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The Hellish Peak of Voivod's Thrash Period! - 94%

razorfistforce, December 28th, 2012

It would seem quite a tall order for a band to follow-up a debut LP as brilliant as Voivod's 1984 "War And Pain" LP. However, Voivod, hailing from Quebec, exploded onto the nascent thrash metal scene through the underground network of tape-traders with their legendary "To The Death" Demo from early '84 which featured 15 tracks (including three covers) of uncompromisingly raw, unique, hardcore influenced, thrash metal. From this amazing demo(the band were extremely young, mainly spoke French, and had only been together for a year) came the tracks which would make up their stunningly original debut "War And Pain" LP and even "The Helldriver", a track which would make it onto their raging follow-up to "War And Pain", 1986's "Rrroooaaarrr" LP. Their December 1984 "Morgoth Invasion" Demo would include another four tunes destined for "Rrrooaaarrr". So already by the end of 1984, a year which featured the release of their debut masterpiece "War And Pain" LP, Voivod already had over half of their second album written and ready to go.

1984 was an absolutely pivotal year in the history of thrash/speed metal, with Slayer and Metallica beginning to take the world by storm, Germany's Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator laying the foundation for a tremendous national scene which would quickly have international implications, and Swiss maniacs Hellhammer (whose brief '83-'84 existence morphed into the legendary group Celtic Frost in late '84) unleashed a controversial, seething mass of chaotic speed, raw noise, and hellishly heavy but simple riffs known as the "Apocalyptic Raids" EP in addition to having a song featured on the fifth volume of the ongoing Metal Blade Records sponsored compilation series "Metal Massacre". But the most vital release of 1984 came from a wild bunch of Canadians known as Voivod (who also had a track featured on that infamous fifth volume of "Metal Massacre"), their debut LP "War And Pain".

Never has the cover art of a band (in Voivod's case all drawn by their hugely talented drummer Away) so perfectly conveyed the style, sound, and vibe of the music contained on the record within the LP jacket. Both "War And Pain" and "Rrroooaaarrr" featured album covers depicting a bleak land with a blood red sky (probably called Morgoth), perpetually at war, ground to dust beneath the iron treads of spike covered, armour plated, barbwire wrapped, post-apocalyptic, skeletal-cyborg controlled machines of death, on a mission of technological annihilation and existential doom. This imagery fit perfectly with Voivod's vivid lyrics and highly unique sound which featured the snarling, heavily accented vocals of Snake, the inimitable tone of guitarist Piggy's hand-made, one of a kind guitar, the grinding, distorted to the max (like a cross between the bass tone of Discharge's "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing" LP, Venom, and Motorhead) bass guitar of Blacky, and finally, the double-bass assault of drum monster Away. Voivod ranged from high-speed thrash to hardcore inspired raging (similar to Milwaukee's Die Kruezen crossed with aforementioned UK legends Discharge), to spaced out, stoner soundscapes of pure guitar insanity to riffage as heavy as the heaviest brews of Black Sabbath. In short, Voivod in total sounded unlike anything before or since(that has existed on this planet).

Which brings us to Voivod's legendary cult classic "Rrroooarrr" LP from 1986 (released on German label Noise Records). Those expecting a continuation of "War And Pain" got their wish, but also maybe a bit more than they had bargained for! This album would be Voivod's fastest, rawest, most brilliantly chaotic album. Expanding on all the elements which made "War And Pain" so unique, Voivod would also introduce new elements (such as odd time-signatures, manic tempo changes, and challenging structural and rhythmic arrangements) which would be explored in much greater detail on '87's "Killing Technology" LP and '88's "Dimension Hatross" LP.

The album starts with the classic "Korgull The Exterminator". This blazing fast tune perfectly sets the stage for what is to follow, giving samples of nearly everything "Rrroooaaarrr" had to offer (all in the span of just under 5 minutes). Beginning with an awesome double-bass driven build-up, and rad guitar work, by the time Snake's vocals kick in the listener is already headbanging. This tune features an awesome bridge section which leads to a raging fast break featuring some serious shredding from Piggy. This raging speed continues and is eventually joined by some of the fastest double bass of the period (possibly ever-discounting today's computer-based triggered drums). Tremendously heavy tempo-changes and Snake's snarling and startlingly sincere and vicious vocals also help make this tune a Voivod classic. It ends with the same riff section which started the song and leads to the ending which features huge wafts of reverb turning it into a virtual soundscape of metallic power.

Track two is the hardcore inspired (at least lyrically) tune "Fuck Off And Die". This song keeps the speed limit non-existent as it rages and writhes like a rat chewing on electrical wiring. This song is proof that you don't need triggers to achieve super-fast double bass action...You need talent! Away's drumming is just phenomenal in its speed and heaviness. The bridge leading to the classic chorus is quite dynamic featuring some innovative guitarwork with a unique nearly dischordant sound. The song ends with a total thrash-out including a wild solo and another go around of the chorus.

Track three "Slaughter In A Grave" is a bona fide thrash classic featuring Voivod at their best. It begins with a killer mid-tempo segment which is a headbanging delight and a chorus with a huge groove. Throughout, Away keeps the double-bass assault constant, but this song never breaks into high speed thrashing-it just rocks! A great solo featuring huge waves of reverb is the centerpiece of the tune and Snake's vocals are just perfect! This is a song that Venom wished they had written! A true classic. Next up is the ferocious and aptly titled "Ripping Headaches". This one's raging from the start with Snake's manic vocals adding to the feeling of being on a rollercoaster about to go off the rails...The chorus is a super-heavy break from the thrashing verses with Snake delivering the lines in a punchy, very hardcore manner. Piggy's solo is noisy and chaotic and Snake does his best Cronos impression, ranting and raving ad libs beneath the chaos. This high-speed machine ends very abruptly and quite heavily.

The fifth track is simply titled "Horror" and begins with a tap solo which leads into colossal pieces of riffage. This song is supremely heavy while also very raw and noisy. At the 2:20 mark their is an awesome (but too brief) soundscape solo which leads into a ferociously fast thrash section featuring some of Piggy's most off-the-rails soloing before the song reverts to the grindingly heavy, double-bass-laden riffage from earlier in the tune. This is brief however, as before you can catch your breath the tempo gets kicked up once again for a brief but raging thrash to the finish. Next up is one of the album's highlights, "Thrashing Rage". Despite its title the tune begins with a series of ultra heavy, machine-gun styled riffs. This opening segment was quite innovative as you hear these same riffs (or variations of them) in countless death metal tunes(and even some b.s. moshcore, "nu-metal" garbage)throughout the 90's and to the present. This crushingly heavy intro leads to some serious double-bass thrashing of the highest quality. Total Voivod, this tune has that great bleak vibe which made "War And Pain" so unique. As the song progresses it begins to sound more like the material Voivod would unleash on their next album, '87's "Killing Technology". The song gets quite technical, and even proto-death metal at times when out of the blue a rad mid-tempo groove arises to take us to the end. A truly killer tune! "Rrroooaaarrr" is one of those albums that just keeps getting better and better the more you listen to it and even throughout the course of the album. While it was not designed to play like one musical piece composed of inter-connected songs like "War And Pain" (albeit unintentionally ended up doing), it really rides on the strength of each individual track, rather than the collective sum. Track seven is an example of the power of "Rrroooaaarrr's" individual tracks. With roots all the way back to the "To The Death" Demo tape of early '84, "The Helldriver" is a perfectly honed Voivod classic. It begins with a huge headbanging mid-tempo groove over which Snake just has a ball delivering the song's rad lyrics. This track has a very creative and catchy chorus and features an awesome guitar solo which begins as a kind of "riff solo". After the solo we return to the monster swing of the verse groove and hit the chorus one last time before the song ends with an explosion of reverb and feedback. Without a doubt one of my favorite Voivod tunes and one of the album's best.

"The Helldriver" is followed by another Voivod classic "Build Your Weapons". This tune, like "Korgull The Exterminator" has a little bit of everything. It has riffs galore, killer tempo-changes, some of Snake's most intense vocals, and thrash for miles...It begins with Snake's clarion call to "Build Your Weapons!" before kicking into an up-tempo, double bass driven assault which grinds on like the machine on the album's cover. This multi-part tune feature SO many awesome riffs it's truly amazing! Piggy lets loose with a savage but enjoyable solo after which a fantastic bridge section follows before a second brief solo which is followed by the classic verse riffage and another go around at the chorus. A complex but VERY fun song which epitomizes thrash-era Voivod. After the mostly mid-tempo thrashing of "Build Your Weapons", the album ends with the truly blistering finale "To The Death". This was the perfect choice of tune to end "Rrroooaaarrr" with. Beginning with a totally rad and extremely dark and dischordant guitar intro with reverbed cymbal (a gong maybe?)accompaniment, the song starts with a monstrously heavy and grinding double-bass segment which almost as soon as it's begun disappears in a explosion of raging fast thrashing madness. Arguably the fastest Voivod tune ever. This is early extreme metal at its most chaotic, raw, and finest. Despite the high-speeds this tune has a super-catchy but very brief chorus which rises above the thrashing verses like an oasis. The second half of the song features an awesome technical breakdown which is VERY much ahead of its time, during which Snake sings in a manner almost like his vocals on "Nothingface"! This middle section is truly fascinating in that it offers a glimpse into the future of Voivod's sound. It is followed by a raging fast solo segment which almost degenerates into soundscape before the songs ends in a maelstrom of whammy bar, reverb, feedback, and noise. Just awesome!

So there you have it. Some fans were turned off by the production of "Rrroooaaarrr" and considered it way too raw and noisy. While the album is certainly much rawer than "War And Pain", I've always thought the production (knob-jobbed by the band and Michael Amstadt who recorded the album at L'Autre Studio in Montreal between October 11th and November 17th, 1985) was perfectly fitting for the material, which being in general more extreme than most of the "War And Pain" material, needed a more extreme production. I've always advised people to try listening to "Rrroooaaarrr" with a good pair of headphones. Also, if possible find this album on LP or cassette as there is a certain warmth and power, especially at the bottom end of the spectrum, which has never quite came through via CD ("Rrroooaaarrr" needs to be remastered in the same manner as "War And Pain"). But back to the production. There is a surprising amount of separation and clarity between instruments and quite a few subtle but very unique effects present in the production. I've also advised listeners to take a few puffs of the green stuff before listening to the album (or any Voivod album). This was thrash metal made by stoners...Now certainly, you can listen to the album sober. The music itself is such that it will alter your mind in a manner that no drug can ever match. So if you're a fan of thrash/speed metal but haven't heard Voivod (or maybe never heard the thrash-period Voivod albums), they are an essential addition to your collection and life! They are truly one of the most original, daring, and intelligent bands in the history of extreme music. So pick up "War And Pain" and "Rrroooaaarrr" and enter the land of Morgoth....

Toxic trauma and merciless mechanization - 90%

autothrall, September 13th, 2012

Confessions of a 12-year old: Rrröööaaarrr was my first Voivod experience, the first cassette I was able to land of the Canadians through a crafty trade with a fellow junior high student who didn't like it and would be far happier with a copy of Anthrax' Spreading the Disease. Who truly made the most of that deal might be an arguable point, but forgive me for feeling the victor, because this was my introduction to what would become one of my most venerated bands of the 80s. Sure, my Mom took the tape away after reading that it had a song called "Fuck Off and Die", hiding it alongside Slayer's Hell Awaits, but that fateful shoebox on top of the refrigerator did not prove quite so elusive, and eventually I was able to enjoy this to the fullest.

Right away you could see what would attract a tween Dungeon Master to this album, that dreary and frankly horrifying album artwork, another Away classic, with the 'voivod' creature fused into some flame hurling, post apocalyptic megatank chassis of destruction. Spikes everywhere, to impale foot soldiers and of course any unwary pedestrian who would dare cross the fucking street around this thing. The best band logo ever. Rrröööaaarrr took this unforgiving, 'don't fuck with me' attitude to the music itself, which was incredibly brutal and primal compared to most of the other metal I was listening to at that age, but there was something more, far more happening which confirmed and maintained its allure, and has to this very day. In retrospect, having now also owned War and Pain for a considerable length of time, I can note a number of mutations to the core, punk thrash aesthetic that would be further refined into Killing Technology. It's still an irradiated cannibal scurrying about the streets, picking through refuse and taking on all comers with its spiked bat, but the songwriting takes a stride forward and there's a broader dynamic range through the track list.

There's a bigger budget here than War and Pain, or perhaps I should say that there's an actual budget. Period. Gone are the totally disgusting, sloppy guitars from the debut, replaced by a meaty but resonant tone that better suits the chords. Piggy's leads were still as wild as uncaged apes, but the rhythm guitars are just so more poignant, the riffing progressions quite catchy in pieces like "Korgüll the Exterminator" one of the most ambitious among these, and one of the best of all Voivod. What's more, you've got a lot of eerie melodies being flung out into the apocalyptic nightscape of the album's atmosphere, and Denis was starting to sharpen his unique, dissonant approach to chords, while clobbering the listener with a lot more mutes and metallic patterns than the more purely punk aesthetics the first time out. Away's drums here are loud as hell, maybe a fraction TOO loud, but the guy was hitting so hard that it's a wonder he wasn't instantly catapulted into the Dave Lombardo rank in terms of percussion heroes. The bass-lines are even more intense this time out, but the more prevalent tone of the guitars is better balanced against them.

As for Snake's vocals, still pretty bloody and brutal, but there is more of a haughty shout to the inflection than his wretched performance on the debut. The song selection is just so much better, with rich riffing sequences in "Thrashing Rage" and "Ripping Headaches" that set the groundwork for Killing Technology, frivolous leads wrought over the grinding nuclear inferno of the rhythm tracks. Still a lot of punk in here, especially in tracks like "The Helldriver" which remind me of earlier C.O.C.. I can see why some folks believe this album has a lot of repetition, the constant crash of the drums does get redundant as the 38 minutes stretch on, but when it comes to the barebones riffs, there is admittedly a good share of variety, from the more robust and pissed off chord-storms to the NWOBHM styled structures and solos that the band brought over from their obvious Venom and Motörhead influences (the latter of which might have also inspired the use of umlauts in album titles like this one). In general, though, Rrröööaaarrr is more clearly a 'thrash' record in the purest sense of the word.

It's not entirely a work of genius like its successors, and I have a few problems with the mix levels, but the calamitous cacophony of sounds and relentless lyrics have endured for me through the years almost as much as those monolithic works to follow. This music is not going to appeal to you if you're a pussy or a stalwart audiophile; it's restless and off the hook for much of the run time. It's not a mere recycling of speed metal riffs from other bands, either. Though War and Pain was unique enough in its own right, Rrröööaaarrr was truly a band apart from the rest of the world, and this is a timeless and turbulent record that has never been reproduced by anyone, even if its originators would surpass it repeatedly. Rusted madness, social collapse mayhem, and molten industrial spew. The grimier side of 'cyberpunk' joined to the visceral belligerence of the emergent thrash genre.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Straight in your face again - 62%

kluseba, October 6th, 2010

This album is the only album in the whole Voivod discography which isn't an improvement or a change in style in comparison to the previous album. This is a very fast, aggressive thrash metal approach with some dark, hypnotically and almost industrial approaches, an interesting mixture somewhere in between the sound of their idols "Motörhead", "Megadeth" and "Venom" plus an unique approach, the special certain something that this band always had and will always have.

This one sounds really much like the first album minus some really catchy and energetic songs. It seems to me that the band has written about twenty songs and put the best ones on the first album and the weaker ones on this album to present as fast as possible something new to their record label and their fans.

While there is nothing innovating about this album, I must admit that it really addicting, straight, easy to listen to, compact, energetic and agressive. Voivod sound very heavy and motivated and there is a certain "live" sound on this album that goes straight in your face, even more than the more diversified and interesting debut album. This is what makes this album interesting and why I would class it above an album like "Voivod" and not talk about it as the weakest one in their discography.

The title speaks volumes for this album - 95%

natrix, December 12th, 2005

I normally agree with Ultraboris, but this is one case where we clearly disagree. I also really disagree with people who think that this is the worst Voivod album. I think it's their best, and I don't like their newer material very much.

The production is crap, but I really dig that. The thing comes across as Voivod at their most vicious, and probably least technical. Piggy doesn't use a lot of the strange chords on here, but there's enough variety in the guitar department to make this an original album. Black's blower bass is loud, clunky and destructive, a perfect mix of Cliff Burton and Cronos. Snake's vocals are nasty and loud, much better than his "punky" or "melodic" vocals which he starts using later in Voivod's career. Away's drumming is fast, very punkish, but controlled.

I can't think of a better title to a song than "Korgull the Exterminator." Hilarious! "Fuck Off and Die" has a nifty thrashy riff in the beginning, with a lovely chorus. "Slaughter In A Grave" is my favorite track on here. The chorus always has a meaty riff behind it, and the soloing is loud and in your face. It's got a bit of the strange chords in it, but still thrashy. "Ripping Headaches," ah! Headbanging splendor, with another great solo. "Thrashing Rage" has an excellent opening riff that simply kills, and runs you under the treads of some ugly machine, just like on the cover.

Shit, this is one of those things that go great for drinking beer, thrashing around, or whatever endeavor you want. A fun album that can be enjoyed front to back, but also analyzed a bit by the more discerning metalhead. This reminds me of Sepultura's Morbid Visions in terms of nasty production giving it an added edge, with a bit of Possessed's quirky riffs thrown in, but a creation entirely Voivod.

Classic Voivod - 98%

automg, September 30th, 2005

It is unfair to compare Voivod to Venom or any other early thrash/speed metal acts, because there is much more to Voivod's sound than just those influences. The simplistic listener who is looking for nothing more than the aformentioned style of music, this album may seem boring. To the more discriminating metal listener, the uniqueness and complexity of the music is unmistakable. Voivod's sound stems from Piggy's unique guitar playing which combines basic thrash structures with strange and dissonant sounding chords. Snake's vocals, although not as developed as on later albums, offer slightly more than the typical thrash growls that are the norm for the genre, incorporating a sense of tone to the vocals. The lyrics, written by French-speaking Canadians, convey a range sci-fi and war-related themes, to more simple messages, "I'm gonna tear some wimp rockers limb from limb."

Overall, this album is exemplary of Voivod's style that transcends the conventions of early thrash metal into a realm of unique musical wierdness. The use of chords and more complex song structures distinguish Voivod from much of the average thrash. This album is somewhat experimental, though to a lesser degree than later releases, making it not for the average listener, but those with a greater appreciation of music will be pleasantly surprised.

SSSUUUCCCKKK!!! - 23%

UltraBoris, March 24th, 2003

Kids, forgive the really bad title of the review... you just had to see that one coming, right? While not as abysmally disgusting as some of their later albums, this is still pretty damn bad. This sounds like a silly punk rock album more than anything else, especially with that vocalist, who has not quite developed his "that dude in Oasis" brit-pop voice but still sounds pretty dang weak.

Also, the riffs are kinda mediocre too. They rely too much on attempted aggression and excess distortion to make up for the fact that there just is no real content to them. There is nothing that will crush your fucking skull and make you headbang. They're just kinda there, and the guitar tone is generally weak and forgettable. Even in the first track, Korgull the Exterminator, there is precisely one decent riff - that one takes place at around 1.51 into the song, just before the solo. Then it gets into some pretty mediocre speed metal because under the solo the riffage is entirely forgettable. What comes out afterwards is kinda fun for a few seconds until that dang singer comes along to fuck everything up.

This reminds me, more than anything, of a really bad version of Corrosion of Conformity's Technocracy, with the bad parts (weak vocals, occasionally uninspired riffage) amplified (really weak vocals, constantly bad riffage). The guitar tone, though - now that's something else. The lead guitar tone sounds like it was passed through a distortion unit of Martian manufacture, or perhaps one that fell off the The Fixx equipment bus. Then the rhythm guitar tone is just weak.

This just isn't thrash - this is really a bad punk album that sounds like a weaker version of Motorhead. At least Motorhead had some fucking balls and they were speed metal. These guys are just crap. I mean - "Fuck off and Die" - if that's not punk, you tell me what is. And it's BAD punk... I mean some punk is pretty good (see: The Exploited), but this is just terrible. The worst part is that the songs just pretty much keep the same pace from beginning to end. Agent Orange, this is not. Not vicious, or crippling - no massive thrash breaks to be found here.

Slaughter in a Grave sounds like another Motorhead reject, being played with "intensity" pegged on a whopping 4 and "passion" kinda wavering at the 2 region. (For comparison, Motorhead are at "11" all the goddamn fucking time in every quantifiable category. Even when they sleep.)

Ripping Headaches, this album is not. Grandma forgot her sleeping pills, give her this? Though it does have a momentary thrash break, at around 1.05 - for about 3 seconds - before going into more weak riffage. Horror is just about the same song again. That is the problem here, that the songs are just all the same, one after another. Who came up with this brilliantly creative onslaught of excellent riffage? All the riffs sound generally the same. Same note played a few times fast, then one note held for about 4 times as long and made to sound really weak due to the stupid guitar tone.

Thrashing Rage. This had better fucking thrash and/or rage, and unfortunately it does neither. I can barely discern a riff here - the bass is stronger than the guitar here, even though he's playing the same note over and over again. But hey, what's this at the very end? After playing the intro riff again (brilliant riff by the way, I think Pantera rejected it for being uncreative. Same note played 6 times.)... they go into a thrash break at around 4.05 that lasts for about ten seconds. Yep, that's the highlight of the album. Bet ya didn't catch it, did ya?

Helldriver... I've heard this before, I know this for a fact. Seriously, Motorhead's songs are more discernable than this, and that's saying a lot. I mean Motorhead has perfected the idea of releasing roughly the same album once every few years, and doing it with pride and distinction and a fucking middle finger the size of Tokyo against the non-believers. These guys couldn't find their middle fingers if you spotted them both the FUCK and the YOU. Build Your Weapons - same riffage again. This is entirely forgettable punk rock, just with solos.

To the Death! Whoa it starts off with a little intro part. That's ... umm... different. And hey, we got a different riff too, one that I can make out. Something that would manifest itself, much clearer, as Toxik's Count your Blessings, sometime in the far future. For now it's kinda there before it leads into the general section - this is an almost decent song because every once in a while the guitars come out clean, but for the most part, it's just buried in a pile of noise.

That's what this album is... regurgitated song parts, buried in noise sauce. It's pretty mediocre, and if you've heard every Motorhead album but want something that sounds like them, only without feeling and distinction, well, I mean you could always lock yourself in a fridge, but if you want something even worse, there's this album.