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Before I really got the whole Voivod thing, I was into War and Pain and about half of Nothingface. I think their debut is the most accessible record for "traditional" metal fans.
While similar in style to their sophomore album and just as straightforward in terms of songwriting, the tracks are a bit more aerate and slightly mellower. Mind you, it still thrashes like hell, displaying Voivod's early influences rather clearly. Like most at the time, the Venom influence is undeniable, but there are also a lot of punk elements there and the lyrics are a bit more thought provoking, or as Away put it in an interview, "nuclear war is more like hell than all that satanic bullshit".
Actually I'm not quite sure if this is quite what one would call thrash metal, according to modern standards at least. If I had to put a tag on it, it would probably be something like speed metal. The usual syncopated rhythms are quite scarce here, mostly relying on punk or NWOBHM-influenced riffs to carry the songs up to the next solo. Yes, solos - now we're talking. Somehow, Piggy managed to put leads every-fucking-where. It still amazes me to this day how he managed to remember everything. Just listen to the classic track that is the album's opener - there's a short lead at the end of nearly every line during the verse part, always with some kind of variation. The same thing goes on multiple tracks. Another highlight here is Blacky's trademark "blower bass", roaring ferociously under the guitars and even carrying some parts of the songs. Michel's work is pretty basic here, it's easy to see he didn't really have his signature drumming style at this point. Snake's vocals are also quite unlike anything he ever did before or after. I'm not quite sure about what he's doing there… I really like it, but it's not nearly as vicious as what he did on Killing Technology, nor is it powerful like his performance on Rrröööaaarrr or the live demos they put out around the same time as the album.
I think there may have been some issues with the production there, as it sounds quite thin even in its remastered form. There is something that cuts a bit of its energy, but I couldn't really tell what… maybe the single guitar doesn't help. It still delivers a fair share of raw power, though.
I feel the need to point out that while most songs are going straight to the point, the album closes up with the epic masterpiece that is Nuclear War - still one of my favorite songs here. It lingers on at mid-tempo for about five minutes, with Piggy even stopping and just going for droning feedback at some points, before kicking into a fast-paced thrasher with leads aplenty. This song sums up the atmosphere of the album perfectly, and ends it on a high note.
- Notes for the 2004 Metal Blade 3-CD remaster:
On this edition, apart from the remastered album that sounds quite great, the first CD adds 3 tracks from the first live show and three from the Metal Massacre V sessions (of which Condemned to the Gallows would end on the compilation). I think it's a shame that Anachronism wasn't included in its entirety, but since most of it features cover songs I'll have a wild guess and assume label issues might be one of the reasons. Also it sounds like shit, but it probably never was recorded on multiple tracks. That gets us to the Metal Massacre V sessions. I've heard the compilation and the Voivod track is definitely an early classic, but what puzzles me is WHY do these session sound like utter crap, full of tape hiss and echo? It's supposed to be remastered but it actually sounds worse than the version featured on Metal Massacre V, which is quite clear and crunchy.
The second disc features the Morgöth Invasion demo from late 1984, and it includes most of the material from their next album, released two years later. The sound is bad, again, but it's still a nice addition.
Overall, this is the definitive edition to get, and while the bonus material sounds like shit, its historical importance and the fact it was finally made available again makes up for it. Though I'm still puzzled about the MMV tracks.