Review Summary: Voivod’s second debut album.
In the mid 80’s, the thrash hype was peaking one historical high after another. The second wave of thrash had already emerged with its bands being more technical and quirky with respect to those of the first wave, entraining the latter to move, sooner or later, towards that direction as well. However, there were a few groups, being temporally cut-off from both the first and the second thrash wave and unconsciously (or consciously) “unaware” of the “general” thrash trends, past or present. This was quite possibly due to the absence of a big and “organized” thrash scene in their countries and/or their loose relation to the thrash genre altogether. Canada’s Voivod is the perfect example of such a band. Although their 1984 debut War and Pain
, was in fact more of a metallic punk n’ roll joint and less of a thrash metal fix, it was temporally related to the first thrash wave. In 1986, Voivod released their second album, Rrroooaaarrr
, which blurred the band’s status even more.
To begin with, Rrroooaaarrr
is a tough nut to crack. While it could recklessly be categorized as a typical thrash album, it isn’t so at all. Most peculiarly, it does not constitute an apparent improvement (or an improvement whatsoever) or change in style with respect to War and Pain
. Their two main influences, Motorhead and Venom are present here as well, although now Voivod seem to lean to the Venom-end of the pedestal, for the most part, taking quick and random glances to other influences as well (listen the main Slayer-like riff of “To The Death”, for example). Although the aforementioned musical influences can explain the increased aggressiveness observed in the orchestral arrangements, the band’s clearly demented way in putting riffs, voices and rhythms in line is beyond any reasonable explanation or proof.
The Motorhead-like-punk riffs of the debut are replaced, for the most part, by razor-sharp riffs in the vein of Venom “on speed” that maintain, however, the early 80’s punk element and that’s a plus for sure. The same holds for the rhythm section as well, which makes a fair effort to sound diverse, either by (rarely) endorsing some “strange” snare drum patterns, followed by double bass pounding (which is all over the place) or by constantly/dementedly changing the rhythm while following the rhythm guitars. On the other hand, the fact that the spacey/quirky lead guitars present in War and Pain
– a most obvious element of originality for the band with respect to the rest of their thrash metal contemporaries – are almost extinct here, as if they never existed, is another issue beyond any reasonable arguing. As for the vocals, although they are enhanced by a slight margin, they are caught “out of place” quite often.
The situation gets even more complicated, once light is shed to the way the sound production is realized here. The band itself took over production duties, in close collaboration with the sound engineers, namely the band members themselves. The thing that becomes immediately observable is the thick layer of noise covering all the music. It’s like putting up front a running motor engine or a fully functioning wall of computer mainframes while playing the record’s music. That being said, the noisy production adds a certain charm to the band’s music, making it sound diverse and “distant”, while it somewhat cloaks its relative inability, in terms of competent instrument handling, with the guitars being the exception, however.
Having said the above, the overall quality of the material in “Rrroooaaarrr” is a “hit or miss” case. Always keeping in mind the dementia, under which the band composed its material, for every song that sounds interesting and fairly diverse, there is another that is easily characterized as generic. The bad material gets even worse, the minute someone lays eyes to the lyrics, which, in not too few cases, tend to be really horrible and childish. As for the good material, the levels of originality and quirkiness are high and certainly higher than the corresponding good moments of War and Pain
. The rhythms are shifting for a purpose and the outcome is a pretty good excuse for old school thrash moshing in the pit.
Collecting all produced distillates and putting them to a bottle, Rrroooaaarrr
can be seen as a part of an incomplete puzzle making its appearance out of the blue. While it gives limited insight to the listener as to what it tries to accomplish, it remains far from revealing the full picture. One may argue, within a reasonably big error margin, that the band has build its weapons (sic) to take its music to the next level, however that remains to be seen in the future. To be continued…
Korgüll the Exterminator
To the Death