If thrash metal was a big high school, it would break down like this: Metallica would be the rich jock football player, Anthrax would be the working class kid who had the after school job to help his parents with bills, Megadeth would be the kid who ran the audio/video department and never let anybody touch anything and Slayer would be the tough kids that smoked in the bathroom and beat everybody up. Then there’s Voivod, the weird creative kid who sat in the corner perfecting math equations and reading sci-fi. In short, Voivod would be the brain.
Since 1982 Voivod has been channeling their love of complex song structures and weird time signatures through a filter of smash mouth thrash riffs. The road of thrash metal glory hasn’t always been easy for Voivod, the most recent blow being the loss of Denis D’Amour aka Piggy, the original head songwriter and lead guitarist for the band. 2009’s Infini saw Voivod work through their grief by finishing songs started before Piggy passed away. . Now, in 2013, the band return with Target Earth, the first album they’ve written without Piggy since their inception in 1982.
From the opening notes of the first song, “Target Earth”, Voivod establish that they haven’t lost a step. The band hasn’t sat back, mellowed out or tried to make radio friendly unit shifters. “Target Earth” opens with dirty bass line that powers the song into some showy and descending guitar work. New guitarist Dan Mongrain (Martyr, Cryptopsy, Gorguts) plays as though he’s constantly noodling. The riffs happening in “Target Earth” come across as though Mongrain is trying to solve an advanced astrophysics problem with his fingers. Meanwhile, the rest of the band play off his insanity creating a swirling, prog-rock influenced, thrash jam.
Voivod are still the weird kids who love science and math., but that doesn’t stop them from laying it down. “Kluskap O’Kom” is Voivod in full thrash glory. A simple headbanging riff, a slathering of double bass drums and off they go, galloping into thrash battle. “Mechanical Mind” returns to the prog format but ads an interesting twist. Voivod take their experimental style and play it with a cold detachment. The riff is staccato and focused on harsh repetition. It gives the entire tune a robotic feel.
Target Earth never ventures off of Voivod’s well-worn path. The essence of Voivod is taking simple thrash riffs, breaking them down and then rebuilding them as something more complicated and with greater grandeur. “Resistance”, in the hands of any other band” would be a simple A To Z thrash tune. Voivod take that easy groove and add to it almost immediately. The main riff is given odd accents, the rhythm switches from groovy to hammering and then back again.
“Kaleidos” is their expertise in controlled chaos. Every instrument sounds like it’s playing another song. The combination should collapse, but Voivod bring the tumbling elements together perfectly. Just as “Kaleidos” feels like it’s going out of control, Voivod reign it in. “Corps Etranger” and “Artefact” round Target Earth out with classic Voivod prog metal. All the styles and experiments the band has attempted in their two decades together are here. Voivod never expand outside their comfort zone on Target Earth. No matter how odd the music becomes, it never loses sight of being Voivod.
That dedication to their sound is admirable, but also leads to trouble on Target Earth. The first is length. Between unnecessary intros and some of the more repetitive parts, most of the songs on Target Earth are about a minute too long. There also isn’t much in the way of songwriting growth on this album. If you like Voivod, you’ll love this, but I don’t see it garnering the band any new fans. My final issue is a personal one. I dislike Snake’s voice on this record simply because it’s recorded too loud. The drums are also a bit overbearing, which takes away from the overall sound.
Lumps aside, Target Earth is another monolith of science and sound from the masters of math metal.
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