Review Summary: This is not an exercise.War and Pain
, the previous two albums by the French-Canadian metal act Voivod, left the (very) few fans curious enough to approach them, with a strong sense of confusion as to where the band was heading. The band’s debut was a decent yet semi-unsuccessful attempt to mix elements inherently thought as unmixable, that is, the catchy punk n’ roll Motorhead-influenced riffing with the spacey guitar wizardry of bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd. In Rrroooaaarrr
the situation got even more confusing, as the band merely erased its past and led its aggressive footsteps in the muddy Venom avenue, while its attempts to increase the songs’ diversity were a hit-or-miss case. It is safe to say that those two albums translate themselves as puzzle pictures that merely make sense in their own right, as their constituent elements feel forced to fit into the whole picture. With their third album, Killing Technology
, Voivod continue to tread on the subconscious path of self awareness, only now they make the earth tremble in their way.
is, with its turn, severely disjointed from its predecessors. This is no big surprise really, as Rrroooaaarrr
itself had little to converse with War and Pain
and vice versa. The album begs to differ right from scratch, with the band’s imminent intention to compose a significant portion of songs with an extended temporal length. The listener’s interest remains constantly at high levels, though, as the songs are decorated with excellent and spot on rhythm changes that file under the “odd time signature” tag. In that light, the rhythm section of Away and Blacky takes its long overdue distance from the one-dimensional perceptions of previous albums, shifting “randomly” between technical/fast paced double bass drumming and groovy rhythm patterns, intended to make our heads roll one time too many. Guitarist Piggy, on the other hand, exploits the aforementioned mosaic of musical substrates in full, in order to unleash his post-apocalyptic riffing raid. While his guitar work continues to depend on the Motorhead/Venom dipole and to punk in general, the newly developed patents present in here, erase all the aforementioned loans permanently. Shredding and frenzied, his razor-sharp rhythm guitar riffing sublimely imitates, on not-to-few occasions, the idle and repetitive loops of machines’ continuous shifting between discrete operation frequencies. His lead guitar work, one the other hand, is not of this earth. Piggy brings back to life those eerie leads first endeavoured in War and Pain
and he aptly places them in between of the rhythm guitar mayhem (listen to “This Is Not Exercise”), while his newly invented high-pitched and punk-influenced leads work either as dystopic yet majestic song introductions (listen to the awesome beginning of “Forgotten in Space”) or as sonic substitutes of the rhythm guitars. On the occasions when the rhythm section descents into the groove, his optimally placed and conceived solos match in skill those of a classical solo violinist.
Great progress is achieved towards the sound production as well. Voivod leave behind the amateur experimentations of the past and deliver the sound console to Harris Jonhs. Jonhs does a great job in tiding up the sonic mess in which the previous Voivod albums lied. His production establishes a sound, in which noise, a universal constant for the band, is largely suppressed, compared to the past, but always present. However, all instruments are audible in the final mix. Although the overall feel of the production appears to file under the characterization “bad”, considerable depth has been given to the guitar leads and soloing. In this respect, the album’s sound feels as if an early 80’s punk rock band decided to play thrash that is polluted with a serious 70’s prog rock twist.
Apart from the tremendous breakthrough in terms of music and sound production, a huge improvement takes place, in terms of the quality of lyrics and of Snake’s vocals. Speaking in more detail about the latter, Snake’s improvement in singing is of equal magnitude with the overall improvement of the band’s music itself. His voice steps on the right spots within the songs and transmits tremendous vigor and agony. The lyrics relate to a loose concept with regard to the band’s main character, the warlord “Voivod” (check the superb cover of War and Pain
). After witnessing first hand (in War and Pain
) the wars of mankind, he observes the latter becoming idle and stale due to its increasing dependency on technology and social terrorism, while facing the sleepless threats of nuclear demise and natural disasters. In the light of the relevant lyrics, Snake becomes the narrator of Voivod’s observations and does a tremendous job.
Summing up, the title of the second to last song says it all about the album. This is not an exercise. While critically acclaimed metal bands are reaching out to keyboards so as to make their music diverse, being a hit (Iron Maiden on Somewhere In Time
) or miss (Judas Priest on Turbo
) case and 70’s prog rock legends are fleeing to pop, in order to “survive”, Voivod are drawing a most unexpected ace of spades from the bottom of the deck. Their advent lies in the blending - within the context of thrash - of elements from bands and genres that were inherently thought of as incompatible. What more could someone ask"