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An unsanctioned dreadnaught of '84 - 87%

Gutterscream, May 27th, 2005

“…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 ‘cause 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 most 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.