Review Summary: The not-so-humble beginning of one of metal’s finest acts.
The first years of the 80’s for metal were a period of intense turmoil, in terms of birth of new bands and music trends but also in terms of politics and nations’ shadowy economic conduct. Focusing on the musical unrest, the great progressive rock bands that had reveled during the decade of the 70’s were decaying at its dusk. The outburst of punk accelerated that decay. Punk changed irrevocably rock/metal by forcing it to sound naughtier and more brutal than ever in the years to come. However, the punk “virus” didn’t have the same effect to every metal band, as one can clearly see from the milestone albums of Motorhead, Venom, Iron Maiden and Metallica that were issued in the early 80’s. That “virus” also infected a new band, originating from the French Quebec in Eastern Canada and named after the cryptic word Voivod (a paraphrase of the Serbian word “Voevoda” which stands for “warlord” or “leader of a community”). Their debut, War and Pain
(also a paraphrase of the title of Leon Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace
) came out in 1984.
In War and Pain
, two bands are calling the shots for Voivod, namely Motorhead with their punk/metal rock n’ roll urge and Venom with their raw black metal fiend. As a result, War and Pain
relies on fast pace drumming, frenzied soloing and furious punk/rock n’ roll/metal riffing, constituents of a sound slipstreamed with the aura of early 80’s black metal to a significant extent. Although the originality of their sound is severely compensated by the aforementioned influences, Voivod manage to interject a few but really bizarre and original elements in between. While the overall pace of the album is quite fast, there are discrete occasions, where the band slows down unexpectedly to give room to some really strange and disharmonic rhythm and/or lead guitar riffing (listen for example to the middle part of “Warriors of Ice”, the beginning and the end of “War and Peace”, the first half of “Nuclear War” and the second half of “Iron Gang”). In addition, while the guitar soloing is frenzied and heavily influenced by Motorhead for the post part, at times it gets so
spacey and eerie, leading the mind to the way bands like King Crimson or Pink Floyd handled their soloing affairs.
Baring in mind the above, one cannot neglect the fact that the fast punk n’ metal stuff is inadequately mixed with the eerie and dissonant musical parts. The former shifts places with the latter abruptly for the most part. This abruptness (or clumsiness) can be thought as a double-blade knife. Some may worship these shifts, while some may hate them. It can be safely said that the band is aiming at building a new sound; however, the lack of experience plus the somewhat “inappropriate” external influences seem to hinder the band’s few but discrete initiatives towards that direction.
Expanding more on the lack of experience by the band, Piggy’s guitars are pretty much, the only thing that really stands up within the album’s context. That stems from his ability to adapt to the vein of Motorhead and Venom convincingly and give something completely new at the same time, despite the fact that it feels under-developed and it exists in relatively small portions. Away’s drumming is simple and fairly decent, keeping up the fast pace of the songs. Blacky’s bass is surprisingly audible in between the whole chaos, showing fair skill in accompanying the drums and the punk-ish metal character of most of the guitar riffs. However, during the not-so-few times that the band goes “on the other side”, his bass lines show some potential. Snake’s vocals are definitely an acquired taste. While he barely stays on par with the rhythmic changes per song, his singing is soaked in lunacy and grimness, guided also by the naive character of the lyrics.
The sound production of metal guru, Brian Slagel, is ideal with respect to Voivod’s material. When the band is going berserk with their punk n’ metal stuff, the production is dirty, yet all instruments are readily audible. During the occasions where the band gets off the road, he manages to give the necessary depth, especially to the lead guitars.
War and Pain
shows a band which pays tribute to its influences, while it brings forth some new elements, which are irrelevant to the band’s musical foundations. The fusion of the former to the latter, although it is not working very well, it clearly assesses the band's beginning as not-so-humble. It remains to be seen whether the band will take things to the next level or settle safely as being a great Motorhead/Venom influenced band with some interesting twists. To be continued…