Review Summary: In their 8th observation, Voivod establish a first contact with what’s beyond the outer limits.
Sometimes, there comes a point where a strong notion of an era coming to end starts to prevail among some or all involved parties in social relationships, business or art. Even in the case where everything seems to be working perfectly, the aforementioned feeling of closure seems to be imminent for some members at first and in due time, the whole body of collectives (families, companies or music bands) co-existing or working together. With respect to music bands, mid ‘90s Voivod are a good case in point. Their most recent album, The Outer Limits
saw the band producing another excellent record, while coping nicely with the departure of founding member and long time bassist Jean-Yves Theriault (aka Blacky). That album was everything Angel Rat
wasn’t (or “didn’t want to be”) and much more, however it also felt like an outstanding closure to the band’s progressive rock/metal era. Dennis Belanger’s (aka Snake) departure from the band after the release of The Outer Limits
, further solidified the aforementioned conviction, as his notorious vocals and apocalyptic/sci-fi lyrics were a significant part of Voivod’s identity. In any case, remaining members Away and Piggy didn’t rest with their hands crossed and soon after the completion of the The Outer Limits
tour, they started jamming at new material. When Eric Forrest came to fill in for both bass and vocals, band took the best out of these jams to release its new album, titled Negatron
, an album that finds Voivod establishing a first contact with what’s beyond the outer limits.
The previous Voivod albums differed the one with the other with respect to their overall style, yet it was the work of Piggy and Snake in guitars and vocals/lyrics respectively which provided a weak link, but a link whatsoever, to bond them together. With the departing of Snake from the band, a significant part of that bond was now corrupted. New recruit Eric Forrest has a more mid-paced death/hardcore vocal style which, in principle, can fit in perfectly with equally mid-paced, groove-driven song arrangements. Indeed, Voivod partially adjust their arrangements to the vocals of their new singer, firstly by achieving a sound production where guitars and bass are incredibly heavy and crude sounding and drums sound physical and without triggers. Then, they pollute their avant-garde punk metal with some really dismal lead guitar work (“Negatron”) and groovy/doom-like rhythm riffing and drum patterns, producing a handful of great songs in the process (“Insect”, “Project X”, “Nanoman”, “Negatron”, “Cosmic Conspiracy”, “Bio-TV”). Furthermore, in Negatron
Voivod bring forth their industrial element (the latter had been residing like a sleeping virus inside the band’s body even from the days of Rrroooaaarrr
) for the first time with the groovy drum machine driven “D.N.A. (Don't No Anything)” and the noise filtering of Forest’s voice here and there throughout the record.
is innovative with its turn, continuing the great tradition of almost every Voivod record, it remains relatively far from fully fulfilling its testament. Some songs (“Planet Hell”, “Meteor”, “Reality?”) aren’t quite on par with the good material of the record, in terms of replay value. Furthermore, the band seems reluctant in fully giving in to its newly introduced innovations, despite the fact that they seem to work great on their own. This becomes evident even from Forest’s vocals which complement perfectly the groovy/doom-like parts of the songs, while in the punk metal parts Snake’s vocal style is inevitably mimicked. At this point, one could say that this co-existence in song writing and vocal styles is expected up to a certain extent. Forrest came to the band, when most of the music was finalized and he was just called in to fit the bill. The band’s reluctance to leave the past behind is also evident from the management of the industrial element, as the latter is compressed only in the “D.N.A. (Don't No Anything)” song and not spread evenly throughout the record. Voivod are obviously testing their strength in trying different things with their music and while they succeed in the part of innovation, they fall short in the part of homogenization and optimization of their final proposal.
In closing, with Negatron
Voivod fell off a skyscraper without a parachute and still managed to stand on their feet, albeit with some minor injuries. In view of the unfortunate lineup change with Snake leaving the band and taking a lot of its charm with him, the band had to adapt and chart its unknown potential with respect to the new blood injected in its system. For the time being this charting feels incomplete, however Voivod have already proven that they can take giant leaps towards perfection, so the best are probably on their way.