does contain some vital elements of the early thrash formula.
What this album is, is progressive metal in the vein of a heavier, more concept-driven Rush. The bass plays a prominent role in driving the song along with the unconventional guitar riffs. Piggy was always best known for his bizarre choice of chords and shapes, providing for some dissonances rarely heard in metal. Actually, some comparisons can be drawn to Czral Eide's guitar work on Virus's The Black Flux album, but in a different flavor. Also like Rush, the drums tend not to be intrusively technical, but do contain a surprising amount of subtle variations and fills that fit the music while being far from easy to play.
A lot of people complain about Snake's vocals, and I agree that he is not exactly the "best" singer in that he does not pretend to imitate a tenor opera vocalist. However, I cannot think of a more appropriate vocal style for what Voivod is doing. You know the old Sci-fi trope of the cyborg/android who wishes to become human and puts on a good act but can never truly understand human emotion? That is what Snake is doing. He is the robot trying to impersonate a human, or perhaps even the human that has lost his humanity, the titular Nothingface. The jaggedly-constructed lyrics and insertion of sterile vocabulary enforce the lack of understanding of human aesthetics. Sure, Dio's a better singer, because singing is a human art and Dio is a human. Snake here is not a human, and thus may fail as a singer, but excels as a vocalist for this music.
But of course, even the best musical concepts can be executed poorly. Fortunately, Voivod does not simply use the cyber/future imagery as a gimmick. It is backed by songs that are truly unique and worth the while. "The Unknown Knows" and "Nothingface" are without a doubt the best songs here, opening the album with both the bold statement of the band's intentions and infectious catchiness. Basically, the two qualities that define album openers. "Into My Hypercube" also runs in a similar vein (and is thus another highlight), but by that point in the album, the bold point has been made. After the first two tracks comes the well-known cover of Astronomy Domine, which is certainly different from what you'll get from the other tracks... but it doesn't sound entirely out of place. My only complaint with the track is that it can be a bit overlong for the ideas involved, but seeing as how I have that complaint with most of Pink Floyd's material, it may vary based on listeners' tastes. From there out, though (with the sole aforementioned exception of "Into My Hypercube"), Voivod sails out into proggier waters. Mekong Delta uses a very similar prog/thrash style to what you'll find here, albeit with more conventional riffing and vocals (when applicable).
The songs in the second half tend to blend together a bit, but not in a bad way. It's more of a natural flow from one track to the next, as the lines between tracks were never meant to be all that clearly defined. Within each track, one can find a wealth of musical ideas strutting around, transforming from one riff into another, and the occasional solo thrown in for good measure. Piggy was never a flashy showman, so do not mistake his lack of OMG SHREDFEST solos as a lack of skill. The fact that it takes one as skilled as Daniel Mongraine to imitate Piggy should speak volumes about the subtle difficulties in playing some of these guitar parts. Besides, frankly, a chaotic solo would just sound absolutely out of place in the album's world of machinated precision and structure.
Overall, this album certainly is a bit different than your usual thrash piece, and I can definitely see how it would rub some people the wrong way. However, if you want something a bit unconventional without being ludicrously gimmicky, Nothingface is a classic album and should be a part of your library.
Nearly a decade and a half of my listening to this, Voivod's greatest moment, has put into perspective the band's future as well as its past. "Nothingface" acts as the logical culmination of everything the group had been leading up to, both stylistically and conceptually, with every previous release. This the the triumph of technology, the Voivod's ultimate plotline set to the cold, mechanical sounds found within the grooves (but, in all fairness, this album honestly sounds much better and more refined on CD). Gone are the warm tones displayed on "Dimension Hattross" and "Killing Technology" as everything about the production on "Nothingface" implies images of seemingly lifeless machines creating an album by simply going about their daily tasks of digging, mining, processing, devouring and expelling. Finally, the most forward thinking band in Metal had reached the apex of its orbit. So what can a band do at this point? Well, it can fall back to Earth or explore the more distant reaches. Voivod, thankfully, chose the latter and, as a result, we have the brilliant pieces that are "Angel Rat" and "The Outer Limits." But that's the subject of another discussion. The point is that "Nothingface" served as both a stopping point and a launchiing pad and is very much the pivotal point in Voivod's career.
Despite the music being more streamlined than on previous efforts, the sound is far from accessible upon first listen. Repeated spins, however, reveal real substance and plenty of hauntingly memorable moments, whether in the form of punctuated rhythmic patterns, spidery guitar lines or off-kilter vocal melodies. Some deft interplay between the musicians allows Piggy to turn riffs at right angles and still maintain a smooth, linear flow to the songs. While many of the rhythms are punchy and contorted, they never feel herky-jerky, but instead deliver a pulsing drive like that of a self-propelled factory assembly line. In fact, this album asserts an industrial feel without actually becoming Industrial Music (or, worse, Industrial Metal). This is coupled with the fact that Snake's vocals seem to be emmanating from an observational automaton programmed with just enough emotion to know when to sound distressed at the unusual happenings in the alien world it inhabits. His monotonous, yet strangely melodic, delivery intones some of his most cryptic, though thoroughly memorable, lyrics to date.
I have a difficult time giving any album a perfect score of 100 and, even now, I'm trying to justify this release's score in my mind (it would be a foregone conclusion to rate this as high as 99, but, given a certain other review's low opinion, I'm going to opt for the ultimate equalizer). It's sufficient to say that "Nothingface" redefined the way I heard music, much less Metal, and that's saying a lot more than any numeric rating can convey.
It's worth mentioning that the hard-to-find MCA/Mechanic version of this CD comes with a fantastic 12-panel fold out booklet that serves as a nice band photo/poster on one side while the flip offers lyrics and an illustration corresponding to each song. The Noise version, however, is sorely lacking in this department and, on top of that, the very first note of "Into My Hypercube" is mysteriously missing.
Just because this album is not as thrashy as their earlier material is no reason to pan it, people. If you are a serious Voivod fan, you will understand that every album of theirs sounds different because they are always trying something new. I don't like everything of theirs, but I respect their pioneering spirit of always going out on a limb with every new album. And this happens to be one of my favorite albums of theirs. It's weird, abstract, spacey, and unpredictable, yet highly catchy and well-written, and that is what I love about it.
To this day, the chorus of "The Unknown Knows" rings in my head, and I bought this album when it came out in 1989! That is a good sign, a sign of a good song with character and staying power. Terry Brown of Rush fame produced this album, and they really benefited from his expertise; everyone is heard perfectly in the mix, and Blacky's bass tone especially is outstanding with its distorted snarl. "Missing Sequences", a tune about the effects of aluminum poisoning in their home town of Jonquiere, Quebec, also is very memorable and its verses feature a poignant vocal from Snake, multitracked in harmony for maximum effect. "Astronomy Domine" was naturally the single from this album (Pink Floyd cover, after all), and having never heard the original, I can't compare, but this tune is fun anyway, with its creepy vocal and trippy guitars. "Win-ding stairs flap/Flic-ker, flic-ker, flic-ker flam, POW!/Stairway's there and death rules there..." The rest of the album still awes me to this day with the musical journey it takes you on, a long, rich, and complex journey at that. How many albums these days can you say that about?