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The Hellish Peak of Voivod's Thrash Period! - 94%

razorfistforce, December 28th, 2012

It would seem quite a tall order for a band to follow-up a debut LP as brilliant as Voivod's 1984 "War And Pain" LP. However, Voivod, hailing from Quebec, exploded onto the nascent thrash metal scene through the underground network of tape-traders with their legendary "To The Death" Demo from early '84 which featured 15 tracks (including three covers) of uncompromisingly raw, unique, hardcore influenced, thrash metal. From this amazing demo(the band were extremely young, mainly spoke French, and had only been together for a year) came the tracks which would make up their stunningly original debut "War And Pain" LP and even "The Helldriver", a track which would make it onto their raging follow-up to "War And Pain", 1986's "Rrroooaaarrr" LP. Their December 1984 "Morgoth Invasion" Demo would include another four tunes destined for "Rrrooaaarrr". So already by the end of 1984, a year which featured the release of their debut masterpiece "War And Pain" LP, Voivod already had over half of their second album written and ready to go.

1984 was an absolutely pivotal year in the history of thrash/speed metal, with Slayer and Metallica beginning to take the world by storm, Germany's Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator laying the foundation for a tremendous national scene which would quickly have international implications, and Swiss maniacs Hellhammer (whose brief '83-'84 existence morphed into the legendary group Celtic Frost in late '84) unleashed a controversial, seething mass of chaotic speed, raw noise, and hellishly heavy but simple riffs known as the "Apocalyptic Raids" EP in addition to having a song featured on the fifth volume of the ongoing Metal Blade Records sponsored compilation series "Metal Massacre". But the most vital release of 1984 came from a wild bunch of Canadians known as Voivod (who also had a track featured on that infamous fifth volume of "Metal Massacre"), their debut LP "War And Pain".

Never has the cover art of a band (in Voivod's case all drawn by their hugely talented drummer Away) so perfectly conveyed the style, sound, and vibe of the music contained on the record within the LP jacket. Both "War And Pain" and "Rrroooaaarrr" featured album covers depicting a bleak land with a blood red sky (probably called Morgoth), perpetually at war, ground to dust beneath the iron treads of spike covered, armour plated, barbwire wrapped, post-apocalyptic, skeletal-cyborg controlled machines of death, on a mission of technological annihilation and existential doom. This imagery fit perfectly with Voivod's vivid lyrics and highly unique sound which featured the snarling, heavily accented vocals of Snake, the inimitable tone of guitarist Piggy's hand-made, one of a kind guitar, the grinding, distorted to the max (like a cross between the bass tone of Discharge's "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing" LP, Venom, and Motorhead) bass guitar of Blacky, and finally, the double-bass assault of drum monster Away. Voivod ranged from high-speed thrash to hardcore inspired raging (similar to Milwaukee's Die Kruezen crossed with aforementioned UK legends Discharge), to spaced out, stoner soundscapes of pure guitar insanity to riffage as heavy as the heaviest brews of Black Sabbath. In short, Voivod in total sounded unlike anything before or since(that has existed on this planet).

Which brings us to Voivod's legendary cult classic "Rrroooarrr" LP from 1986 (released on German label Noise Records). Those expecting a continuation of "War And Pain" got their wish, but also maybe a bit more than they had bargained for! This album would be Voivod's fastest, rawest, most brilliantly chaotic album. Expanding on all the elements which made "War And Pain" so unique, Voivod would also introduce new elements (such as odd time-signatures, manic tempo changes, and challenging structural and rhythmic arrangements) which would be explored in much greater detail on '87's "Killing Technology" LP and '88's "Dimension Hatross" LP.

The album starts with the classic "Korgull The Exterminator". This blazing fast tune perfectly sets the stage for what is to follow, giving samples of nearly everything "Rrroooaaarrr" had to offer (all in the span of just under 5 minutes). Beginning with an awesome double-bass driven build-up, and rad guitar work, by the time Snake's vocals kick in the listener is already headbanging. This tune features an awesome bridge section which leads to a raging fast break featuring some serious shredding from Piggy. This raging speed continues and is eventually joined by some of the fastest double bass of the period (possibly ever-discounting today's computer-based triggered drums). Tremendously heavy tempo-changes and Snake's snarling and startlingly sincere and vicious vocals also help make this tune a Voivod classic. It ends with the same riff section which started the song and leads to the ending which features huge wafts of reverb turning it into a virtual soundscape of metallic power.

Track two is the hardcore inspired (at least lyrically) tune "Fuck Off And Die". This song keeps the speed limit non-existent as it rages and writhes like a rat chewing on electrical wiring. This song is proof that you don't need triggers to achieve super-fast double bass action...You need talent! Away's drumming is just phenomenal in its speed and heaviness. The bridge leading to the classic chorus is quite dynamic featuring some innovative guitarwork with a unique nearly dischordant sound. The song ends with a total thrash-out including a wild solo and another go around of the chorus.

Track three "Slaughter In A Grave" is a bona fide thrash classic featuring Voivod at their best. It begins with a killer mid-tempo segment which is a headbanging delight and a chorus with a huge groove. Throughout, Away keeps the double-bass assault constant, but this song never breaks into high speed thrashing-it just rocks! A great solo featuring huge waves of reverb is the centerpiece of the tune and Snake's vocals are just perfect! This is a song that Venom wished they had written! A true classic. Next up is the ferocious and aptly titled "Ripping Headaches". This one's raging from the start with Snake's manic vocals adding to the feeling of being on a rollercoaster about to go off the rails...The chorus is a super-heavy break from the thrashing verses with Snake delivering the lines in a punchy, very hardcore manner. Piggy's solo is noisy and chaotic and Snake does his best Cronos impression, ranting and raving ad libs beneath the chaos. This high-speed machine ends very abruptly and quite heavily.

The fifth track is simply titled "Horror" and begins with a tap solo which leads into colossal pieces of riffage. This song is supremely heavy while also very raw and noisy. At the 2:20 mark their is an awesome (but too brief) soundscape solo which leads into a ferociously fast thrash section featuring some of Piggy's most off-the-rails soloing before the song reverts to the grindingly heavy, double-bass-laden riffage from earlier in the tune. This is brief however, as before you can catch your breath the tempo gets kicked up once again for a brief but raging thrash to the finish. Next up is one of the album's highlights, "Thrashing Rage". Despite its title the tune begins with a series of ultra heavy, machine-gun styled riffs. This opening segment was quite innovative as you hear these same riffs (or variations of them) in countless death metal tunes(and even some b.s. moshcore, "nu-metal" garbage)throughout the 90's and to the present. This crushingly heavy intro leads to some serious double-bass thrashing of the highest quality. Total Voivod, this tune has that great bleak vibe which made "War And Pain" so unique. As the song progresses it begins to sound more like the material Voivod would unleash on their next album, '87's "Killing Technology". The song gets quite technical, and even proto-death metal at times when out of the blue a rad mid-tempo groove arises to take us to the end. A truly killer tune! "Rrroooaaarrr" is one of those albums that just keeps getting better and better the more you listen to it and even throughout the course of the album. While it was not designed to play like one musical piece composed of inter-connected songs like "War And Pain" (albeit unintentionally ended up doing), it really rides on the strength of each individual track, rather than the collective sum. Track seven is an example of the power of "Rrroooaaarrr's" individual tracks. With roots all the way back to the "To The Death" Demo tape of early '84, "The Helldriver" is a perfectly honed Voivod classic. It begins with a huge headbanging mid-tempo groove over which Snake just has a ball delivering the song's rad lyrics. This track has a very creative and catchy chorus and features an awesome guitar solo which begins as a kind of "riff solo". After the solo we return to the monster swing of the verse groove and hit the chorus one last time before the song ends with an explosion of reverb and feedback. Without a doubt one of my favorite Voivod tunes and one of the album's best.

"The Helldriver" is followed by another Voivod classic "Build Your Weapons". This tune, like "Korgull The Exterminator" has a little bit of everything. It has riffs galore, killer tempo-changes, some of Snake's most intense vocals, and thrash for miles...It begins with Snake's clarion call to "Build Your Weapons!" before kicking into an up-tempo, double bass driven assault which grinds on like the machine on the album's cover. This multi-part tune feature SO many awesome riffs it's truly amazing! Piggy lets loose with a savage but enjoyable solo after which a fantastic bridge section follows before a second brief solo which is followed by the classic verse riffage and another go around at the chorus. A complex but VERY fun song which epitomizes thrash-era Voivod. After the mostly mid-tempo thrashing of "Build Your Weapons", the album ends with the truly blistering finale "To The Death". This was the perfect choice of tune to end "Rrroooaaarrr" with. Beginning with a totally rad and extremely dark and dischordant guitar intro with reverbed cymbal (a gong maybe?)accompaniment, the song starts with a monstrously heavy and grinding double-bass segment which almost as soon as it's begun disappears in a explosion of raging fast thrashing madness. Arguably the fastest Voivod tune ever. This is early extreme metal at its most chaotic, raw, and finest. Despite the high-speeds this tune has a super-catchy but very brief chorus which rises above the thrashing verses like an oasis. The second half of the song features an awesome technical breakdown which is VERY much ahead of its time, during which Snake sings in a manner almost like his vocals on "Nothingface"! This middle section is truly fascinating in that it offers a glimpse into the future of Voivod's sound. It is followed by a raging fast solo segment which almost degenerates into soundscape before the songs ends in a maelstrom of whammy bar, reverb, feedback, and noise. Just awesome!

So there you have it. Some fans were turned off by the production of "Rrroooaaarrr" and considered it way too raw and noisy. While the album is certainly much rawer than "War And Pain", I've always thought the production (knob-jobbed by the band and Michael Amstadt who recorded the album at L'Autre Studio in Montreal between October 11th and November 17th, 1985) was perfectly fitting for the material, which being in general more extreme than most of the "War And Pain" material, needed a more extreme production. I've always advised people to try listening to "Rrroooaaarrr" with a good pair of headphones. Also, if possible find this album on LP or cassette as there is a certain warmth and power, especially at the bottom end of the spectrum, which has never quite came through via CD ("Rrroooaaarrr" needs to be remastered in the same manner as "War And Pain"). But back to the production. There is a surprising amount of separation and clarity between instruments and quite a few subtle but very unique effects present in the production. I've also advised listeners to take a few puffs of the green stuff before listening to the album (or any Voivod album). This was thrash metal made by stoners...Now certainly, you can listen to the album sober. The music itself is such that it will alter your mind in a manner that no drug can ever match. So if you're a fan of thrash/speed metal but haven't heard Voivod (or maybe never heard the thrash-period Voivod albums), they are an essential addition to your collection and life! They are truly one of the most original, daring, and intelligent bands in the history of extreme music. So pick up "War And Pain" and "Rrroooaaarrr" and enter the land of Morgoth....