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pivotal release - perfect balance - 100%

foodified, December 9th, 2004

Nearly a decade and a half of my listening to this, Voivod's greatest moment, has put into perspective the band's future as well as its past. "Nothingface" acts as the logical culmination of everything the group had been leading up to, both stylistically and conceptually, with every previous release. This the the triumph of technology, the Voivod's ultimate plotline set to the cold, mechanical sounds found within the grooves (but, in all fairness, this album honestly sounds much better and more refined on CD). Gone are the warm tones displayed on "Dimension Hattross" and "Killing Technology" as everything about the production on "Nothingface" implies images of seemingly lifeless machines creating an album by simply going about their daily tasks of digging, mining, processing, devouring and expelling. Finally, the most forward thinking band in Metal had reached the apex of its orbit. So what can a band do at this point? Well, it can fall back to Earth or explore the more distant reaches. Voivod, thankfully, chose the latter and, as a result, we have the brilliant pieces that are "Angel Rat" and "The Outer Limits." But that's the subject of another discussion. The point is that "Nothingface" served as both a stopping point and a launchiing pad and is very much the pivotal point in Voivod's career.
Despite the music being more streamlined than on previous efforts, the sound is far from accessible upon first listen. Repeated spins, however, reveal real substance and plenty of hauntingly memorable moments, whether in the form of punctuated rhythmic patterns, spidery guitar lines or off-kilter vocal melodies. Some deft interplay between the musicians allows Piggy to turn riffs at right angles and still maintain a smooth, linear flow to the songs. While many of the rhythms are punchy and contorted, they never feel herky-jerky, but instead deliver a pulsing drive like that of a self-propelled factory assembly line. In fact, this album asserts an industrial feel without actually becoming Industrial Music (or, worse, Industrial Metal). This is coupled with the fact that Snake's vocals seem to be emmanating from an observational automaton programmed with just enough emotion to know when to sound distressed at the unusual happenings in the alien world it inhabits. His monotonous, yet strangely melodic, delivery intones some of his most cryptic, though thoroughly memorable, lyrics to date.
I have a difficult time giving any album a perfect score of 100 and, even now, I'm trying to justify this release's score in my mind (it would be a foregone conclusion to rate this as high as 99, but, given a certain other review's low opinion, I'm going to opt for the ultimate equalizer). It's sufficient to say that "Nothingface" redefined the way I heard music, much less Metal, and that's saying a lot more than any numeric rating can convey.
It's worth mentioning that the hard-to-find MCA/Mechanic version of this CD comes with a fantastic 12-panel fold out booklet that serves as a nice band photo/poster on one side while the flip offers lyrics and an illustration corresponding to each song. The Noise version, however, is sorely lacking in this department and, on top of that, the very first note of "Into My Hypercube" is mysteriously missing.