Review Summary: There’s a little matrix in everyone.
In contrast to major metal and hard rock bands which refrained from making bold musical statements during the ‘90s, Voivod weren’t “too big to be afraid to fail” and broke new ground with their 1997 album, the severely underrated Phobos
. Unfortunately the band’s incarnation at that time (Away/Piggy/Eric Forrester) never got to release anything else, as vocalist/bassist Eric Forrester (currently in E-Force) was seriously injured in a car accident during a German tour in 1998, and Voivod had to be put on a (then) indefinite hold. In the early ‘00s, the band appeared to be hanging from a string, but Jason Newsted, of Metallica fame and also a Voivod fan, not only jumped on board, but also signed the band to his own label Chophouse Records. Along with Snake who also returned to the fold, Voivod started working on new songs that eventually led to their self-titled album, where almost all of the band’s intricacies have been discretely filtered through a modern heavy rock sieve.
If the album could be described with just one word, “catchy” would definitely be it, but hey, it’s not the first time Voivod have done a catchy album on their own terms. Despite all its primitive and underdeveloped vibes, the learning curve of War And Pain
was rather smooth. On a whole different mood, the straightforward “prog” rock of The Outer Limits
needed relatively little time to sink in (save for the “Jack Luminous” prog rock saga), whereas the subtle, yet enigmatic character of Angel Rat
provided a safe exit from the organized prog rock chaos of the previous album.
As previously mentioned, Voivod
is characterized by an aggressive heavy rock style that branches out to different directions introduced by the band in the past. The main riff of “Rebel Robot” carries some of the momentum that turned Phobos
into an industrial metal behemoth, whereas the lyrical content of punk rock anthems “Gasmask Revival” and “We Carry On” call for social revolt and persistence over time, respectively. A couple of songs – “Real Again”, “Divide The Sun” – have this vintage, almost ‘60s rock n’ roll groove that takes its legitimate distance all previous Voivod material, yet they are the rather odd exceptions that justify the album’s overall mood.
The album has Voivod written all over it, however its distinct identity is slightly watered down by the abundance of (similar in design) tracks and the fact that the band has reduced all its patents to fit the newly adopted songwriting style. The former attribute could be ascribed to the Voivod's determination in giving out as much material as possible, so as to redeem themselves for the absence of new music in six years. As for the compromises with respect to the band's core elements, sites such as the drone hole that concludes “Blame Us” or Piggy's (RIP) lead guitar work, are not as as effective as in previous albums. With their turn, Snake’s vocals are good overall, but seem to carry the rust that comes with prolonged inactivity, whereas the rhythm section of Away and Jasonic simply adjusts to the conditions described above.
In conclusion, it is rather unlikely that Voivod
will go down in history as a major Voivod album, despite the fact that it has some perks to keep its merit at a fairly high level. On another note, this come-back affair stands as a strong statement of a band that refused to let go in the light of a series of unfortunate events.