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Warlords in Space - 93%

Acrobat, October 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Noise Records (Reissue)

I've always felt that it was a weird misnomer calling Voivod thrash (well, not always, I didn't come out of the womb with a copy of Dimension Hatross). Their music has some similarities, but it almost feels like Venn diagram - where did thrash meet Voivod rather than where did Voivod "do" thrash - stuff rather than setting out to "thrash". It's clumsy to put Voivod's music in words, though, especially on this album. Discharge in space via a heavy dose of King Crimson with Motorhead playing only "off" chords and notes? Yeah, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. I mean, recently I told a friend "I'm going to Leeds to see some French Canadian progressive metal band play a punk venue. Do you want to come?" His response was something along the lines of "No. Fuck Dream Theater" and I can't really blame him because it's hard to sum-up what Voivod do... but he does like The Mars Volta... so perhaps I can. At any rate, Voivod were and are something altogether otherworldly.

Intertwined with their strange sense of melody and odd voicings (in every sense of the word), are the images the band conjures. Isolated horror in distant parts of the galaxy, the bizarre cruelty of the Morgoth science hospital... all strange enough but then it's rendered in a manner that makes them seem, whilst comic, altogether more unsettling. Visually, it's as odd as the artwork itself; it's certainly no surprise that the only person capable of rendering Voivod's music in a visual manner was their drummer, Away. It's simultaneously urban and out-of-this-world. There's nothing quite like it. Voivod have that Motorhead-like quality wherein they simply play "Voivod music" and most of our attempts at explaining it don't do justice. It's clear that the band do show their hearts on their sleeves but to name their influences still does not do final justice to the strange hodgepodge produced.

The lion's share of the praise tends to be heaped upon Piggy and, while one would be foolish to undermine his efforts, it's clear that his comrades in arms still carry more than their weight. Snake is the perfect vocalist for this style; I assume his slightly "off" - a key phrase with Voivod - accent might add a lot to this and his English, while certainly good, is tinged with some of the interesting nuances of a non-native speaker which just adds even more character to this strange brew. Away is, simply put, a fantastic drummer; his greatest strength is that he plays like he's - understandably - really excited by the music going on around him. If you ever get the chance to see Voivod live, make sure to keep an eye on him; he's genuinely passionate about the stuff he's playing. Blacky has always been the John Entwitstle of the band; highly unorthodox and capable of stealing the show when needs be but also a natural bassist who always knew exactly what would best serve the song at that moment.

Piggy was, of course, a genius and it's just staggering to think that how four musicians of such bizarre and high caliber came together in a small Quebec town. His note choices are beyond perfect and his playing can bring to mind players as diverse as 'Fast' Eddie Clarke, Robert Fripp, Bones and East Bay Ray. He was the driver of this mad train; conducting where the others are still moving along. It was said that Piggy was the only "real" musician in Voivod at their start and, whilst I might debate just how "sloppy" War and Pain and Rrröööaaarrr really are, it's clear that the rest of the band has kind of "learnt" around him. Yes, Piggy taught and the others listened. His electric scalpel is certainly missed.

If I were to choose a favourite or, rather, a starting point; I'd choose 'Ravenous Medicine', which was a video but not a single (which makes perfect sense as Voivod's music is very well suited to visual interpretation but not usually taken as a stand-alone single entity). That said, this is really as close as Voivod got to a "single" in the 1980s (Angel Rat's Husker Du-esque 'The Prow' should have set alternative rock radio alight but that's another story). It's just a staggering piece, though; Discharge-esque propulsion combined with ominous, striking guitars. Its driving kinetic energy make it a hard task to stay still; it's nervous like a rat pumped full of amphetamine, locked in a cage and told that it has an important exam the next day.

Probably the finest Voivod album, if you wanted my thoughts (I assume you did by reading this far). Start here and then based on what you like - either the visceral force or the progressive tendencies - move either forward or backwards. All systems go!