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Voivod are back in force with a new guitarist called Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain who honours the heritage of the deceased Denis "Piggy" d'Amour for the very first time on a studio record. In fact, he almost appears as some sort of a reincarnation of that unforgettable and unique guitar player and his skills sound almost exactly like those of his biggest idol. Old school Voivod fans might be pleased and surprised by this talented continuation but I was rather hoping for a new and fresh touch as the new band member somewhat fails to add his own approach and identity to the sound. As I also know his previous band "Martyr" that plays a quite addicting progressive variation of death metal quite well, I'm aware of the fact that some interesting influences could have been added to make this new release really stand out. But maybe these elements will come into play in the near future and this was only a save call to integrate the new member to the band and the fans which has been very successfull in my opinion.
This is probably the only flaw of the great "Target Eart" record: Voivod don't try out something completely new and rather play a mixture of their classic stuff in the vein of "Killing Technology" (like the progressive but also agressive "Mechanical Mind"), "Dimension Hatröss" (as in the album highlight "Corps Étranger" that is performed in French which is at least something completely new for the band and which works very well even though Denis "Snake" Bélanger's French is as hard to understand as his English) and "Nothingface" (as in the diversified progressive anthem "Empathy For The Enemy" that has a few laid back passages and an oriental sounding folk opening which makes this song my favourite one on the release). The lyrical topics also haven't changed a lot and still turn around science-fiction topics apart of the song "Resistance" that is clearly inspired by the student protests in the streets of the province of Quebec that had shaken up the population in the first half of 2012. Apart of the quite similar approaches in "War And Pain" and "Rrröööaaarrr!!!" as well as the last release "Infini" that had something like a compilation status, this is the first time that Voivod don't progress their sound to try out something new but rather head back to their roots.
Despite this little flaw, all members are giving excellent performances. First of all, the drum play of Michel "Away" Langevin is diversified and energizing as always. The guitar play by Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain has the same high signature standard as the play of his predecessor. What really stands out is the vivid blower bass play by Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault who is back in the band and sounds stronger than ever and clearly better than the slightly overrated Jason Newsted. The vocals of Denis "Snake" Bélanger sound unique as usual but even more variable than before. Even the calmer parts of the atmospheric "Empathy For The Enemy" or the epic "Warchaic" are performed on a high level and remind me of his works on "Angel Rat" or "The Outer Limits" that I appreciate a lot for their progressive vein. This high quality of all four members makes this album a very enjoyable fun ride on a technically nearly perfect level.
There are also a few intriguing new elements and ideas that should take a bigger place on the forthcoming records and that add a fresh touch to the band. The weird throat singing in the punk influenced "Kluskap O'Kom" is a perfect example and the unusual introduction really came as a pleasent surprise to me. The French lyrics in "Corps Étranger" work very well and should maybe be used on a more frequent basis in the future as they are particularly diversified and profound in my opinion. The short album closer "Defiance" works as an appetizer for a similar song on a future release. Even though this idea has somewhat been stolen from Venom, the final result works very well. The track kicks off very promising and one gets almost sad as soon as it ends and can't wait for the things to come in the future. Voivod still have quite a lot to say and never really fail to deliver high quality material.
I might add that many of the new songs sound less complex and intellectualised. The record includes many quite catchy songs as "Kluskap O'Kom", "Empathy For The Enemy", "Warchaic", "Resistance" and "Corps Étrange" which wasn't always the case in the past. This element makes the music more approachable and should make these songs work very well in concert in my opinion. As you can see, even if there are a lot of old patterns that had been used during the song writing, there are still some glimpses of innovation here and there.
Any Voivod fan should immediately grab this release. Anybody who doesn't know the band should buy this album as well as it's a perfect introduction to almost anything the band has done before apart of the early death and thrash metal stuff and the more hard rock inspired millenium releases. If you can, you should grab the limited edition featuring two bonus live tracks as well as an energizing live cut from the 2011 edition of the Roadburn Festival that had only been released on vinyl before. This new release is already an early highlight of the year and as it's almost always the case, I still expect this album to grow on me. I'm happy this band is back and that this new release makes it straight not only into my personal top five records of that unique French Canadian legend.