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Would all metal be like this... - 98%

Blizzard Beast, August 21st, 2013

How to start? Maybe by saying that Voivod is a "love it or hate it" band, misunderstood by most and grasped by very few. If during the 80's the band saw its fame and "street cred" peaking through the roof due to seminal masterpieces like... er, well, basically ANY album that the band released, the very early 90's were indeed controversial and not so imaginative times for the metal world. Albums like "Metallica" and the proliferation of pseudo aggressive movements like grunge stabbed metal enthusiasts in the back with a violence yet unheard of. Metallica and Megadeth adjusted their sound to broader audiences; alternative metal acts like Prong, Helmet, Korn or Alice in Chains started to gather much attention from the audience and record labels; thrash was slowly withering and giving way to a global death metal movement at first that changed to black metal only two years later. One could say that Voivod's "Angel Rat" tried to follow the same steps of the two previously named bands while keeping their unique and exquisite identity, broadening their sound while respecting the die hard fan base that the band has, as well as their roots and honesty as musicians. Enter "Angel Rat".

Truth be said, for those that spread the word with "Killing Technology" on their right and "Nothingface" on the left, "Angel Rat" was something difficult to understand, let alone like. Starting from scratch and throwing away the core of the old conceptual and technical sound that Voivod coined (guitars that sounded like razor sharp blades, intricately technical maddening riffs and structures, themes like space, aliens, the unknown, war, etc.), the band embraced the 90's with their mind on the past but both eyes on the future, as there is no space for the present in the ranks of Voivod. The result is a pool of fine, perfectly polished diamonds that went unnoticed to most prospecting eyes but that, like anything rare on Earth, were plucked by those that knew what they were looking for.

The 80's reminiscent "Shortwave" intro is the perfect kickstart for the first shard, "Panorama", whose lyrics are a far cry of despair and helplessness, while the music is a refreshingly smart approach to more commerical oriented metal music, like most of the album. Right next comes the first eye blink in terms of concept to the old school fan base, in the form of "Clouds In My House", that talks of vastness, infinity and vision, though the sound remains faithfull to the album, not too heavy, very melodic and with that guitar sounding that instantly says Piggy. "The prow" is another sing along beast of a song where the usual analogies that the band has used their listeners to abund: the vast sea is space, the ship is a spacecraft, the treasures of the "seas" being stars, comets, etc. Finally, and to end the highlights, the eponymous "Angel Rat", very mellow and slow paced, and yet very dark and depressive, revealing a yet unknown facet of Snake, which is actually SINGING per se.

Because the band signed to a major record company, it had access to other sort of means, but the most important was certainly the production of Terry Brown, that turned what could be one of metal's greatest flops in terms of production in a perfect record, where Voivod are able to show for the first time how clear and crystalline can their guitars and vocals sound. However, that didn't help in making it such a success as "Nothingface" or even "Killing Technology", the band's undisputed pi├Ęces de resistance.

Overall, and like any album that Voivod released, "Angel Rat" was light years away from its time, although some contemporary aspects made it somewhat listenable and even radio friendly if compared to any other release prior to it. As it should be, only time could do justice for such a milestone, and it goes without saying that today the album is a reference to any avantgarde/progressive metal fan. It would not be exaggerated to state that, up until "Angel Rat", Voivod remind of David Bowie and his habit of jumping from musical style to musical style as time goes by, adapting and improving.

Personally, I find the album to be a monster, especially when it comes to the lack of fear in creating a work that can divide the audience, that can push boundaries out of predetermined compasses, that can go so unnoticed... but that, above anything else, is METAL, pure and simple.