Voivod: out of space and time

That’s it: a new era begins for Voivod. The Canadians are done with the dusting, the restoration and the reconstruction of the last riffs and compositions of the missed guitarist Denis d’Amour, aka Piggy, who died in 2005 of cancer. These little treasures found on Piggy’s computer enabled the band to make two other albums. Two records which stand on their own, without any low-quality material in both of them, and prove how a prolific composer Piggy had been, besides the magic he held in his fingers.

« I think the page is being turned » said Denis Bélanger, aka Snake, the lead singer, at a time when the band was at a crossroads, after the “Infini” tour. It is obvious that a lot of questions went through the band’s mind before deciding anything about its future: « We asked ourselves that question when we were starting over, and there were a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ » », confessed Snake. It must be said that Voivod is a band with a unique sound and personality and this was due in particular to Piggy’s original playing style and his way to compose riffs or songs. Without Piggy, could Voivod stay Voïvod?

Often, it is the way that we feel things deep inside of us which brings the best answers to difficult choices. « Since we reformed with this line-up, we really enjoy doing what we do » stated Snake when asked about the tour’s line-up, before adding: « I think Piggy would’ve wanted us to keep on going, so that’s what we’re going. We don’t know how to do anything else than what we’re going so we might as well keep on going! » One cannot but notice that these concerts, done not only with bass player Jean-Yves Thériault, aka Blacky, back home after no less than 17 years, but also with a young guy (compared to the rest of the band) to replace the master, Dan Mongrain (aka Chewy, from the technical death metal band Martyr), have recreated a certain alchemy within Voivod.

An alchemy that can’t be denied when listening to Target Earth, the band’s new record, resolutely “voivodian”. More than that, Target Earth is both a break from Voivod (2003), Katorz (2006) and Infini (2009) and their rock/punk style and a trip back to the iconic years of 1988 – 1989. After all, Snake had said this a year ago to us when asked about how the next record would sound like: « I’m thinking more about albums like Dimension Hatross, Killing Technology, Nothingface. I think it’ll sound more like those rather than the latest ones which were more straight forward rock. We have some seven-minute songs with several musical parts, so there’s a link towards a Dimension Hatross album, a Killing Technology album or a Nothingface, so I think the fans of those albums will be positively surprised by the next one. » The bloke was damn right. Here’s Voivod, coming back to this sort of progressive thrash, with typical dissonant riffs and complex structures that extend the songs to 6 or 7 minutes and to these weird vintage sci-fi atmospheres and alien invasions.

It is surprising how the band’s managed to bring back the spirit that animated them at the end of the 80’s. It is less surprising if we look in detail what influenced this direction. « Dan (Mongrain) and Blacky write most of the structures » confessed Snake while the album was in the process of writing. It is certain that Blacky’s involvement was important. Voivoid’s historic bass player left the band after the Dimension Hätross – Killing Technology – Nothingface trilogy, and just before the release of Angel Rat (he recorded it nonetheless). Blacky’s « a really Voivodish guy in his art » said Snake and he’s definitely linked to these albums to which Target Earth echoes. You only have to listen to his bass lines to remember how important his role in the establishment of the “Voivod sound” was.

Dan Mongrain is the new guy of the band but he wasn’t selected by chance. One could already hear Voivod’s influence in his playing, while in Martyr. He is the leader of this band which covered “Brain Scan” from… Dimension Hätross ! An album which probably defines, for the most part, the sensibility based on technique, complex structures and unusual harmonies of the man who’s called now Chewy. However, his ability to blend in Voivod’s state of mind is quite stunning. For it is one thing to cover with respect and faithfulness songs that are part of history, but it is another thing to take over this history. Yet Chewy does that easily, not only with typical “voivodian” riffs but also with this dry, raw, “old school” guitar sound which is totally different from his death metal sound in Martyr. Even if he stands out from Piggy’s style, mainly with “jazzy” licks, Chewy shows obviously that he is Piggy’s disciple and the deep respect of the heritage that was given to him. « The first time I saw him, at the audition, I had chills running down my spine. I thought Piggy was next to me, it was unbelievable » said an astonished Snake. In this respect, we can imagine Chewy’s enthusiasm when firstly replacing live his idol, and then when the time came when he had to make his contribution for a band he adores. His energy and enthusiasm are palpable through the album ; this same energy, this same enthusiasm that brought the band to extend its limits at the end of the 80’s.

After the death of an important member of a band, worries and doubts concerning the future always appear, and if future there is, questions about continuing under the same name. With Target Earth, Voivod gives an unquestionable answer: Voivod’s spirit is intact. Without a doubt, the band was right to take its time before moving on for real: on the one hand, to end in dignity Piggy’s chapter and finish his work ; on the other hand, to strengthen the new line-up on stage for this new chapter.

Even if Piggy’s not of this world anymore, and that he didn’t participate for the first time to a Voivod album, his influence can be heard in every Target Earth nook. It is a work, out of our time, and reminds us, by the way, how a U.F.O Voivod is. What for a better tribute for their friend could they make by preserving his legacy while maintaining his vision and his sprit alive?

Target Earth, out since January 18th, 2013 via Century Media

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