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As disheartening as it was to lose one of my all time guitar gods in Denis D'Amour, and to then discover the band would be continuing on without him (a feat I couldn't at that time feel possible), I've since put personal feelings aside. It's their band, Piggy undoubtedly wanted them to press forward and honor his memory, and they at least made the best choice available in selecting Cryptopsy, Martyr and Gorguts alumni Daniel Mongrain as his replacement, because frankly he's one of the only Canadian axeslingers with the style and imagination to really pull it off. And if Warriors of Ice, the second official Voivod live album, is any indicator, he's not only fitting the bill, but stamping all over it as he waits to sign the next.
This is the Voivod live record we should have gotten a lot earlier, when Piggy was still alive. Recorded in 2009, close to home at Montreal's Club Soda, this is 70+ minutes of excellence which does more than merely 'live up' to expectations, but damn near exceeds them. Not only does Mongrain kill this, but the fact that you've got Blacky back on the bass, and Snake handling his vocals (and not Forrest) ensure that this is an exponentially superior experience to Voivod Lives. The vast majority of the material here is culled from the band's classic period, up to and including Angel Rat, and hearing all of these diverse mechanics from albums as varied as Nothingface, War and Pain and Killing Technology is a treat. In fact, apart from two tracks ("Treasure Chase" and "Global Warning") off Piggy's last studio effort, Infini, everything here is taken from the band's Golden Age of invention, and songs from "Voivod" to their cover of Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" are delivered with passion and precision. Hell, even the subtleties in the original guitars are mostly present, proof that Mongrain stayed up many a night doing his homework to deliver the article as genuine as possible.
It wouldn't mean much if the album didn't also sound awesome, but it does. Rough around the edges, but it only adds character to the performances. Snake sounds as pissed here as ever in the studio, and he does seem to drown out the guitar a smidgeon, but the drums and the bombastic, distorted bass are amazingly clear, and Blacky in particular deserves enormous praise. It's like he had never left. Had never been replaced by Forrest, or Jason Newsted. Most importantly, though, the mix of the record conveys that same ominous, otherworldly level of alien threat that distinguished all of the group's earliest albums. A bleak future, prophetically presented to the audience in the progressive thrashing fits of the now! I can't speak much for the 'crowd interaction' moments, like the goofiness used to initiate "Tribal Convictions", but otherwise Warriors of Ice is a straight shot of paradise for the long term devotee, a balance of primacy and brilliance which could be wrought only by a band that cares a WHOLE lot about getting it right.
While some of the band's more well-rounded fans may disagree with my view, I believed that Voivod died in 2005, as a result of cancer.
Denis 'Piggy' L'Amour was the founding guitarist of Canadian thrash legends Voivod, and over the course of the band's career, he found a very distinctive and innovative style of guitar playing that emphasized dissonance and quasi-jazzy chord progressions in a genre that typically aimed towards playing one's guitar as fast as scientifically possible. As a result, Piggy gave Voivod a very unique sound to them, and on a personal note, he was the man that got me back into playing guitar. Voivod's 'Warriors Of Ice' is a live album that attempts to continue the legacy of this incredible band, but with a new guitarist filling in the shoes of who I thought to be the heart and soul of the band's sound, it almost feels more of a tribute than a legitimate release.
That is not to say that Voivod isn't still kicking around though, but they do sound noticeably less fueled here than they used to. 'Warriors Of Ice' is a fairly long live album that takes tracks from all over the band's career, with a particular focus on their thrashier material. As it stands, the setlist here is fantastic, and unlike many live albums, there does seem to be a good sense of flow between tracks. Some of my favourite Voivod classics are here; including 'Tribal Convictions', 'Nothingface', and 'Brain Scan'. Playing in front of an enthusiastic audience in their home province of Quebec, Michel Langevin (Snake) can be heard barking in French to the crowd between tracks, and while his voice has lost some of its melodic potential over the years, he still has some nice energy to his vocal style that transfers brilliantly in a live setting.
The recording of the performance feels somewhat rough, and while it may work somewhat with Voivod's harsh nature, 'Warriors Of Ice' could pass off as a bootleg in the way it sounds, and that's not meant in a good way. This review was opened up on a fairly critical note by saying this was not the real Voivod anymore, and while I may still think that this is more of a tribute to the genius, rather than the genius itself, Chewy does reprise Piggy's guitar parts fairly well, although his more straightforward and conventional take on the riffs is noticeable and cannot replace the sort of intensity I could have expected from Piggy. The drums of Away are arguably the most impressive part of the sound here. Really, this is a decent enough live album for Voivod, although it is certainly not something that I would consider part of their essential canon.
Eleven years after the rather mellow “Voivod lives”, the French Canadian masterminds of progressive thrash metal release this final offering honouring the works of their legendary late guitar player Denis “Piggy” D’Amour with three quarters of the band’s original line-up before the band carries on with new songs and a new album.
In comparison to the previous live record “Voivod lives” that had a very lame crowd, the release of the old school DVD “D-V-O-D-1” that had a rather poor sound quality and the release of the “Tatsumaki” DVD that had a rather bad camera setting, “Warriors of ice” easily beats all of those previous live records together.
The sound on this record is heavy and authentic and a powerful fistful of metal hammers out of the speakers as soon as the track “Voivod” kicks off. Even the rather soft tracks like “Panorama” or “Global warning” have a pitiless pace and turn out to be great live tracks. But this heaviness doesn’t mean that the band doesn’t sound technically brilliant and diversified. The guitars in “The unknown knows” or “Brain scan” sound as perfect as the studio version with “Piggy” and this live release may prove to the last critics that Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain is the one and only that could have taken this heritage. He is not only heavily inspired by the late Voivod guitar player and imitates him close to perfection but he also has his own range and style that is similar to the one of his idol but not completely identical. I’m looking forward to the future album of the band with him as he may surely add something fresh and technically brilliant to the sound of the band.
What distinguishes this record from the previous live albums is the enthusiastic crowd in a rather small venue in Montreal, Québec. The fans cheer and sing along and contribute to a great atmosphere even if some cheering parts before the encores and after the last song have sadly been cut off from the final version of this great release. The interaction between the crowd and singer Denis “Snake” Belanger is very natural and intense in a very unique and charismatic French-Canadian language.
Let’s add to all those positive facts that the album artwork is another great work from drummer Michel “Away” Langevin and that the rather small booklet contains a few nice photos.
The only negative points I could find about this release are the shortened cheering crowd passages and the rather sudden ending of the album as well as the fact that the material of the albums “The outer limits”, “Negatron”, “Phobos”, “Voivod” and “Katorz” has been ignored for the set lists but the band has recently add a few songs to their shows and I hope that they will continue to do so in the future because there is some great and underrated material on the records of the nineties, too.
In the end, this album is without the glimpse of a doubt your definite Voivod live record and a great appetizer for the upcoming new era as this live record is the last transition between the old and the modern times. Get this great gem and enjoy.