Canadian thrash legends Voivod return with space-age, energized ‘Target Earth’

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In everyone’s life, there are mountains we must climb. It’s up to us to decide if those major obstacles and crushing roadblocks will stop us in our tracks or if we will endure, fight on, conquer what’s ahead of us, and live to dominate another day. A lot of times, people just give up and refuse to carry on, potential glory be damned.

Canadian thrash legends Voivod could have folded camp once their longtime guitar player and overall awesome force Denis “Piggy” D’Amour passed away in 2005 after a battle with cancer. He was practically the heart and soul of the band, one of the most unique players in the genre, and a completely unsung hero whose inspiration you can hear–many times uncredited or unacknowledged–in so much prog metal and death metal. Even a huge mainstream band such as Tool owes a gigantic debt of gratitude to Piggy, and Voivod as a whole, for paving the way for their sprawling, spiraling epics that so many see as the height of genius. Um, they got those ideas from somewhere else.

634895447129779679There was new music after D’Amour passed away because he had some guitar parts recorded and demoed for upcoming Voivod releases, but nothing was in a state of completion. Amazingly by culling what D’Amour had created, the band was able to cobble together two records–2006’s “Katorz” and 2009’s “Infini”–with the rest of the band playing around Piggy’s parts. As expected, the results were just OK, and much of it did feel kind of thrown together. Before that, their 2003 self-titled comeback record was the most recent example of Piggy’s fully realized playing, and he was the bonafide star of that album. It seemed with “Infini” we had heard the last from Voivod as far as records go. But that’s where Daniel Mongrain comes in.

The band decided to do some live shows, with Mongrain (Martyr, Gorguts) on guitar, and it just so happened he was the perfect choice since he patterned much of his playing after D’Amour’s. Original bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault returned to the fold (along with vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger and drummer Michel “Away” Langevin), Mongrain was given the name “Chewy,” and Voivod were a full-on beast again. Word surfaced a new record was in the works,  and while these boys sounded great recreating their old songs live, a new platter was a different story. Could the band find the magic they hadn’t shown since the early 1990s? Could Mongrain step in for the legendary guitarist on which he patterned his style? The answer to both is an overwhelming yes.

In fact, it doesn’t take long at all to get an idea for just how great Voivod sounds on this 13th album, as they blast off with the awesome title cut, an energetic cut that bubbles with life, imaginative guitar work, and some of Snake’s most spirited vocals since their 2003 return. “Kluskap O’Kom” follows, and it’s more punchy, sci-fi goodness, with a weird, animalistic chant to start, a killer melody, and some gang vocals that make the band sound decades younger. “Empathy for the Enemy” follows in the same path, showing a revived, energized Voivod, and that spills into “Mechanical Mind,” a song that debuted on the Internet before the holidays in 2012 and is full of alien weirdness, punk and thrash magic, and it’s one of the best songs they’ve released in years. “Warchaic,” despite its name, is pulled back and isn’t the full-out assault one might think from the title. During the song, Snake howls about seeking “a brand new world,” and the song is atmospheric and thought provoking.

“Resistance” is a really fun song with loopy guitar work, some sections that are even a little poppy, and eventually a sludgy section that adds some muscle to the track. “Kaleidos” is a real throwback-style song, with guitar work that sometimes reminds of “Tribal Convictions” from 1988’s “Dimension Hatross” and the band reminding you of what made them so special in the first place. “Corps Etranger” is thorny, thrashy, and proggy, and Snake even pulls out some lyrics he sings in French for good measure. “Artefact” has a nice, thick bassline from Blacky, and this is one of the great examples of why he was missed so badly. The song sounds like a bizarre cosmic transmission, but it’s also solidly based in rock and roll. Closer “Defiance” is a little odd. There’s a flurry of guitar work and some speedy bass, but just as the song seems to gain its ground, it fades out and the record is over. Less than two minutes. So the record kind of falls flat at the end, but what comes before it is so damn good, it’s a very small complaint.

Voivod are one of the most important bands in metal, and to have them back and performing at such a high level is a great treat, especially for those of us who have been around since the band’s early days. Piggy always will be missed, and the metal world owes him a huge debt of gratitude, but Chewy proved he’s capable of taking over and driving the band admirably into the future. Just when we all thought it was over, Voivod go and do this. Turns out, they were just beginning all over again.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.voivod.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the album, go here: http://www.centurymedia.com/

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