Chophouse Records/Surfdog Records
Voivod are back, but you probably already know that. Did you, however, know that (a) they’ve made a fantastic album, (b) original vocalist Snake is back and (c) new bass player Jason Newstead’s bass is finally audible on a metal recording (bad joke)?
Opener “Gasmask Revival” is probably the most rousing cry to protest since Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” powered along by a rush of NWOBHM-style guitars, while Snake’s vocals have an odd louche punk tinge to them. And then they’re off channeling Sartre and Camus on “Facing Up” over a serrated dirge. This is clearly not a band content to rely on old struggles and back catalogue glories, nor the sloth that often comes from adhering to metal’s stylistic restrictions. But then, that was never Voivod’s lot, was it? If it was, they would be headlining Ozzfest with their own line of faintly ridiculous trucker caps choking the merchandise stalls. “Real Again?” chugs along like Kyuss or some such, with Piggy’s nasal sneer floating above it all, evoking the passive consumer ethos of the 21st Century Western world pretty dead on. Dig the atonal bridge.
“Rebel Robot” cloaks a truly disturbing message in some fabulous, shuddering precision metal — the central riff is rife with compressed foreboding and tension. Particularly moving is when Piggy’s voice cracks during the lyric “you trust the kingdom while the leaves are falling” and a beautiful, bell-like guitar chimes in. The line “There’s a little matrix in everyone” is given the full Cobain treatment. “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up” starts out like an Alice In Chains pool of black ice, before shifting into the red zone of frustration and struggle against the very fabric of life as communicated by cutting guitars and steroid drumming. The Supremes-esque backing vocals must be heard to be believed.
“Divine Sun” is depressingly lethargic and sounds like the band hit cruise control. “Invisible Planet” brings the energy up a notch with music that’s equal parts Nuclear Assault and T. Rex and lyrics that evoke prime interstellar Pink Floyd as much as they do the old EC Comics morality plays about space travel. “We Carry On” ends the record with an industrial-strength (in all senses of the word) burst of NWOBHM-overload tethered to a lyrical rallying cry for living life outside the boundaries of normal. Inspirational.
And by the way, the packaging is simply fantastic, full of all manner of band photos and illustrations by drummer Michael “Away” Langevin that fit perfectly with the various dystopian memes running throughout the project.