Review by Rick Ossian
Voivod hail from Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada, and were founded early in 1983. The boys in the band are Snake on vocals,Chewy on guitar, Away on drums, and Rocky on bass (though Blacky is listed as their current bassist since ’08). According to their Facebook bio, they play “thrash, futurist, avant-garde, experimental metal“. Now THAT is a mouthful. Upon first listen to their latest, Target Earth, I would say that I have to agree for the most part. Their list of influences was long enough to dissuade me from listing them here (go to their FB page if you’re interested), though I’ve lumped in a few of my own comparisons along the way! To me they embody the best elements of punk, thrash, prog, metal, and even a bit of psych here and there. Let us delve into some tunes, then, shall we?
The title track is a rhythmic chugging riff-fest, and meets somewhere between punk angst and prog bluster. It is full of shifting time signatures and shouting choruses (‘Be afraid/You can die/Far away/You will die!’) There are some stop-time moments here also, and some moments quirky enough to perhaps give you pause. Keep listening if you dare, things get a bit stranger in the middle grooves! I was reminded of Frank Zappa, oddly enough. Towards the end of this number you will find some sweet bass licks and then a brief fling at a guitar solo. This tune is street gang tough, and hence an appropriate way to start off their latest.
I am digging the lyrics on track #2, Kluskap Okom (‘I kept running in the woods/As fast as the ancients could/Could not fight these kinds of beasts/Who live for gigantic feasts‘). This one begins life with a weird vocal intro, then slams you to the back of your seat before you know what hit you! There are some angry moments on this tune (about a minute in or so), and it careens somewhere between the old school space punk of Hawkwind and the decibel damage of the mighty Motörhead. There are chugging chops in the background again, as well as some cool downtime funky grooves, and a notable jam at about 2:20.
Empathy For the Enemy may fool you at first with its sitar-esque intro, but about 30 seconds in we find ourselves being slammed by riffage and a shift (1:00) in gears. This is punky prog again, in my opinion, and though I bridle a bit at pigeon-holing groups, these cats sound like war-torn, year-worn 70’s classic heavy metal/hard-rockers, maybe even a bit of Alice Cooper thrown into the vocal mix. Another shift in the time-space musical continuum (2:00) finds us wondering and wandering at the same time. However, as we will see AND hear, we are brought back to reality and Riff City at around th3 4:15 mark. More distinct riffing and vocals bring things to a close about five and a half minutes in.
Mechanical Mind has, of all things, a movie house music intro! Then, of course, after about 30 seconds, we get slammed again. The vocals are sort of punky, but the music is more like a sludgy metal, à la Sleep or even the Butthole Surfers on downers, if you will! Strange stuff here, lots of twists and turns. Then, at 3:20, we find ourselves back in Riff City (a destination you will find here again), followed by some strange vocal sequencing. At 4:30 there is more riffage, and at 4:50 there is a guitar solo. Some of the musical passages here smacked of Rush or even Fates Warning, or Hawkwind again, perhaps Levitation-era or thereabouts.
The Hawks-style vibe continues on the tune Resistance. There is a big riff opening here, and some funkier metal to follow. Snake seems to be channelling Alice Cooper again, or maybe even one of the punk cats from the earlier 70’s (Ramones? Sex Pistols, anyone?). Lots of general riffage ensues, and a nice jam (2:45), followed by a superbly shredding guitar solo. At 4:40 there is some magick industrial metal noise, shortly routed by a spacey section (6:00) to the close.
Warchaic is a 7-minute behemoth with a creepy drum and bass intro. It begins life as sort of a bluesy tune, then morphs into a heavy metal kicker with tortured vocals. A good jam at about the 2-minute mark. It is mainly space-prog mixed with punk. Riff City comes up on our map again at 2:40, followed by more strange time signatures. Vocally I was reminded of Alice again. At 4:40, there is a guitar solo, and the drummer appears to be singularly busy throughout. The bass licks at the end remind us of this ‘New world/Brand new world‘, and begin to let us see why perhaps the guitar solos are shorter than the neat basslines we keep hearing…
Kaleidos, meanwhile, is unwrapped and punky, but still mostly linear rock, for lack of a better term. There are some trippy vocal and musical passages here. For the most part, this track sounds as if it is riding off the rails at breakneck speed with devil-may-care punk(ish) rock. Mouthful, eh? At 2:20 Riff City comes into view again in our headlights, and again there is lots of shifting of time signatures. A frenetic pace keeps up throughout, and at 2:50 there is some phasing/echo FX work on the guitar. Excellent guitar work overall, and another big jam at the 4:40 mark.
Corps Etranger is, at 4:35, one of the shorter tunes on board here, and starts life with a bluesy guitar intro. At about 1 minute in we realize we’ve been duped again, as stomping guitar and drums go triple time with some Riff City jamming! There is a sky punk vocal going on over the top of everything, and at 2 minutes we get our signature time shift again. There is some dissonant/out-of-tune guitar sequencing going on, and at 3 minutes in I was reminded of the Butthole Surfers again! Serious riffage leads us to the end of this all-too-short tune.
Artefact features a spacey intro with a bizarre HM kick-in at about 30 seconds (familiar, right?). More dissonance and derangement follow, and the guitar and drums are absolutely going off at this point! At 2 minutes there is a digging shift change and more powerful riffage, then another at the 3:25 mark. One last time signature change occurs at 4:30, then a chugging train sequence at 5:45. I was reminded of Nine Inch Nails, of all groups!
Last, but not least, is the short (but super-sweet) Defiance, which a kind of Sabbath-style sludge with a few bass stabs about 35 seconds in. Is this what happens at the end of the heavy metal world? A germ of an idea, but is it, indeed, a tune? To be continued, perhaps? We shall see…