It’s hard to believe that Voivod have been around for four decades, and that I’ve been listening to them on and off for most of that time. I remember being attracted to their third album, Killing Technology, mainly because of the cover, but was delighted to hear a metal band not being confined by the usual constraints of the genre. Progressive thrash? Yes please.
Of course, the truth is that they don’t really belong to any genre, they’ve pretty much invented their own niche, and the stunning fact is that they are currently making music every bit as vital as they hinted at with that third album. I believe that Synchro Anarchy is their fifteenth full studio album, and is the follow up to the critically acclaimed The Wake (2018), which was so universally lauded that following it must have been a daunting prospect. This, coupled with the fact that they had to write and record much of it in isolation, makes the resulting record all the more impressive. They have arguably come up with an even better album in Synchro Anarchy. It is ultra heavy, a bit more direct, is catchy and memorable, and yet retains the quirkiness and complexity that has become a trademark. It’s remarkable that they have delivered an album every bit as good as the classics from their ’80s heyday. They are energised and inspired, and undeniably Voivod. It could be nobody else!
From the opening power chords, interrupted by stabs of guitar dissonance from Chewy, the scene is set and we are off at a gallop, Snake wailing, Rocky’s bass growling and well to the fore, and Away thrashing his double bass drum kit with gusto. Odd angular riffs collide with the rhythm section then set off again in another direction. A false ending keeps us on our toes before the fade, and it’s already breathless stuff. The title track follows, and is expansive in feel, with a fantastic mid-section where guitar and bass chop against each other whilst Away keeps the peculiar time signature going with precision. Chewy’s guitar style fits the band perfectly, riffing one moment, adding dissonant squalls the next, then a Holdsworth-style lead run. It’s masterful and exactly the sort of thing fans would want to hear without any doubt.
Planet Eaters is even better, with the usual sci-fi slanted lyrics also bemoaning the destruction we wreak on the Earth every day.
We’re all planet eaters, The more we can get.
We never have enough, We deserve the best.
We’re all planet eaters.”
Musically it is both chaotic and focussed, and very memorable after a couple of listens. Producer Francis Perron seems to be a permanent fixture, and has somehow made it sound like a very tight unit recorded in one room. The sound is raw and untamed, but full and expansive; he has caught exactly the right balance.
Elsewhere, Mind Clock is a tour de force which gradually speeds up to a climax, and sounds to me like an outtake from Nothingface or Dimension Hatröss. Sleeves Off is a thrashier outing, but still deceptively complicated, while Holographic Thinking chugs into life on a riff that sounds very similar to Sabbath’s Children of the Grave, and makes me smile every time I listen, before taking off in quite different directions. I’ve mentioned a few of my favourites, but this is an album with no filler. Not a duffer in sight. It’s simply classic Voivod, an anarchic joyous din, and I can’t wait for a chance to see them play this album live.
01. Paranormalium (5:35)
02. Synchro Anarchy (4:25)
03. Planet Eaters (5:33)
04. Mind Clock (6:45)
05. Sleeves Off (4:08)
06. Holographic Thinking (6:12)
07. The World Today (4:11)
08. Quest For Nothing (5:38)
09. Memory Failure (5:34)
Total Time – 48:01
Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger – Vocals
Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain – Guitar
Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche – Bass
Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – Drums
Record Label: Century Media Records
Country of Origin: Canada
Date of Release: 11th February 2022