Review Summary: Voivod decrease the thrash and amp-up the progressive elements again, and as a result The Wake is their best album since The Outer Limits
To be fair to Voivod, all the ingredients have been there for a successful, truly great album like this. Daniel Mongrain's guitar work in Gorguts
gave a sizable hint that he was fully capable of contributing to Voivod's unique dissonant, sci-fi metal sound. Perhaps the absence of longtime bassist Blacky would muddle the equation, but thankfully it seems to have nevertheless balanced out with a pleasing result.
The Wake doesn't quite take off from where the Post Society EP left off, although tracks like Forever Mountain
wouldn't necessarily sound out of place on this one. The thrashier aspects of the band's sound aren't necessarily gone, but are now a bit more contained, with a shift to nimble higher-register prog riffs and punk-rock chords. This highlights one of the big reliefs regarding the lineup: Blacky's replacement, Dominique Laroche (Rocky), is fully up to the task. Throughout the album the bass takes a pretty substantial role in leading several passages, such as in Orb Confusion
, and thanks to the nicely balanced and clean mix it's fully audible at all times.
A big selling point this time around is variety, with the songwriting varying well between riff-exhibitions like Orb Confusion
to slower, more deliberate and expansive tracks like The End of Dormancy
and Spherical Perspective
. On balance, the latter are probably the slightly stronger parts of the album, as the band gets to better show off their dynamic writing style and introduce more complicated orchestration at times, but there's not much of a difference in quality either way. A big strength is that every track has a moment which really feels like "crunch time": Obsolete Beings
has probably one of the best and most ethereal guitar solos of the band's whole career; The End of Dormancy
enters what feels like a launch sequence and really ramps up the tension with some great vocal work; Orb Confusion
hits one of the catchiest and most sinister riffs of the album at its mid point before launching into a typically excellent solo; Iconspiracy
brings in a huge string section for its climactic lead-in to the solo, and so on and so forth. To go on would labor the point, but TL;DR, every track feels like a highlight due to at least one or two standout moments.
The Wake isn't quite perfect (not every riff hits home, and the production is a bit lightweight), but it's an astonishingly good album for a band this far into their career, and signifies yet further progression from one of the kings of progressive metal. Regardless of your familiarity with Voivod's earlier work, this is an album worth your time, and is certainly a good challenger for the title of metal album of the year.