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Album Review : Voivod, The Wake

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On Sept 21st, 2018, veteran Canadian Sci-Fi Thrash innovators Voivod, released their highly-anticipated 14th studio album titled "The Wake" via Century Media Records. One of metal's most idiosyncratic bands, it's safe to say that it's quite possibly the trippiest album of 2018, and without a doubt it is the most chaotic release of the year. The album is an incredible, masterpiece hybrid of Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal, Hardcore Punk, Psychedelic Rock, with plenty of Industrial/Dark Ambient flavor thrown in. In addition to being the band's 18th overall release, the album is also a concept album, and the second full length studio album by the band to feature guitarist Dan "Chewy" Mongrain, who replaced the late Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, who founded the band in the early 80's and is considered to be the "Mastermind" of the group's sound. It is also the first full length album to feature bassist Dominique "Rocky" Laroche, who replaced original member Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault in 2014. All lyrics were written by original frontman  Denis "Snake" Belanger. The album art was done by drummer and founder Michel "Away" Langevin, who launched the band's Sci-Fi concept and has created all of the bands artwork over the course of their 30+ year career. The musical style of the album is a modern throwback to the bands Thrash Metal/Progressive roots and their trademark use of experimental dissonance, erratic melodies and time signature changes. Its is an effortless and unique blend of subgenres with a post-apocalyptic atmosphere that is like an audio version of the first movie in the "Alien" series.


Voivod was formed in Jonquirie, Quebec, Canada in 1982 by Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, who pioneered their trademark dissonant style of guitar playing, featuring a liberal use of the Tritone interval, and riffs often played in the higher register of the guitar. The guitarist was knowledgable about music theory after being classically trained in Violin since childhood. After recruiting the remaining 3 bandmates, and taking a year off to teach them their respective instruments, the band began playing Punk Rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal tunes, covering bands like Motorhead, Raven and Tank. The band continued to progress on their instruments and by the time their third album "Killing Technology" was released in 1987, (Widely considered to be their best album) their musical style had evolved to include more complex arrangements, unconventional chords, and relentless experimentation that made them increasingly hard to categorize. While their fanbase has mostly remained a Thrash Metal crowd over the years, the band mixed elements from classic Heavy Metal, Psychedelic, Classical music, Progressive Rock, Anarcho Punk/Crust Punk, and Industrial and created a completely one of a kind sound that has earned the respect of countless metalheads, punks and fans of Underground/Avant-Garde' music worldwide. "The Wake" is an excellent follow up to 2016's "Post-Society" EP (Which was included as well on Disc 2) and 2013's "Target Earth" LP. The arrangements of the songs have many intricate and unpredictable sections, that make it almost challenging to absorb. Simply put, it is the kind of album that you have to listen to several times to begin to understand it, even for a seasoned fan of Prog Metal. However after giving it some time, the genius musicianship behind the bizarre riffs and arrangements begin to make sense and it becomes more and more apparent how beautifully composed every single section is, and how well placed each individual note is, rhythmically and harmonically. In an interview with Metal Hammer, drummer Michel "Away" Langevin says:  "The music is like a futuristic prog thrash metal trek with many twists and turns. The story involves the usual Voivodian topics: disasters, chaos, conflicts, strange plots and alternate consciousness." 


The album contained 3 singles: "Obsolete Beings", "Iconspiracy" and "Always Moving", all of which were released before the full length album. The shredding lead guitar work of Dan Mongrain is a perfect fit for the songs and features exotic scales that remind me a lot of Marty Friedman, as well as searing legato licks far outside of the key center and warped, microtonal notes from the use of the whammy bar, that are reminiscent of Jazz Fusion players such as Alan Holdsworth. The production quality on the album is excellent and throughout the album there was a heavy use of effects and ambiance. The creative use of modulation effects on the vocals and guitar added a lot of interesting texture to the songs that was very unexpected and atmospheric, a great example of this is the verse on "Always Moving" where the guitar seems to use a tremolo effect of some sort to create a mechanical-sounding pulse that guides along Snake's spacey vocals, before transitioning back into a thrashing, double-time feel. Later in the song, the tempo drops and goes into an Industrial-sounding breakdown that builds up into a more melodic section, written as a tribute to Piggy. What made the album for me, was the bands experimentation with dark ambient intros and outtros, using Synthesizers, Timpani Drums and even Human Bones as instruments to create a sinister-sounding, doomsday atmosphere that tied the album together well and sounded straight out of a classic Horror/Sci Fi flick. The final track "Sonic Mycelium" is a mashup of the previous tracks more intricate sections, featuring classical instruments such as the Violin and Cello, with dizzying harmonies over them and several variations in structure that mess with your head. This band has proved once again that they are perpetually moving foward and have secured their place in history as one of the most creative metal acts of all time. Piggy would be proud. Words cannot describe this masterpiece of a record, the only way to understand is to listen for yourself. Even then, one might not understand it. And that's the beauty of it. 

Hunnypot Approved!  Overall Rating : 9.5 out of 10



Neil Metcalf

Writer - Los Angeles

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