Voivod are one of those bands, a bit like Cardiacs, that bands I love tend to cite as influences, but whom I have never listened to. The Canadian sci-fi metal pioneer’s sixteenth album is a 40-year retrospective, which seemed like a great place for me to start. This isn’t a greatest hits or best of collection though, this is a journey through the band’s long career, with versions of songs re-recorded by the current line-up.
While I didn’t know Voivod’s music, I was aware of them as a band. I think I first heard of them when Jason Newsted became their bass player in 2002, after he left Metallica (he stuck around until 2009). I had also heard their singer ‘Snake’ before, as his co-written track Dictatorsaurus was probably my favourite song on the Dave Grohl all-star metal project Probot. OK, maybe my second favourite thanks to Jack Black’s effort I am the Warlock.
This album takes us from 1984, with opener Condemned to the Gallows, all the way through to 2003’s Rebel Robot and bang up to date with a new song, the title track Morgöth Tales here. Their original guitarist, Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour, who was with the band from their Quebec prog/thrash metal inception in 1982, sadly passed away in 2005. The current line-up features the original vocalist and drummer, with a new guitarist and bass player. Previous members, the aforementioned Newsted and also Eric Forrest, who replaced Snake on vocals in the mid-’90s before the original singer came back, return to join the band on the songs from their tenure on this record.
The first few songs, with their roots in the early ’80s, didn’t land as easily with me; they felt less refined, and more like the relentless pound I associated with thrash when I was younger. From the late-’80s era onwards, the songs really started to work for me. I’d never really seen the crossover with prog, other than the long intros and technical playing, but as my ear has become more adept, I can see how the relationship between both genres works. Once we got to the track Killing Technology, it clicked for me, this felt like the place where punk and prog converged, with snarly Johnny Rotten meets crooner vocals that the likes of Scott Weiland have used to good effect since. Those guitar runs on Macrosolutions to Megaproblems are sublime, and there’s almost a polka section on Pre-Ignition. Once we get to Nuage Fractal, there is one band that this record made me think of instantly, and that’s Mastodon, with that jazz fusion-meets-metal vibe coming to the fore. The album, to my tastes, just gets better and better as it goes along. Then there’s the bonus track, Home, an excellent cover of the Public Image Ltd song which strays far enough from the original to make it interesting, while close enough to keep it familiar.
Overall this is what I want from a collection of metal songs; some pure aggression, technical playing, emotion and surprises. You get all of that in equal measure, with some of the swagger you’d expect too. All in all, it’s great fun and made me wish I’d been a Voivod listener long ago.
If you like the original versions of these Voivod songs, I’d love to know how these re-recordings hold up. For me, as a complete newcomer to this classic band, this was an excellent introduction. Prog metal pioneers in many ways, it’s well worth taking a dive into this record as a launch pad into the band’s long and illustrious history. If you like modern prog metal, you’ll appreciate those who came before and Voivod’s role as the forebears of that sound and approach to music.
[All tracks are 2023 studio re-recordings, except track 10]
01. Condemned to the Gallows [originally from the Metal Massacre V compilation, 1984] (4:33)
02. Thrashing Rage [originally from Rrröööaaarrr, 1986] (4:15)
03. Killing Technology [originally from Killing Technology, 1987] (6:31)
04. Macrosolutions to Megaproblems [originally from Dimension Hatröss, 1988] (5:19)
05. Pre-Ignition [originally from Nothingface, 1989] (5:07)
06. Nuage Fractal [originally from Angel Rat, 1991] (3:41)
07. Fix My Heart [originally from The Outer Limits, 1993] (4:36)
08. Rise [originally from Phobos, 1997] (5:00)
09. Rebel Robot [originally from Voivod, 2003] (4:50)
10. Morgöth Tales [New Song] (4:57)
Total Time – 53:32
Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger – Vocals
Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain – Guitar
Dominique ‘Rocky’ Laroche – Bass
Michael ‘Away’ Langevin – Drums
Eric ‘E-Force’ Forrest – Vocals (track 8)
Jason ‘Jasonic’ Newsted – Bass (track 9)
Record Label: Century Media Records
Country of Origin: Canada
Date of Release: 21st July 2023