Double Play: Voivod & Pyramids and Horseback

A split EP and a new release from Voivod fill the week's metal void!

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson



To The Death 84

Alternative Tentacles


As the metal world continues the debate over who rages more, (old) Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer or Anthrax, one band tends to get lost in that fold. Voivod. This isn’t just some other name to add to the mix, this is Voivod, easily one of the most important and underrated bands in the history of metal. Dimension Hatross?  Nothingface? These weren’t just albums, these were otherworldly testaments of how great this music could truly be. Voivod not only decimated and rebuilt the metal scene, they inspired a generation of bands. Thrash, speed metal, mathcore, grind, death metal, they all owe something to Voivod.

For those in the know, Dimension Hatross was the album where Voivod turned a corner. It was the record where they raised the bar and went from a great metal band to legends. The work before Dimension Hatross was raw, angry and volatile. It was a world between metal and punk, a world that Alternative Tentacles has rediscovered with the new release To The Death 84. These are the songs that would eventually find their way on 1984’s War And Pain and the 1986 album Rrrooaar. The music isn’t polished, the levels are off and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in a basement. It could be on of the best things I’ve heard all year.

What makes To The Death 84 so wonderful is how it captures a moment in time. This is a totally organic album; a slice of an era when everything was about honesty, playing and spreading the movement as far as it could go. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal had driven the new generation to be as creative with their own ear as their heroes had been with theirs. On this album Voivod are young and hungry and willing to do whatever comesd to them naturally. Though they didn’t have the chops yet, it was this sense of freedom that allowedDimension Hatross and Nothingface to happen.

To The Death 84is also a great testament to a classic line up, one that we will sadly never see again. This was before Blacky (bass) and Snake (vocals) left and returned, before any band drama, before Jason Newsted and before the sad passing of guitarist Piggy. This is a Voivod who had no idea what was to come and had not yet been soured by a music industry that didn’t understand them and a scene that seemed to dismiss them. There’s nothing here but honesty, power, fire and talent.

Describing the songs on this album would do them a disservice. Sure there are great riffs, classic drumming from Away and this vocal snarl from Snake that will rip your face off. The glass-bottle guitar production is like runaway fire; it consumes the entire album, as do the tinny crash cymbals and huge drums. The reason description doesn’t help is because this is all feeling; Voivod is doing this all from instinct so the reaction to the album will be the same. This may not have been the most important work Voivod ever released, but it is a foundation that was way ahead of the curve.




A Throne Without A King

Hydra Head Records


On the complete flipside musically is A Throne With No King the split EP from Pyramids and Horseback. While the music here is nothing even remotely within the realm of metal, it’s still born of emotion and it still strikes a chord. The album takes cues and even a song title from the Henry Flynt, an avant-garde musician, whose work dabbles into anti-art as well as nihilism.  Don’t let the big words scare you. A Throne Without A King is a magnificent record. Not something for the squeamish, not something for the easily amused, but something for those who want to peer into the abyss and have a soundtrack to it.

An opening noisescape, titled “Phaedra’s Love”, is a quiet storm of single tones and random noises. There’s a romantic element to it, a melancholy feeling of rain on a deserted street or the wreckage of a ship listlessly drifting in a dead calm sea. Phaedra is the wife of Theseus, a king from Greek Mythology (yeah, I had to look it up) so that may be where either the sadness and/or romantic ideas come from.

The second track, “Thee Cult Of Henry Flynt”, a black metal ode to the icon, is the only “normal” song on the album though that’s a relative statement. It’s normal within the parameters of this record, but still a weird mess. The black metal, while fast and brutal, retains an element of the melancholy from the first song. When it descends into another ambient abyss, the sudden transformation works because the thread was always there.

 It’s the rest of A Throne Without A King that may throw people for a loop. Pyramids and Horseback both make extreme music and both make it with a flair for the avant-garde and dramatic. It would follow that two such talents would rub wrong against each other, that this magnum opus of noise, music and art would sound off, even forced. Instead there is harmony, a sonically abusive harmony but harmony nonetheless. Everything happening here works and if you have the commitment to see it through, it all comes together. The entire second part of A Throne Without A King is one long song split into various sections. There’s no need for them because this whole record demands to be heard as one artistic statement.

Death, the end of innocence, the weight of reality upon on the consciousness of the insane, these are all ideas I had while listening to this album. To some this will be a slab of nothing. Just annoying sounds jumbled together to try and push buttons. Listen further, really commit to the album and so much more appears. Music is usually dictated to us. Even the most progressive bands are still doing things that feed us the music. Here you go, eat this. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt too much, you’ll pass it just fine. Those albums aren’t bad, but they leave little for us to call our own. A Throne With No King leaves it all up to us. You have to become part of what’s happening here, you take the cues and the ideas and you foster your own thoughts and idea into it. This isn’t for everybody, but those who love noise, who love ambience and a touch of black metal blending together to explore the darker territories of the musical landscape, then A Throne With No King will melt your fucking soul.