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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.