Voivod – The Wake

[Century Media, 2018]

Intro: Tasos Poimenidis
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
06 / 12 / 2018

Voivod is a Canadian band which even though references are no use to them, it still seems to be one of the well-hidden secrets of the metal scene, accessible only to initiated listeners even up to this day. Naturally, the only reason for this is the intricate nature of their music. True, many seasoned listeners did embody many of their particular influences ranging from prog rock and punk to metal of their era. Bands like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Die Kreuzen, Van Der Graaf Generator, Discharge, Motorhead, Venom just to pick a few out of a pool of heterogeneous influences created a unique palette that Voivod tapped into to give birth to an original musical canvas and coined a technical/progressive thrash style where the Canadians are a class by themselves and nothing ever before or since is remotely close to what they have done.

In spite of the difficult first steps since excluding Dennis “Piggy” D’Amour the remaining three members were of limited musical capacity, they pulled off to evolve into one of the most intelligent and interesting bands in the metal scene, ever. With every album from Killing Technology onwards their progress and evolution was evident with regard both to performance and song-writing, with the aforementioned album together with Dimesion Hatross, Nothingface and The Outer Limits taking the cake of an outstanding discography. The Wake released in September is an addition to their long catalogue and it seems it will keep us engaged for a long time.


 

Forgotten in Space, They’re Not Alone

Right from the first song Obsolete Beings it becomes apparent that Voivod are in creative form. Dan “Chewy” Mongrain’s riffs recall Piggy vividly and that’s the way it should be. When you’re done listening to this album it’s as if this phenomenal musical mind is still present through his worthy successor. Aside from being an exceptional composer and rhythm guitarist, Chewy is also very technical and unique lead player flaunting a style that draws from jazz fusion, but also from technical thrash/death metal. The Holdsworth-ish solo midway would make proud the great Englishman since Mongrain has already proved (the three albums he has done with Martyr are essential for every tech/death metal fan and they are genuinely superb records) that he is one of his smartest and most exceptional children. The composition nods directly to the Dimension Hatross / Nothingface era and sets the stage for the rest of the album. The crystal-clear and solid production does its bits to make the compositions stand out.

The interesting finale of Obsolete Beings is the cue for the mid-tempo King Crimson-ish intro of The End of Dormancy and the quality is still high, although it is a convoluted and demanding song for the listener. It goes on like that until it takes a more hypnotic and martial rhythm. A barrage of dissonant riffs brings vintage Voivod back to mind. The bass is high in the mix indulging often in almost lead licks on its own fighting in a sense the guitar dissonant chords. The glossy and treble tone of Rocky reminds intensely of a metal Chris Squire/Mike Rutherford version and it is unquestionably one of the pinnacles of the album, as was his predecessor’s Blacky.

The next song, Orb Confusion has a faster tempo with typical Voivod structure and riffs. Numerous theme-changes, disharmonies around the place and Snake at the top of his game proving once more he is a gifted and unique frontman. Another brilliant solo from Chewy comes by now as no surprise. Iconspiracy with a string quartet in the middle impresses while its themes and theatricality it emanates recall the Bergen scene intensely. Shades of Jeff Loomis echo in the solo and the riffs that follow next rank among the best of the album.

For the remaining album, it suffices to say that it meet the standards set by the aforementioned songs and the already analysed musical style. The closers Always Moving and Sonic Mycelium impress and the twelve minutes of the latter stuffed with adventurous and interesting changes are the ideal summary of what The Wake, and by extension Voivod in 2018, is.

What we’ve got here is a band that flourishes and a great album that keeps the core style of the band intact. Voivod even up to this day deliver gratifying music which won’t be absorbed easily, will intrigue and after multiple listens –necessary even for a seasoned listener – will reveal its unique moments to those who will invest the time to let it grow in their mind; a true prog (in every sense of the word) gem and one of the best albums in the last few years.

9 / 10

Tasos Poimenidis