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Voivod - Angel Rat - 70%

ConorFynes, December 12th, 2011

Although I'm entering the fanhood of Voivod a little later than most of the band's dedicated apostles, I've been listening to the albums from this band's illustrious career, and piecing together a timeline of their stylistic changes. The band started out with a clearly defined root in thrashy speed metal, but around the middle of their career, Voivod was morphing their sound with every album. 1989's 'Nothingface' was one such album that showed Voivod doing something new, and as the peak of their metal output, it was a jaw-dropping display of progressive thrash metal. Now, after such an exciting style that the band had finally found for themselves, a fan of the band at the time would probably have thought that Voivod would continue to pursue that sound for themselves, releasing album after album of similar sounding 'Nothingface' successors. Even though it came out twenty years ago, the band's sixth album 'Angel Rat' still comes as a big surprise to me. Instead of sticking with this golden style that they had innovated with 'Nothingface', they instead move on again in search of new ways to approach their music Toning down their metal grit in favour for a more mellow take on Voivod's distinct sound.

I would restrain myself from calling this a metal album; while Voivod was most certainly a metal band in earlier albums, there is not nearly the same bite here that they used to have. The songs are given mostly conventional structures, and if I was going to give any label to this music, it would have to be 'spacey hard rock'. While hearing 'Angel Rat' described like this would have me think that they were dumbing down their sound in the commericial vein that a few other thrash bands did in the early '90s, but Voivod would maintain their progressive edge in the music, despite things being a little less sporadic in the music itself. The songs here still have the sci-fi vibe of earlier Voivod material, and these songs feel more influenced by Voivod's prog influences than the metal. Piggy's riffs are still quirky, but the vanguard experimentation has been toned down. This is a very band-based effort that focuses on good songwriting. It lacks the shock and jaw-dropping nature of 'Nothingface', but the music is good. The band's performance is tight, and this may be Denis Belanger's greatest vocal performance in Voivod's history.

Despite the concise nature of the songwriting, I do find this to be Voivod's biggest grower album, and it's precisely for the fact that it is so mellow, when compared to the rest. There's no 'in your face' attitude or proggy vibe here, just songs, and for a band who would have me constantly guessing at what new exciting things would be coming the listener's way, that can be a big adjustment. Although I didn't find myself liking it all too much at the beginning, 'Angel Rat' is a greatly written album that fits snugly into the middle of Voivod's golden years.