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“When the Voivod Awakens…” - 99%

bayern, April 9th, 2019

“When the Voivod Awakens…”; to those who haven’t happened to read this ancient legend, I can tell you what happens right now; first, the Voivod will kick Kraken’s ass, this ridiculous over-hyped mythical monster; and then… the album here will happen. And that’s pretty much it but I know you can’t be disappointed cause where can one possibly go from here? Literally?

Exactly; just when you thought that the band hit their ultimate target with “Target Earth” comes this marvel to make you think again… I mean, how many times can a band re-invent themselves? Once, probably twice… well, it turns out that in the Voivod camp the wheel never stops spinning, and it seems to me that the inertia it has accumulated at present would suffice to not only awake the mere mortal, but to also bring him/her to the threshold of full illumination…

I’m sure Piggy (R.I.P.) smiles widely from somewhere up there, infinitely content with the upward trajectory his comrades have been riding as of late… and to think that the guys are just waking up. A tidal wave… sorry, wake is witnessed here, showing the band in all their dissonant spacey glory to which there can be no better summation than "Obsolete Beings", a belligerent lively march, vintage late-80’s Voivod with the edgy thrashy guitars, the psychedelic walkabouts, the dissonant rhythmic bounces, and the obligatory stylistic surprises like the excellent quiet balladic exit. More restless quietudes (the semi-balladic hypnotizer "The End of Dormancy") can be come across later, but the latter can only be a side-dish with more futuristic aggression served by the “Dimension Hatross” leftover "Orb Confusion", and by the jumpy neurotic thrasher "Iconspiracy" which even has the temerity to throw in an operatic keyboard-infused passage at some stage, a very unexpected but truly stylish touch.

Yeah, anything is possible in the Voivod camp including the introduction of a nearly 8-min patiently-woven doomy dirge ("Spherical Perspective"), and a totally unexpected rude awakening smacked in the second half of it to bang all the heads around. A wide smile on everyone’s face after this contrasting but totally compelling delight, one that would probably become bigger once the jumpy jazzy "Event Horizon" has passed, the immaculately-polished machine moving on with "Always Moving", an eclectic spastic thrashorama interrupted by bouts of lyrical atmospheric poignancy, all nuances compatible and disparate rolling into one big "Sonic Mycelium", the 12.5-min encyclopaedic closer which deftly sums up the preceding parade with hard psychotic thrashing, jazzy/funky digressions, labyrinthine configurations, more quiet etudes, and more… much more.

The always reliant Serpent… sorry, Snake behind the mike doesn’t twist and turn in all directions but emits his dispassionate, clinically articulate antics with his staple equanimity, pitching it authoritatively here and there, but only when such more attached interference is absolutely necessary. Stunning, stunning stuff and listening to it makes me even guiltier for denouncing the band early in the new millennium as the first three outings didn’t quite rock my boat with the docile rock-ish vaudevilles the guys had settled on those. Certainly, I knew that the time of the negatrons and the phoboses was over, but I couldn’t believe that they had fully depleted their arsenal of killing technologies… but then they rose, hitting a target after target, unflinchingly, determinedly, dealing with the naysayers in a calculated methodical manner… until the time was ripe for this grand sophisticated, civilized awakening… boom.

Did the scene really need it? You bet it did; with the old school resurrection movement slowly but surely switching on autopilot, long since having reached its zenith, something had to occur in order to stir the gradually subsiding spirits and to show them that no, it’s not over yet, and there are some veterans out there who still have a few tricks up their sleeves, solid time-proven psychedelic dissonant, spaced-out tricks that would carry the audience away until every single fan joins this cosmic magical dance, sometimes swaying in quiet unison, sometimes headbanging in reckless abandon, sometimes nodding vehemently in awe-inspiring appreciation… and sometimes looking hesitant at these psychedelic mushrooms tucked away on the shelf up there:

“Shall I take some of those to enhance this already fairly mind-bending trip? Nah, no need really; I guess I’ll give this wonder one more spin instead; then one more, then one more… in fact, I’ll skip work today so I can fully enjoy this gift. Such gifts simply don’t come easy nowadays…” Exactly.

Back to the guys’ homeland, first to congratulate them for the richly deserved Canadian Grammy Award they received for Best Metal Album of 2018 (Yeeeaaaah!), and second to wrap it on with an excerpt from a song by their compatriots Triumph from their album “Surveillance” (1987), this brilliantly cheesy and infectiously memorable piece titled “On and On”:

“On and on it goes
Where it stops nobody knows
On and on it goes
Round and round and it won't slow down.”

A perfect summation; and it can’t be any other way now that the Voivod has awakened… where the next chapter from the Voivod saga will take us that nobody knows; and nobody really cares… we will march along, trusting and confident, with brave assured strides…

on and on and on.

In the Name of Progress(ive Thrash) - 85%

hardalbumreview, December 19th, 2018

Many years after their War and Pain debut in 1984, these Canadian old timers still have an ace up their sleeves to take you all by surprise. They are back with more thrash-prog (or prog-thrash) and this time they just hit home. Their fourteenth studio album is an example for fellow thrashers of the ‘80s and a lesson for the newbies.
Like many of their previous releases (Nothingface 1989, The Outer Limits 1993, Killing Technology 1986 or Dimension Hatröss 1988) they have preserved a techy, psi-fi touch, both modally and content-wise, containing similar themes and motifs, strolling within the same realm and painting an analogous auditory picture. Moreover, this offering can be regarded as the continuation, or I would rather say escalation, of their previous work, Target Earth (2013).

The album, head to toe, has a chiefly cynical attitude towards its mostly apocalyptic and futuristic motifs. It begins with Obsolete Beings, a reproval of the ensnarement of our modern life by the social media and commodification of human lives. This malicious message is well transferred through the use of sinister-sounding guitars (particularly the solo section) and the sound effects of factories and production lines in the background of the ending of this song.

More of these atmospheric sounds, which help the listener to fully grasp the ambience that the musicians and the lyricist(s) have strived to convey in musical notes and words, can be found here and there on various tracks – from the ominous cinematic expressions on Orb Confusion, to a 2001-a-space-odessey-esque ending drums on The End of Dormancy, from the “spacey” sound effect of Spherical Perspective to the dark samples used on “Always Moving”; and add to this the string quartet on Iconspiracy, as an instance.

All this playing around with other auditory tools and samples falls way behind the musicianship and jaw-dropping skills on the side of the ones behind instruments. Chewy on guitars and Away on drums do a superb job and deliver the heavy, technical (but not heavily technical) experience so the maximum pleasure effect. But what stand atop is the damn solid, meaty bass poundings of Dominique “Rocky” Laroche, the new name in the band. He has a hell of an introduction, a true superhero landing, if I may borrow a term from the silver screen. It was a wise decision of the band members and the producer of course to allow bass to be heard on almost all the songs and not to cover it under layers upon layers of other instruments. To me, this decision and its outcome was the highlight of the album.

There is one track, however, that sums up the whole album in a 12-minute-and-24-second nut-shell. This closure (Sonic Mycelium) puts together bits and pieces of other songs in an innovative and novel fashion and brings to the surface everything that you might have passed unnoticed throughout the album.

Overall, if you think the old-timers have had it enough and you have given up hope on the stars of the past, you sure have missed this high-ranker of 2018. The best person to have described this offering might be the drummer, Michel “Away” Langevin, who said the music of this album to be “a futuristic prog thrash metal trek”. Bullseye!

Rating:
Lyrics: 8.0
Artwork: 9.0
Musicianship: 9.0
Vocals: 8.0
Overall: 8.5

The Perfect Auralganism - 100%

autothrall, November 30th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 2CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

That a band could experience a career Renaissance almost four decades into their career is a rare enough phenomena, but I'm not sure I've experienced one quite to the extent that Voivod has been taking it. Even further, this newfound era of excellence came at the emotional nadir for the band, having lost long-time guitar anomaly Piggy. As it turned out, Mr. D'Amour had chosen the absolute best individual on earth to replace him in Daniel 'Chewy' Mongrain. The subsequent release of Target Earth in 2013 proved that there would be no stopping the Canadians, implementing a style very loyal to the band's legacy, but unafraid to throw a few new ingredients into the mix. After that, 2016's Post Society EP improved upon the writing even further, and now we have arrived at 2018, the proper sophomore for this full new lineup (Rocky taking over for Blacky on bass)...

...and the first perfect score I'm giving to a metal album since 2010. The first perfect score I'm giving to a Voivod album since the 1987-89 trifecta that I consider a hallmark of music, period. The Wake is such a polished, seasoned, inspired record that it seems as if these four have been playing together since that early 80s period in which the group formed. Now, when I said 'Renaissance' earlier, I did not mean to imply that the band had been experiencing much of a slump. In fact, I wouldn't say they ever had...Negatron might have been the low point for me, when they were transitioning to a three piece with Eric on vocals, but that was far from a 'bad' album, and even then they rebounded quite nicely with the interesting followup Phobos. Some fans despised the 'Rock-vod' years which started with Jason Newsted's tenure in the band, and ended with Piggy's failing health, but I happen to enjoy all three of the records of that era as fun, catchy driving tunes. No, when I say 'Renaissance', I mean these last five years have been an escalation from that phase back to their late 80s greatness and perhaps even beyond if they stay this course.

Stylistically, The Wake hearkens back to the 1988-1993 stretch, fusing the high science fictional concepts of Hatröss and Nothingface with the accessible, cleaner, prog-friendly presentations of Angel Rat and The Outer Limits. That's not to claim that these eight tunes are radio-ready singles, in fact they each possess quite a lot of depth, but that is achieved directly through the writing and musicianship, not through some obscure, raw approach to the production like the unnerving cover artwork might imply. The guitars are as clear, punchy and potent as ever, whether jamming along speedier little thrash licks, somber, bluesier moments or crystalline lead harmonies. The bass lines are entirely flush with Blacky's style, groovy and thick with just the right level of distortion on them so as not to give the listener a headache. If anything, Rocky handles the instrument with even more agility and progression than his able predecessor. Snake's vocals are among the best I've ever heard, with a lot of variation between his drugged out, psychedelic cleans and then an array of grainier growls or snarls that help diversify the stories being conveyed through the lyrics. Away's drums range from a patient, tribal bliss to the more hectic techniques the band launches into once they get heavier.

Even the occasional synthesized bits here sound fantastic, lending ambiance and mood to the busier instrumentation. Reverb and other effects are tactfully applied to vocal lines or guitars so that the listener feels as if he's floating through some derelict asteroid field or abandoned spacecraft, and the 'alien' aesthetics that Voivod first introduced through earlier efforts like Rrröööaaarrr, Killing Tech and Hatröss feel as fresh and innovative to me now as they did when I was a teenager. What's more, the band is clearly trying new ideas here...such as the soaring, memorable leads in the belly of "Sonic Mycelium", to which the backing rhythm guitars are splayed out in staccato patterns that almost feel like the band was using them as orchestration. Or the cybernetic psychedelics of the vocal patterns in "Always Moving" before they switch off to those guitars. Creating an album which is 100% loyal to their own history and yet still surging forward, somewhere, is no mean feat in this day and age, and the genius here is that The Wake is an album I think might thrill stubborn hold-outs who adhere only to the group's 80s discography, while still reaping in newer, younger admirers from many other realms of the progosphere.

The lyrics are quite good, nothing too impenetrable perhaps, like the story of Nothingface, but possessive of a similar scope of a personal perspective set against some cataclysmic singularity which forces humanity to awaken itself to the greater universal society around them. I'd also like to add that the double disc Digipak I'm covering also includes the entire Post Society EP, which I've covered elsewhere but is almost equally stunning as the newest material. So that's a pretty good bonus if you missed that release, although this obviously lacks the great packaging that had. The artwork in this version is good and freaky, although there isn't a lot of it, instead the lyrics and photos are presented simply and clearly, almost as if they wanted a minimal aesthetic to defy the spiraling chaos and creepiness of the front cover. There are a half dozen live cuts also added after the EP, but these all sound pretty grainy. Hardly a critical component of the release, but since they're just dressing on the bonus CD, their presence doesn't detract.

The Wake is an album with no real, discernable highlights, because EVERY SECOND is a highlight. There is not a single note or syllable I would want differently. I would not sift through this for any one individual song, as they are all equally compelling. A 56 minute trip I'm willing to take at almost any moment. I feel a profound joy that I get to be a living, breathing organism in a time of human history when I get to hear something like this. The first few times I was listening, as I was sorting through Magic the Gathering cards at one of my day jobs, hypnosis was immediately induced. Certainly the frenetic, fragmented picking and clever, swerving bass grooves of "Orb Confusion", or the roiling anger and aggression of "Iconspiracy" might 'pop' from the framework of The Wake more than some of their neighbors, but really this is a Court of the Crimson King or Tales from Topograhic Oceans for me. I didn't come here for a quick burst of exhilaration, but for a profound experience, an escape to a place I can't touch with my fingers, only my brain.

This is the best album I've heard this year in any genre.
Voivod is the best band on Earth.
Fuck off nowadays jock metal.
The nerds win.
We were always going to.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

This Is What Happens When You Know Too Much - 95%

Twisted_Psychology, October 4th, 2018

Nobody should be surprised that Voivod’s fourteenth full-length The Wake is this excellent. After all, 2013’s Target Earth and 2016’s Post Society EP proved that the Quebec prog legends could produce fresh material that lived up to classics like Dimension Hatröss and Nothingface. Truth be told, The Wake offers much of that same quirky tech thrash, but the stakes were raised somewhere between releases. If its immediate predecessors were tentative first steps toward a new beginning, then this is where the band truly flings itself from the nest.

With original bassist Blacky gone (again) and a fellow named Rocky in his place, it’s seemingly all up to guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain to engineer that signature Voivod sound. Fortunately, he assumes command fantastically with a slew of deceptively catchy riffs, choppy rhythms, clean atmospherics, and disorienting solos all delivered in bright, high-pitched dissonance. The bass could stand to be a bit higher in the mix, but it provides many of the same tricks.

Of course, the two original members don’t slouch either. Away’s blend of punk, metal, and jazz drumming is as reliable as ever, but vocalist Snake is the album’s other main MVP. In addition to not being as overwhelmed by the guitars, his lines are among the most developed and emotive of his career. He still isn’t the most technically impressive singer out there, and his robotic sneer remains omnipresent, but his performance could hardly be called one dimensional. Those not sold on him before will still consider him an acquired taste, but longtime fans are sure to appreciate the enhancement.

But even with the energized band chemistry, the orchestral inclusions are what truly make The Wake stand out from every other Voivod album. They truly add to the songs’ various moods as the high speeds of “Iconspiracy” get more intense, the plodding march on “Always Moving” adds more dissonance, and the twelve minute “Sonic Mycelium” encompasses the album’s various themes with extra grandiosity. Considering Voivod has always had more Stravinsky tinges than your average metal group, it’s surprising that a move like this wasn’t made sooner.

Thinking of The Wake as Voivod’s best album runs the risk of hyperbole, but it is easily one of the band’s grandest achievements. It strikes the perfect balance of emulating their classic style while still offering fresh elements, and the band dynamic is tight despite only featuring two original members. This is an album that should be appreciated by any listener whether they’ve never listened to Voivod before, lost track of them in the 90s, or have been there every step of the way. Truly a model example for both old and new bands to follow.

Highlights:
“Obsolete Beings”
“The End of Dormancy”
“Orb Confusion”
“Sonic Mycelium”

Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com

The wonders mankind can accomplish - 100%

kluseba, September 29th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records

Voivod's The Wake is one of the very best records I have ever heard in my life and easily the greatest record in the band's already stunning career. The Wake is progressive yet accessible. It's heavy yet psychedelic. It's melodic yet aggressive. It's complex yet concise. It features the band's trademarks yet enters new territory.

The four musicians have excellent chemistry. The drums are precise like clockwork. The bass guitar is domineering and technically impressive. The guitar riffs are out of this world as they don't only equal but surpass original guitarist Piggy's legendary style. The vocals are more diversified than ever, meandering from harmoniously soothing passages to desperate screams. The group even added string sections to a few select songs that blend in perfectly as they give the record a cinematic, epic and timeless touch.

The lyrics and concept are intriguing from start to finish. Voivod has written about loose concepts before but these eight songs here gel perfectly as they complement one another organically. The vibrant production does this complex musical accomplishment justice. The cover artwork is as hypnotizing as the music and typical for drummer Away's signature style. Everything fits on this album without any flaws.

People often try to compare Voivod's contemporary records to efforts from the early years. This doesn't work here. Voivod has accomplished something completely new which is a highly entertaining space metal journey with elements from all its different phases and new soundscapes that show an excitingly open-minded band.

Progressive thrash metal groups like Vektor get lots of attention and certainly deserve it but Voivod is on a different level, its very own level. I certainly don't want the quartet to retire anytime soon but if it did, it would leave on its highest possible note, with an incredible magnum opus that certainly deserves to be called this way. Voivod's The Wake is an album for the ages. If we ever had to send one single piece of art to an extraterrestrial society, to show it what wonders mankind can accomplish, I would send this record without a doubt.

Do you think I exaggerate? Go listen to this album from start to finish and tell me I'm wrong. If you don't have enough time for the whole experience, listen to magnificent album closer ''Sonic Mycelium'' that revisits and rearranges musical themes and lyrics from the seven preceding songs without ever getting redundant and making twelve and a half minutes sound as entertaining as it gets.

This is album of the year, album of the decade and maybe album of the century material.

Possibly the best Voivod album since Outer Limits - 91%

_MyNameIsShotgun_, September 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Century Media Records (Deluxe edition)

I've been looking forward to this release ever since I discovered Voivod through their early masterpieces. I was really jazzed when Century Media Records released the videos for Obsolete Beings, Iconspiricy and Always Moving earlier this year. Finally, I can talk about the album as a whole as it deserves.

First of all, let's discuss our newest member to the band, Rocky, or professionally known as Dominique Laroche. He has immense shoes to fill, especially considering this is his first full album with Voivod. Sadly, Blacky parted with the band after Target Earth, but Rocky does a fantastic job on bass here. Huge props to him. Also I'd like to mention Chewy, or Dan Mongrain. This is his second album with Voivod and he also has immense shoes to fill for the late Piggy (RIP). He blows all expectations out of the water. His riffs and solos are amazing and perfectly fit Voivod's and Piggy's style.

Snake, Jesus Christ, absolutely kicks ass on this record. He looks pretty rough and shows his age, but he still sounds fantastic. In the live version of Voivod on this album, he says, "I'm gonna sing till my last breath! Voivod is a family, we got to stick together like one..." Almost even better than his voice are his lyrics. He's talked about this album being a concept about a huge discovery that changes Earth for the future and how it affects people. So fucking cool, reminds me of Dimension Hatross. One of my favorite lyrics is the chorus on Obsolete Beings,

"Out of function, no longer used
And your model discontinued
Signs of the time are starting to show
So there you are, stacked on the shelf, you'll go!
There you are, smashed to pieces, you'll blow!
There you are... No more!"

Away does as he has always done, fill in the gaps in with his drumming. His fills and tempo are on point, nothing extraordinary, but absolutely nothing to complain about. The cover art is also really cool; it's a product of his new crude, cartoony, line art style. I don't know if he's in charge of the videos for the singles, but if so, those are perfect too.

Another high point of the record is the production, it's definately not perfect, but is a lot better than most modern bands. It isn't sludgy, or downtuned; it's kind of even a bit thin. The bass and drums are a bit quiet compared to the guitars, vocals, and effects, but still audible. Overall, pretty respectable. One thing I'd like to mention as well are the effects, synths and strings. Yes, strings on a Voivod album. The synths are reminiscent of Dimension Hatross and Nothingface, for example the intro to Obsolete Beings could have been lifted straight from Experiment. A few string sections appear here as well, a cool dramatic interlude similar to 2001 Space Oddessy in the middle of Iconspiricy and the fadeout on Sonic Mycelium.

Speaking of Sonic Mycelium, it's a really interesting song. It pretty much combines different parts of all the songs on the record. The intro is the last part of Obsolete Beings with the lyrics of Spherical Perspective; it's full of these types of mashups, and closes with a sprawling string section. Yet another point to cover here (my lord, this is a lot) is the pacing. Most of the songs on here are slower, almost like a poem being read or you're hearing the story from Snake himself. That being said, there are some faster songs (Obsolete Beings, Iconspiricy, Event Horizon, and Always Moving) and some faster sections in songs. The pacing fits the story and works well for a concept album such as this.

Hopefully, if you're reading this I haven't bored you to death, however this album certainly will not. All in all, The Wake is a shockingly good album for as long as Voivod have been around and I'll probably enjoy it well into the future.

To the Death! \m/

Extraterrestrial Adventures, The Prog Chapter - 91%

Agonymph, September 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 2CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, Mediabook)

After ‘Target Earth’ being much better than it had any right to be and the excellent ‘Post Society’ EP, Canadian sci-fi thrashers Voivod had a reputation to live up to. They proved that they could still write a song that their late guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour would be proud of. But could they continue his legacy in a satisfying manner? Hearing ‘The Wake’ leaves only one possible answer to that question: a resounding yes. Most impressively, Voivod decided not to lean back and release ‘Target Earth II’, instead treating us to an album that pushes their progressive tendencies to the fore.

Just like on ‘Target Earth’, Dan ‘Chewy’ Mongrain plays so many twisted dissonant chords and almost fusion-esque melodies that it’s barely noticeable that D’Amour is no longer there. The riff work is notably less thrashy though; ‘The Wake’ opts for a somewhat more spacious sound and therefore feels like the natural successor to ‘Nothingface’ or ‘The Outer Limits’ rather than ‘Killing Technology’. Every song feels like a little adventure on an extraterrestrial planet where anything can happen, without ever sounding as chaotic or busy as many of the other bands of the Québécois metal scene, as Michel ‘Away’ Langevin’s rhythms are generally laid-back rather than hyper aggressive.

It is interesting to see how every song unfolds, as many songs open with a riff that will claw its way to your brain and once the verse-chorus structure is established, the band moves into more experimental territory with a section that almost feels like a particularly tight jam. ‘Iconspiracy’ is the most notable instance of this, which after appearing to be one of the more intensely propulsive tracks on the record moves into an almost cinematic b-section with a string quartet, followed by what is arguably Mongrain’s best solo on the record. ‘The End Of Dormancy’ follows a similar path, forsaking conventional structures for an approach that builds riff upon riff.

Because of this approach, it is more difficult to pick highlights than it was on ‘Target Earth’, as ‘The Wake’ is best listened to in its entirity. It is impossible not to mention closing track ‘Sonic Mycelium’ in that context, however. It never feels quite as long as its running time of twelve and a half minutes, though it has a number of interesting shifts in mood and intensity. The track reprises several musical ideas that appeared earlier on the album with a completely different atmosphere and just when you think the returning string quartet concludes the album in a ‘Grand Fugue’-like fashion, Mongrain and bassist Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche return for the open ending.

For a band to be truly progressive, they’d have to try out new things without completely alienating their sound. That is exactly what Voivod does on ‘The Wake’. In a way, it is to ‘Target Earth’ what the holy diptych of ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and ‘Nothingface’ was to ‘Killing Technology’. Those who did not like the band before will probably still be unimpressed by the almost spacey atmosphere and the relatively montonous vocals of Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger, but anyone who loved the progressive sci-fi thrash Voivod got buried under justified praise for should be happy with how remarkably and weirdly good ‘The Wake’ really is.

Recommended tracks: ‘Always Moving’, ‘Sonic Mycelium’, ‘Spherical Perspective’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog