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Rumbling out of the radiation scarred waste that was once Quebec came heavy metal's favorite mutants, Voivod. From humble and often raucous origins the legendary Iron Gang have forged one of heavy music's most enduring legacies. However, I'm getting ahead of myself, for our story begins thirty years ago in the future when the fallout of the NWOBHM had not quite settled yet and hardcore bands roamed the American mid-west like so much woolly mammoth.
1984's War and Pain owes as much to Die Kreuzen's jagged hardcore as it does to Angel Witch's mystical atmospherics and Venom's relentless forward thrust and this irradiated pedigree is evident in their unorthodox approach to the burgeoning thrash metal sound. Voivod's greatest strength at this stage of their career was doubtlessly stubby-fingered guitar wizard Piggy who provides War and Pain with an abundance of genetically malformed gallops, squealing kamikaze dives, and decaying Sabbathisms. Though of course the other three members of Voivod do not content themselves to play second, third, or even fourth fiddle: Blacky lends his legendarily caustic blower bass to the album, while Away provides a ferocious and insistent martial barrage, and main man Snake reigns over the proceedings with his atavistic and charismatic howl as a sort of post-apocalyptic Mussolini, urging his dogs of war on to death.
War and Pain ostensibly tells the tale of the eponymous Voivod, a dimension hopping, alien warlord, and his conquest of the multiverse. That concept is loose at best and is soon forgotten in a chaotic flurry as Voivod work their weirdo metal craft across nine slabs of unadulterated sonic violence: Witness! the savage ritual of all against all ("Live for Violence"), Kneel! before the war gods of the permafrost ("Warriors of Ice"), Scream! as ten thousand decibels bear down upon you ("Blower"), Weep! at the thermonuclear death of our world ("Nuclear War"). I've gone to pains to reinforce the idea of mutation as I believe the true core and concept of War and Pain comes down to fucking with their influences in such a way that is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends with the end result of this reckless experimentation being something wholly unique.
What ultimately makes War and Pain successful is the sense that the shambolic death machine that Voivod have constructed is mere seconds away from falling apart but never quite does. A belt may snap or a reactor meltdown may threaten the ignoble ship from time to time but the Iron Gang pull through and manage to create one of the most singular and fascinating records in all of heavy metal's storied history.
This record is quite mad, and even a little terrifying. It's also brash, wild and excitingly dangerous. You'll find heavier sounding records with nice and thick guitar tones from 1984, but I almost guarantee there's nothing quite so crazy as this. Whereas other albums may bludgeon you with the heaviness of their sound and pure tone, this thing just sounds like a war machine or a train full of incendiary devices and speed freaks, all of whom have eyes full of bloodlust and minds riddled with thoughts of rape and pillage. there's a maniac at the wheel, no doubt, and he's just barely preventing everything from falling to pieces, but he might just let it happen, for kicks, you know?
Here the Québecois masters of apocalyptic weirdo sci-fi metal are in their most unfettered form, crashing and bashing and smashing everything in their path. The sound is very "garagy", but this fits the album so well I can't help but think that any other type of sound approach for this thing would be absolute heresy. It's strange how raw and untethered the whole thing is, and yet every instrument is perfectly clear and distinct in the mix. Nevertheless, this mixture will hardly be for everyone. I mean, it's just so loose and (here it comes, my favourite word to describe this album and maybe "wild metal" in general) unhinged! The producer apparently had never done a heavy album of this type before, and it shows. The bass rumbles and clatters, drums pound away with this completely unheard of untampered with sound, and Piggy....wow, Piggy! he is all over the place here, maybe not as eclectic and disciplined (discipline? on this album? Who could i possibly be kidding?) as he would be on their more progressive, individualistic records, but he's still pretty hard to get a handle on here. For one thing, the song structures are not always predictable, and he throws in little licks and solos all over the place, almost as though he was just making it all up on the spot, like some insane jazz player all jacked up with amphetamines and alcohol. Snake just howls and yells away, completely unrestrained, sometimes seeming almost oblivious to whatever other madness is going on around him, but trust me, on this album at least, it just fucking works!
A startling thing is the band's willingness to use ambience to deepen the mood of the record. I'm not talking about weird soundscapes or anything like that, but neat and subtle little touches, like the quiet chords that begin the record, with volume swells warning of an impending disaster before Snake hollers "VOIVOOOOOOOOD!", and we're off with a roar and a bang! We also get some interesting use of feedback in a few songs (not exactly a common thing for metal bands in 1984) and some odd, almost futuristic sounding riffs amidst all the hurtling punkmetal chaos. What I'm trying to say is, despite the fact you could compare this record slightly to Venom, Metallica and some other contemporaries, this thing is just still kind of weird and oddball. It's amazing to think that they would only become moreso, their individual traits becoming more honed and more pronounced, as the band moved forward through the 80s and 90s.
While the songs "Voivod" and "War and Pain" will be familiar to many, it's my feeling that the album is actually constructed in such a way that it just gets deeper and better as it goes on. "Live for Violence" has one of the coolest introductions I've ever heard, with one of those weird spacy riffs starting it off in a manner that's surprisingly methodical for an album that I've gone out of my way to describe as such an untamed beast until now. it shows that the band, Piggy, in particular, knew exactly what they were doing even at this early stage. "Black City" has an unexpectedly upbeat melodic feel despite some odd guitar harmonics and the usual frantic soloing. "Nuclear War" is the undisputed epic, with two distinct sections, one led by a charging warrior of a riff that is so memorable and all too fucking good that several bands have deliberately referenced it, most notably Aura Noir with their song "Hades Rise". As good as that band is, they only managed to capture half the intensity and zeal of this single riff, and just wait until you hear the second half, built up by a sinister onslaught of feedback and noise before erupting into one of the fastest sections on the record, riffs and solos just flying at you with such ferocity that it's no wonder noone to my knowledge has tried to directly cover this song! My own band has made something of an attempt and it's really hard to follow!
So basically, if this album were a tank, it would be rusty and prone to sudden mishaps of lethal proportions. There'd be a psychopath at the controls and another guy riding on top swinging a huge chain with a wrecking ball attached. The road warrior-esque feeling to this thing is just about unparalleled. The closest comparison, feeling-wise, I can come up with is Carnivore's self-titled record, which came out the following year, but though Carnivore were certainly not afraid to think outside the box, this monster is just so much less disciplined. My heart beats faster just thinking about this thing, and thinking about it makes me want to stop whatever I'm doing immediately, crack open a few strong beers and blast this bastard at maximum volume, then go out and kick the shit out of some scum. it's a charge of absolute adrenaline, right up there with Vulcano's Bloody Vengeance and kreator's Pleasure to Kill, only brasher, even, than both of those, and weirder, in its distinctly Voivod fashion. Get this or GO SHIT!
Some dream of perfecting their pastry baking and bonbon skills, so they might end up on an episode of Cupcake Wars. Some just dream of the day they can improve their golf game and compete in some tournament Open. I, on the other hand, dream of melted flesh, nuclear Armageddon and the warring tribes of mutants, cannibals, cockroaches, disgruntled postal employees and other sure survivors that would ensue from such a scenario. When the young Canadians wrote War and Pain, they were thinking of these same things as inspiration, and thus, for all its faults and flaked off rust, I still wanna take this album hand in hand and gallop off into an irradiated cloudset together (we wouldn't be able to see the sun for a few years).
To claim that War and Pain feels underdeveloped compared to later records like Killing Technology, Angel Rat or Nothingface would be an understatement, because this is the antithesis of eloquence and experimentation. This music is not about progression, it's about abuse. Though drummer Away's unique artistic perspective and the hostile, post-apocalyptic lyrics set it apart from quite a number of other speed, thrash or crossover records of its day, you could say Voivod had a lot in common with bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Corrosion of Conformity just as much as it mirrored Venom or Slayer. In fact, despite the fact that the Canadians incorporate a bruising NWOBHM shuffle to some of the riffs here in tracks like "Suck Your Bone" or "War and Pain" itself, with a few heavier muted metal passages, this is pretty much a punk album, with simplistic chord patterns that are half the time predictable, half the time spinning off into something more unusual. Mad Max anarchy unfolds throughout the track list, but then there seems to be that added edge of ambition and musicianship which separated the two strains of extremity.
But, as crude as this debut felt, even for the year of its release, there is something tangibly charming about the Canadians. For one, the vocals of Snake here were intense, placing a strained, growling edge on that post punk inflection he would hone through the rest of the band's career (1987 and beyond). The bass is far more prominent and repulsive than most punk music, making it feel more like a caustic, ghetto grind. The guitar tone is quite choppy here, and really the whole album feels like a mess, but there was already something about Piggy's playing that set him apart. The leads in tunes like "War and Pain" were more or less your average blues wailing, but then he'd explode off into other techniques that were more redolent of an Eddie Van Halen if he had been soaked in rust and radiation. The overall aesthetic to the album is one of anger and darkness, it never feels bright or even remotely enthusiastic, but there are a few more psychedelic passages like the end of the title track, or the echoed intro to "Voivod" itself" which foreshadow the band's future.
War and Pain is a great record to throw on if you're in the mood for something unfettered by the burdens of polish and professionalism. I actually like to shuffle these tunes in a playlist with Corrosion of Conformity's Animosity, Repulsion's Horrified, and selections from the Misfits, GBH, The Exploited, maybe some early stuff from The Accused; a giant, splatterific, Cold War terror and gore grinding punk-metal paean that really stirs up the blood. It's also got some parallels to Venom's first few records in terms of just that raw level of theatrical aggression, not to mention the bass-driven foundation for the songs is highly similar to that of the mighty Motörhead. I don't want to deceive anyone, though, this is pure primacy compared to even the band's sophomore Rrröööaaarrr, and I'm far more of a fan of their 1987-1989 material than anything else. That said, I've grown to appreciate this debut forever for its repugnant innocence, bleak world view and utter disregard for subtlety and taste. The 3-CD reissue from 2004 is fucking phenomenal, packed with live demos, videos, and whatever you'd want from this period other than locks of Blacky's hair.
As so many other great bands do, Voivod developed their sound a lot as they matured. The end of the 80's would see this Quebecois act do some incredible things and virtually reinvent the genre of thrash metal. Early on though, these experimentations were much less pronounced. 'War And Pain' shows Voivod playing straightforward thrash metal with a slightly forward- thinking, sci-fi twist. While lacking the innovation that made their later work so great, Voivod's debut is still a classic for its style, and a very fun listen at that.
Although this is Voivod at a much more primitive level, the band's trademarks are still here to some extent. Most notable is Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour's distinctive guitar work. Especially on the album's last track 'Nuclear War', Piggy wails away with the guitar, creating psychedelic soundscapes with feedback. The chords and riffs are also slightly more dissonant than the genre is used to, especially given the fairly early context this album has within thrash. Suffice to say, Piggy's performance here is the highlight, above and beyond. The rest of the band performs admirably, getting some good force through despite the grimy production. While 'Snake' Belanger's vocal performance here is fairly generic, the lyrical themes are sufficiently advanced beyond what a typical thrash band might sing about. Here, Voivod takes themes of nuclear holocaust and war, and filters them through a futuristic setting. Although the music is straightforward, the lyrics help create imagery of this band playing in the middle of a bombed out city.
The songwriting here has a few gems, but in general, the songwriting sacrifices depth for speed. Its certainly fun, but upon subsequent listens, I found the music losing its initial shock. Voivod are one of my favourite bands, but as my personal tastes stand, 'War And Pain' is the sort of album I will only be able to put on once in a while. There is plenty of energy and vitality to this band's performance, but musically speaking, the waters are a bit shallow, and the more familiar I get with the music, the less I find myself moved by the primitive approach they were going for at this point in their career.
The first album of Voivod is surely one of the best debut albums that I know. Even though the sound and the song writing of the album are far away from being perfect, the band has already its own unique sound and sounds very energetic, straight, rough, heavy and hungry for more to come. The title of this album could not have been chosen better. They already offer some of their first unforgettable classics in here.
The title track and opener "Voivod" introduces us already in the world of Voivod. Strange sounds of rattling chains and a person who walks through the snow in slow motion open the song before a fast mixture of punk and thrash metal blows you away. Somehow influenced by different bands such as Slayer, Venom, Motörhead and local punk bands, Voivod already create their own style within this very first song. The chorus is simple but easy to remind of and sing along with and to this day, Voivod always play this song live and after more than twenty five years, this little masterpiece has not lost its energy and aggression and works perfectly.
You get drowned in an atmosphere of a strange and devastated future world, heavily influenced by the cold and frostbitten winters in Quebec and the political frost of the cold war during the early eighties. "Warriors of ice" is an allusion to this and a very personal band hymn. The song starts with a tight drumming before riffs are shredding in a heavy but still melodic way. Snake didn't really know how to sing and express his emotions and did a lot of his work by his straight intuition as he tells on the special edition of the album. By listening to his feelings, he did a very authentic and emotional job and is as important to the early sound of Voivod as the galloping bumblebee bass guitar, the tight and precise drumming and the melodic riff shredding guitar.
Another of my favourite songs of the album is the bonus track "Condemned to the gallows" which appeared on the 20th anniversary box set and originally on the "Metal massacre 5" compilation. It has a very slow and still heavy intro which you haven't heard a lot of times at that time and in that genre, before a very dark chant comes in and leads us not only into the world of thrash but also death and American power metal which shows already the diversity and talent of the band to change its style by staying unique and honouring its roots and idols. The guitar solo is one of the best ones on the whole album and on the mentioned compilation and shows us already the extraordinary talent of guitar player Piggy.
Every song on this album contributes to a unique and very interesting sound and a very dark and desperate atmosphere. The band already shows his huge talent on this first album. From the short and intense "Blower" to the more developed, epic and very atmospheric band hit "Nuclear war", this band offers a lot of diversity without losing its straightness. Sure, there are a few little fillers towards the end of the album and the musicians are not yet that diversified and open-minded as they were on the future records, but this debut album already announced what the band was able to achieve later on. And though the style of this album is very straight and there are not as many things to discover as on the future albums of the band, this one really grows more and more on you.
Seriously, this is one of the best debut albums in metal history and in the same time the birth of a unique band in regard to which we haven't seen anything comparable in 40 years of metal history.
“…when the bombs (will) hit my face, it will drive me insane…”
This is one of those albums that you had to hear when pickings were slim and Voivod was unable to impress/depress you with what they would mutate into in years not yet over the horizon. To dig Negatron or Nothingface, then to curiously backtrack the quartet’s discography to the belligerent, unholy nine-car pile up that is War and Pain is risky business. The Quebec act with the coolest name that had every non-historian head-scratching is an aural portrait of progression, like the Neanderthal to the cultured, like Korgull the Exterminator evolving with each album cover, and with this nine-tracker you will witness one of the basest, most primal cavalcades that has yet to stand upright and recognize its thumb.
It’s hard for me not to adore the quasi-nuances of this release as well as the stuff that plows you over like a toddler. If I may, I’d like to borrow a page from Sadusattack below and agree that the band did know exactly what it was accomplishing with War and Pain. Taking punk influences like Discharge and Conflict, the raw no bullshit attitude of Motorhead, and then basically crushing them on rocks of twisted, almost freeform thrash, Voivod did what N.M.E. couldn’t do: create havoc without the possibility of being melted on nachos. In fact, this cataclysmic event of an album is often unsung as a thrash champion (how many lists has it been left off?). Snake’s polluted mess of vocals is almost as convoluted as his facial expressions if you’ve ever seen the video for “Voivod”. Piggy’s solos are banshee-like in their screaming ferocity. Drummer Away, the creative iceberg behind the cover concepts that he renders himself as well as their lyrical ventures, is otherworldly in his mechanics to this day. Blacky, well…plays blower bass. And for its cacophony, it’s still a fun album.
Don’t complain about the production ‘cos for what they were doing, it doesn’t get any better.
Now let’s get to side Iron (yes, another one of those). Fuming like a chained fiend that has been awakened from a much-needed sleep, Snake aggravates it further and gargles “Voivod” to life. Its main riff pulsates, almost gyrating with heavy wallowing speared by Snake’s distortion and waits impatiently at an unrestrained chorus. The bass-lead “Warriors of Ice” is a straight speedster that unveils a thumping, oddly-sung structure with Piggy’s strings shredding over it to high heaven. “Suck Your Bone” (some of the fun I mentioned) is a proving ground for more of Piggy’s frenetic mayhem that is seemingly injected at every joint while painfully reared rhythms and peripherally executed tempos are antipodal to the up-tempo chorus. “Iron Gang” is another hold-no-prisoner attack that sets up the billowing, yet menacingly tense start of the title cut, a filthy dirge rung in by bells chugging along mis-paced with the timing (meaning out of time). A great track.
Side Blower does just that with the song of its namesake, a fairly short, frantic beating where Snake just won’t give his gnarled pipes a rest. I believe the first inklings of their future experimentalism claws its way from the womb here in “Live For Violence”, the main rhythm as well as some of the song’s usually powerful tidbits are abnormally aloof (for this band, anyway) for what has thus far been a calamity of avant-garde music. Heavy, though not as unsanitary as the flip side is the mildly disciplined “Black City” that carries over to the lengthy closer “Nuclear War”. A perpetual, foot in step beat marches beneath a peculiar plucky rhythm. At times it’s covered over by Piggy’s aggressive fretboard torture, and by the end the band’s combustive nature takes over the wreckage.
Without some sort of knowledge of their later works, this isn’t an easy album to sit through for most, for War and Pain is nuclear aftermath that has yet to see the advent of rebuilding. Even with this knowledge, it’s been shunned by many. It’s been called messy (but so were Sodom, and many of us forgave that endearing trio), as primitive as its cover suggests, and is the last album a radio station today would choose a song from. I smirk every time I throw it on, and if they don’t already, I can see Jason Newsted laughingly trying to convince the remaining threesome to play some of this live.
This primitive, Motorhead-meets-Discharge opus is far from perfect, and in fact is pretty bad compared to their much more progressive/complex/spacey style they perfected in years following this debut. But you know something? Damned if it doesn't have lots of character and twisted charm, as well as flat out, full-on aggressive energy to spare. The album's production is utterly appropriate for this with its raw and dirty ambience and featuring easily the filthiest fuzz bass ever recorded--sounds like piles of black earth pouring out of your speakers!
Snake's vocals are radically different on this album, his whiny shrieks adding a distinctive flavor that was and still unique if not slightly offputting. Their broken English lyrics (they hail from a French-speaking part of Canada) were pretty amusing as well, to say the least. The music is furious and straightforward as it gets, simple and direct with crashing riffs and screaming bluesy soloing a la Fast Eddie Clarke, and surprisingly tight all things considered. Away's drumming is what you call D-beat to the max with occasional double bass pounding breaking up the galloping thrash beats.
Songs to look out for are "Voi Vod" ("I'll chop your body to EAT!!!"), the frenzied "Blower" with its chaotic ending, "Black City" (showcasing the most eeeevil bass tone EVAR), and if you come here expecting the progressive side of things, prepare to get slammed in the head with a gargantuan meat mallet. Cos anything even vaguely melodic or musically able ain't gonna be found anywhere on this album! Hamfisted delivery, subtlety out the window from the git-go, and dammit, I like it anyway. Hard to believe that they got so good so fast!
Before they were a Progressive Metal band, Voivod were pure Speed Metal! From album opener "Voivod" you can tell this album's going to Thrash like mad. But of course this album is far from without flaws. While the riffs are pretty solid and Dennis' guitar tone is pretty sharp, horrible production and a lack of a second guitarist really bring things down. Don't get me wrong, I like my production raw and it's nice to have space for some bass but there's a thin line between edgy-no-frills Metal and just plain shitty production. On another note, Denis Belanger's vocals are pretty weak on this record and are actually pretty fucking annoying. But if you can ignore these shortcomings, you've got yourself an album! The aformentioned "Voivod" gives the album a fast paced start which leads into the mid tempo classic, "Warriors Of Ice"! "Suck Your Bone" features a pretty cool chorus but is only mildly entertaining. Then the best song on this album..."Iron Gang"! The riffs on this one are similar to something you'd here on Motorhead's "Overkill". The title track just kicks ass. The slow, dark, macabre feel accents the lyrics well. The lead is worth a good listen too. Things speed up for the frenzied but incredibly odd "Blower". "Live For Violence" is a good mid-tempo track with an awesome bridge full of mosh riffs. The good shit doesen't stop with "Black City", either. "Nuclear War" however, is only a mildly above average album closer. All in all the album is definatly worth a shot. However, the grating off-key vocals, the horrid production and the lack of a second guitarist will put some (mainly Power, Traditional and Folk fans) off. The lyrics are also pretty fucked (just look up the lyrics to "Blower" for proof) and are nearly an antipode of what's to come. But what do you expect from four French Canadian wierdos named Piggy, Snake, Blacky and Away? Now to describe each individual instrument:
Vocals: Horrible. Just horrible. It'll take Snake a few years to develop his singing.
Guitar: Not bad at all! Piggy Thrashes like mad on most tracks and dishes out some awesome solos. His style will remind you of Motorhead and Venom. What's really awesome is that Piggy will only continue to get better as time progresses.
Bass: If their's one advantage of having only one guitarist in a Speed Metal band, it's that it leaves space of some great bass notes. Blacky often carries the intensity during Piggy's leads.
Drums: Away does his job well and can keeps the pace during the faster songs. Good but nothing jaw dropping.
Overall a good Speed Metal album (it ain't Thrash) with alot of Black Metal influences. If you like Venom, you might like this. Pity about the production, though.
This recent rash of negative Voivod reviews has inspired me to contribute a few of my own! Don't get me wrong.... I love Voivod, in particular everything from Hatross to present day. Late 80s Voivod sounds like a few Canadian guys dropped some REALLY whack acid and picked up extra terrestrial frequencies. Angel Rat and Voivod 2003 are off kilter and infectious hard rock albums rife with excellent songwriting. War and Pain is only 4 years removed from Dimension Hatross and light years removed in style....
Picture Voivod as a sloppy thrash band with annoying vocals and ridiculous lyrics. Throw in a buzzsaw guitar and half assed production. This is War and Pain. Some of these riffs are so... fucking DUMB, it blows my mind. Especially when you consider these same 4 individuals sat down and produced Nothingface (a fucking masterpiece)!.
Nuclear War has some interesting thrash riffs... I pick up a bit of a jazz influence in some of those chord changes, particularly in Iron Gang. Suck Your Bone has the funniest lyrics and chorus.... Snake sings like a bum they found on the streets
If you can stomach sloppy thrash go for it. I suggest you check out Nothingface first.
As much as I hate to say it, this is probably Voivod's best album. Pure thrash at it's best... well maybe. Let me start with the musical aspect of this album. Drumming is really fast with a great thrasy feel. Makes you want to headbang. Guitars are really cool, oh I mean guitar. The riffs are really thrash styled, fast power chords and super fast solo's. However, there is one thing that doesn't work with the guitars. Sure it's great, but since there is only one guitarist it sounds awful when he jumps to riff to solo and back. Or when he adds a quick solo type lick, it sounds pretty bad. Bass isn't really that bad, however you can hardly hear it, I had to turn my bass to max to even see if there actually was a bass guitar player. Singing is the worst ever! God this guy can't sing, never could and never can. He doesn't even keep a constant pitch. It's just a flat blah blah blah that is really annoying, almost pop-punk sounding. There are the occasional high pitch hits which make me think "Yes you almost got it". But then it's back to shit. Sometimes I even think he is just going ebebebbeebbebedleleldle, and one must wonder....What the fuck!
Another thing that is shitty about this album: Production! Did they record this in a studio or a garage. If you can get past the singing and the production, this album has possibilities to be a decent thrash album. By the way, the cover is fucking awsome looking!