Archive for January, 2013

Jan 28th 2013 Interview – Voivod by Pete Woods

Just an hour and a bit before this interview was due to take place I could have literally killed technology as I had what can only be described as a bastard power cut. Surrounded by candles with analogue phone but questions on the useless PC I shouted at the electricity people who managed unbelievably to sort things out just before drummer and founder member of Voivod Michel Langevin aka Away rang. With the group’s excellent thirteenth studio album ‘Target Earth’ poised to hit there was plenty to talk about but de-thawing it seemed like the weather was a perfect icebreaker to open up the questioning.

Ave Noctum

AN: Good evening and congratulations on the new album. Before we start and being English we have to mention the weather as we have the somewhat rare phenomenon of snow grinding our country to a halt. I am assuming you are speaking to me from Canada and I guess you are a bit more used to dealing with all this than we are?

Away: Haha yeah actually we are snowed in and it’s pretty cold. It’s going to be like it all week but it’s my 50th winter so. Here we are lumberjacks so we can still make it through things.

AN: Much more importantly some sources are stating that Voivod have just turned 30 is this correct? Did you have an actual date marking this momentous event and did you celebrate it in any way, a special show or anything and apart from obviously a new album have you any other plans to perhaps release anything else to mark the occasion.

Away: Yes we are from Northern Quebec, that’s where we grew up, about 200 miles from Montreal and on New Year’s Eve there was a show celebrating the 175th anniversary of where we are from and they asked us to play one song, as there are many artists from Northern Quebec playing, so we took the opportunity to celebrate our 30th anniversary at midnight, so it was a great occasion. I remember that Snake auditioned for the band I believe it was the 7th or 8th of January 83 so this month is our 30th anniversary.

Target Earth is our celebration, we only released a single last year for the October Euro tour Mechanical Mind 7” but we decided on the album for the anniversary.

AN: Of course you have really been the one constant in the group throughout those years. Did you ever envisage the longevity of the band and did you ever consider that Voivod was going to be such an important band and pretty much a household name for anyone into extreme metal?

Away: Not exactly but when I was old enough to hitchhike and go and see shows I had to go to Quebec City and Montreal, it was a long trek and I remember going to see Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the early 80s and thinking this is going to be hard for us to sing in English and get the words right but when we formed the band we were really dedicated and didn’t play covers for too long. We played Motorhead, Raven, Tank a bit of punk and were very much into Venom, hardcore, Discharge and Conflict so we also had progressive rock and Kraftwerk in our blood us well. It is very popular in Quebec and bands like Van Der Graaf Generator are very influential. It was never obvious for us but when War And Pain came out it gave us some hope but we knew we had to move to Montreal so we went there in 85. We quit school and moved and lived in one apartment infested with cockroaches and I didn’t think about the future that much.

When we signed with Noise and released Rrröööaaarrr it became this frenetic adventure where we put all the time with the trash metal scene, Destruction, Kreator, Celtic Frost etc; these were crazy years. We also released an album a year and only like at the end of the 80s after working pretty hard and finally getting some airplay for Nothingface that I started to think that things could get bigger. A couple of events along the way though really made me think it could be over like our accident in Germany 98 and the passing of Piggy in 2005 but I am very surprised and its quite an accomplishment we have a new album out it’s our anniversary now.

AN: Obviously a huge amount has changed since you first delivered debut album ‘War And Pain’ in 1984. What would you say are the biggest changes that have affected you as a recording artist between then and new album Target Earth all those years later?

Away: Oh it’s the acceleration in technology, all aspects of it actually. We saw computer technology taking over full on from having to do things, manipulations to pro-tools and for me visually having to go from brush, air brush to photoshop so that’s intertwined and the digital technology versus analogue is the main thing for me on all aspects.

AN: The music industry is obviously in a real state of flux at the moment with all the problems of internet leakage of material and the traditional record store disappearing from the high street (HMV just going into administration). Would you say it is a lot more difficult surviving than it was around the time you were releasing the likes of say Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross?

Away: Yes and it goes with the same complex situation that comes with technology, you can apply it to CD’s or MP3’s there are a couple of downfalls, we have to suffer the illegal downloads and all that. We were all tape traders ourselves but the internet is such an incredibly quick way of promoting yourself. When we started we had to record the 1984 demo which was recently re-released by Alternative Tentacles and we had to send the cassette to the address on the back of the vinyl that we had and wait for an answer for a week. We did another mail order for the Iron Gang sampler we had set up and it was all done by mail. It’s a major, major change through the years and that’s what I mean when I say we were kind of lucky to watch it go from the early 80s to now in terms of home recording which really helped us in the case of finishing up Katorz and Infini for Jason, Snake and I. I think it would have been impossible to finish these two albums if Piggy didn’t record them on pro-tools on a laptop at home.

AN: Obviously the death of Piggy must have been a terrible thing to deal with. Was carrying on with the band something that you questioned at the time or was it imperative for you to do so and get his contributions put out on record?

Away: Well after we did Katorz in early 2006 Jason, Snake and I were emotionally drained from recording without Piggy and at this point we didn’t think it would be anything related to Voivod anymore. We just took a couple of years off. Jason, Snake and I knew that we wanted to finish Infini one day but even that was unsure. After a couple of years, it was summer of 2008 that we were asked many, many times by a festival here in Montreal called Heavy Montreal to reform for that festival and it was only meant to be one show. In 2007 when we were on hiatus Snake and I went to see Chewy and Blacky jamming together at a show. They were jamming a medley of Voivod with members of Cryptopsy I think and Snake and I were blown away, they had a really good chemistry and they were really fun to watch. So when we finally agreed to reform in 2008 for that one show we phoned them immediately but we were a bit scared and nervous that it would be sacrilege to many people and all that but the reaction of the crowd was amazing! The word spread and Chewy was accepted immediately and we were asked to play other festivals. The Heavy Montreal one was with Motley Crue and Iron Maiden and then we were asked to play another one in Canada in Calgary with Judas Priest and Ozzy and then Testament invited us to go to Tokyo for two nights, we ended up filming the concert and releasing a DVD and it just kept going. We started playing all the festivals in Europe, we were invited by Kreator to tour the USA and Down invited us for Canada and little by little we were enjoying very positive energy. With one line up on the road then Jason, Snake and I decided to finish Infini in 2009 and we added songs from that on the road with the other line up and then Snake asked me if we could play some of the Eric Forrest years so we added some songs from Phobos. By the time we started writing the album in 2010 all of the eras were in our blood. Of course most of the stuff we played, the early 80s trash metal material like the Blackie years really rubbed off on us when we started writing the album.

AN: I suppose and let’s move onto the new album fully now this question is again relevant as far as that is concerned as it was the first album with entirely fresh material without his contribution on. Did this make the recording of Target Earth a bit different for you?

Away: Well the last couple of albums we did with Jason were very hard to record for us as we had to add our respective tracks to his guitar tracks and it was not even done on a click track or anything. We had demos that were recorded in 2004. The new album was much easier because it was a band going into the studio and I had no insecurity. As soon as I heard the material which Blackie and Chewy demoed in early 2010 was how it started. There had been a demo for guitar and bass it was the songs Kaleidos and Artefact and Snake and I were blown away it was really reminiscent of Dimension Hatröss and we wanted to be part of it.

AN: A lot of people are already commenting on that and the fact that the new album sounds so quintessentially old style Voivod. Was it a group contribution as far as the writing of the album was concerned?

Away: Most of the arrangements are done by Blackie and Chewy and they both also have individual songs that mutated into Voivod material. We did a lot of improvisation sessions that we recorded and part of songs were poached from these but again they were arranged by Chewie and Blackie. Eventually I realised that the material was very intricate and I asked for a couple of trash metal songs with a Motorhead beat and we ended up writing Kluskap O’Korn and Corps Etranger our very first French song.

Target-Earth-FrontAN: I have to say that before you get to the music itself the cover art is excellent and really got my imagination at work being a bit of a dystopian sci-fi geek. What came first the song ideas or the artwork and where do you get inspiration from for it. I have to say first thoughts are we are going to be invaded and by the looks of what’s coming are completely screwed?

Away: Hahah, actually we had a discussion with the band and decided we wanted something that was more galactic and space looking. Then when we demoed the songs that I mentioned and noted that all the Voivod eras were presented musically, it made me feel that I could use colours from many front covers I did, that’s why it’s so colourful. I also wanted to do a series that would look good on vinyl. So I started working on that in Paint 2012 and the students and then everyone took to the streets here and there were at times 200 and 300,000 people passing in front of my house and there were mass riots with the anarchist groups right downtown from where I live. There were helicopters above my building all the time and it was the craziest summer so slowly with the cover coming together it was literally influenced by what was going on around my house. The three spheres were kind of like the three helicopters hovering around my house.

AN: I read that thematically the album deals a fair bit with conspiracy theories and control of information. Can you expand upon this a bit please?

Away: Well it has a lot of the recurring Voivod themes from through the years in terms of high-tech weaponry, mind manipulation, pollution, so technological disasters. Literally for the title track Target Earth its hackers taking control of armed satellites to blackmail countries. Continuing what has happened in the last couple of years there is the occupy movement, financial crash, Fukushima and Arab Spring before it was things like the Challenger explosion and nuclear war but our main worries are the same I guess.

AN: One thing that is bound to have people scratching their heads a bit is the title Klaskap O’Korn. Basically you what? Looking at the lyrics it suggests it could be about some sort of mythical figure from ancient times?

Away: It’s a first nation tale that Snake picked up from the Micmac mythology. It’s a creature who comes down from the sky to destroy the dinosaurs so that humanity can survive.

AN: That particular song with its strange chanting intro and the couple that followed with ethnic sounding beginnings kind of struck as a bit on the tribal side? Is this the effect you were looking for?

Away: I did the interludes and the intros and outros with Blacky, I like to use electronic equipment and he’s a huge fan of field recordings so we sort of mixed both for the album. We wanted it sound like a long journey, a bit like Dimension Hatröss.

AN: There are a lot of strong songs on the album, what was it that made you decide on Mechanical Mind as the single and the first taste to unveil on your listeners?

Away: We thought it was very representative of all musical aspects of the album. We could have used a shorter song and a more punchy one but thought that since the album is very progressive we might as well not hide from it and reveal a really progressive track first.

AN: If I had a gun to my head I think I would go for Resistance as a favourite, it’s got a real rollocking groove and it simply powers on throwing loads of good leads and memorable melody into the mix. It also takes me back to a song like Tornado a little. A lot of people seem to be commenting that this album is a return to Voivod of old, would you agree?

Away: Yeah well you know with Blacky’s blower bass sound and the song writing it’s definitely reminiscent of Dimension Hatröss and Nothingface with a little bit of The Outer Limits but Resistance also reminds me a bit of the Jason Newsted years in a way. There’s a bit of everything, definitely a return to the prog, trash and metal! 2012_Voivod_Logo_Crest

AN: The one thing that I just couldn’t gel with was that last number ‘Defiance’ it just gets going and frustratingly stops. What’s that all about, is it perhaps to be continued?

Away: Ha yeah actually! It’s meant to be the first song on the next album. It’s a lot like what Venom did with Black Metal and At War With Satan.

AN: Obviously the album has only been out a few days so guess you have more critic than fan reaction (although we can be both). How’s that been for you so far?

Away: Oh it’s been absolutely positive. I have yet to see a negative one yet. We try not to overthink too much when we write the material other than to keep it fresh and a fine balance. We do want to continue the Voivod legacy and keep the spirit of Piggy intact but wanted to write the music we wanted to play at this specific moment. It’s always a relief when it’s so well received.

AN: The London gig was great and it was really noted how much you all actually seemed to be enjoying yourselves. How was the tour, for you, what were the particular highlights?

Away: Well yeah, the highlight for me was the UK leg with Doom as I am a big fan. Then playing opening for Arch Enemy was amazing we had a great response and they are really class. We ended the tour in Russia and played Moscow for the first time, people were chanting Voivod for 20 minutes before we hit the stage so this was a highlight too.

AN: Voivod have always had an incredibly unique and immediately identifying sound. I very fleetingly mentioned Killing Joke on some of the riffs and The Young Gods on one song in reviewing the band (no doubt by language more than anything) but you are a band that leads to imitation rather than the other way. It makes me wonder what other music you listen to personally and rate?

Away: I’m quite a retro person, I listen to a lot of Kraut rock and a lot of progressive rock like Van Der Graaf Generator who are my favourite band. I listen to a lot of gothic material from the alternative period of the 80s like Bauhaus, Killing Joke and I have never stopped listening to hardcore, mainly anarchist and crust punk bands like Amebix. In terms of new material I like to listen to new prog like Anekdoten even if it is not brand new, anything is newer than Voivod haha. Blacky plays a lot of Baroness and Mastodon and I really think they are fantastic too.

AN: Any other projects on the go for any of you at the moment or are all controls full throttle Voivod!

Away: I used to do various side projects but when we reformed in 2008 it really took a back seat. Especially with the 30th anniversary we have a lot of touring coming up in South and North America, Europe and hopefully Asia. We will be going all over the place and in between tours we want to write new material. For the past 5 years we have been trying to get busier but we also have our own businesses. I do a lot of artwork and for books about heavy metal, Chewy is a guitar teacher at university

AN: As far as England is concerned a lot of people would like to see you added to Bloodstock Festival too.

Away: I would love to as well, with the new album we are applying to play at every festival so we will see what happens!

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Jan 28th 2013 Heavy Blog Is Heavy-Target Earth-Review by Juular

heavy blog is heavy

For a long time fans of Voivod have been weary of what would happen when the band inevitably ran out of material left over from former guitarist, Dennis D’Amour (Piggy). Which is completely understandable, as Piggy was seemingly the key writing component of the band for the the first two decades of their formation. So, when it was made known that the band’s latest record, Target Earth, would be the first album to feature contributions from Daniel Mongrain (Chewy), the man who took over lead guitar duties for the band’s tours once Piggy passed away, weariness turned into apprehension. It’s been made abundantly clear that when a pivotal member of a band is replaced, well the results can be less than desirable.

But really, were these fears ever all that justified? Mongrain has shown himself to be more than a fitting replacement for the late Piggy, as he has been pulling off the man’s guitar sections on tour for about five years now. Admittedly, playing what Piggy wrote is a lot different than emulating Piggy with new songs. However, Mongrain more than proves himself on Target Earth. If someone were somehow unaware of Piggy’s death over seven years ago, and started listening to Target Earth, they wouldn’t even know he was gone. Sure Mongrain’s guitar player is a bit more technical and smooth, but that just adds to the beauty of Target Earth, and while his playing is different enough to appreciate, he still pulls off all the trademarks of Piggy’s playing, and has effectively assimilated himself into the band, and into the band’s sound.

The title track starts the record off with Voivod’s unmistakable wobbly, distorted bass. It’s immediately overtaken by the angular riffing of Mongrain, who immaculately imitates the late Piggy, but brings enough of his own style to the fray. It’s a nice six minute track that ebbs and flows between old school trash, and bits of progressive weirdness that Voivod are known for. And luckily, that’s about how the entire record plays out. Each member of the band is given a chance to shine, a killer bassline gives way to a section predominantly focused on vocals, which in turn ends with shredding from Mongrain, or is wrapped up by the killer bursts of speed and attitude that exudes from the drum kit whenever Away sits behind it. It’s a formula that the band have been using for thirty years, and it still works.

The band makes good use of chaos on this record, as you never quite know where they are going from one song to next, or even from one instant to the next within a given song. Instances of straight up thrash abruptly give way to bass driven areas of funky metal goodness, while the distinct vocals of Snake bellow forth in their ever esoteric manner. The vocals are all kept in a similar inflection from one song to the next, each with what appears to be a heavy amount of distortion or post-production work, but not that of a top 40 pop artist. The vocal effects just enhance the griminess of Snakes vocals, making them all the more intense.

But one of the true highlights of this album, and every great Voivod album, is the absolutely thunderous lower end. With the return of original bassist Blacky, Voivod’s bass-lines have reached new heights (or lows, rather). Most of the songs pummel the listener with crazy, disjointed angular riffing from Mongrain, but really the best moments come from Blacky, whose dazzling feats on bass almost punch you in the gut as they usher forth from his fingertips.

Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about this record that hasn’t been said about nearly every Voivod record to date. Snake’s vocals are gritty, weird, and over the top. Mongrain’s riffs are crazy and memorable, switching off between distorted angular riffing, and a nice focus on odd time signatures. Blacky’s bass is mountainous and rolls through the listener’s ear canals like an avalanche. While Away’s drums are a steady, yet subtle, burst of attitude and anger. This record is just another stellar piece in the ever growing Voivod catalog, and it is one of the best records they’ve released in a long time. The elements are all familiar, but the way they are executed brings this band up to new levels of craftsmanship.

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Jan 27th 2013 Voivod : inoxydable!

par Alain Brunet

Non seulement l’esprit originel de Voivod est-il miraculeusement préservé dans ce Target Earth, non seulement cette mixtion métal prog-thrash-speed retrouve-t-elle ses propriétés originelles, non seulement ses interprètes y font preuve d’un jeu impeccable, mais encore trouvent-ils le moyen d’y saupoudrer des épices récemment cultivées - jeu de gorge inuit, fragments de voix traitées, avancées harmoniques, etc.

lapresse.ca

Qui plus est, il y a lieu de se réjouir du retour du bassiste Jean-Yves «Blacky» Thériault et du jeu plus que défendable du guitariste Daniel «Chewy» Mongrain, remplaçant du regretté Denis «Piggy» D’amour que chapeaute le chanteur Denis «Snake» Bélanger - il a réintégré la formation en 2005. Le batteur Michel «Away» Langevin peut être fier d’avoir tenu le phare!

En fait, on ne pouvait souhaiter meilleure reconstruction, le métal de Voivod n’a certes pas rouillé comme certains pourraient le laisser entendre. Bien sûr, nos vétérans québécois ne s’annoncent pas les grands réformateurs qu’ils furent jadis mais… leur musique d’aujourd’hui n’en est pas moins allumée et impose le respect. Inoxydable? Osons croire que oui.

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Jan 26th 2013 Spin, Critical Mass, Target Earth review by Chuck Eddy

So you know how heavy metal supposedly, suddenly, got all avant-garde and high-IQ in the past few years, enabling its embracement by the hippest of the bearded Brooklyn hip? Well, whoever you’re banging your microbrewed brainbox to, odds are Voivod beat them to their best ideas by a quarter-century.

SPIN

Weirdness came naturally to these four French Canadian street-hockey pucks born around the dawn of the ’60s, raised inhaling toxins from the planet’s most enormous aluminum plant in Jonquiére, in the nexus of Quebec sovereignty country. In 1969, with Away, Blacky, Piggy, and Snake in grade school —l Front de libération du Québec terrorists bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange; by 1970, in the October Crisis wake of separatist kidnappings and murder, the province was all but under martial law. The boys soaked it all in, and by 1982, had started a band.

At first, Voivod seemed like a joke, apparently not on purpose. They had those silly nicknames, for one thing, and early on, that’s all they went by. War and Pain — released in August 1984, a year or so after Metallica’s debut, eight months after Slayer’s — was called “probably the worst record I have ever heard in my entire life” by Paul Sutter in Kerrang, “like a moose being squashed by a steamroller (the vocals), whilst putting a strong magnetic current through a dustbin half-full of ball bearings (the band).” Their follow-up, 1986’s umlautriffically named Rrr öööaaarrr, was some new species of fallout-shelter caveman splatter, complete with are-they-kidding? song titles on the order of “Ripping Headaches”; people lumped them in with thrash and/or speed metal, but already Voivod sounded like nobody else. They were listening to anarchist Brit hardcore (Rudimentary Peni, Discharge); left-field ’70s Euro-prog (Birth Control, Egg, Amon Düül II, Nektar) that had a surprising Quebec following; 20th-century classical stuff; goth stuff and horror soundtracks; biker rock; Sonic Youth and Public Image Ltd.; and industrial firms like Einstürzende Neubauten and Laibach, whose T-shirts certain Voivoders wore at ’80s gigs captured on 2005’s D-V-O-D-1. They had a ridiculous concept — Voivods are time-hopping Viking vampires, see — but meticulous cover design and calligraphy from not-quite-here drummer Away (hence his name) and vegematic riffs from porcine guitarist Piggy to put it over.

Then, on Killing Technology (from 1987; note the two-faced title) and Dimension Hatröss (1988; note the recurring umlaut), they blasted it all into a deep and dense and ulcerous black hole of quantum sound, hanging ten on the galaxy’s outer edge atop a jungle-drum rumble and stretching song matter toward ambient anti-matter via algebraic equations that later critic-approved metalgaze droners from Neurosis and Isis to SunnO))) and Liturgy and Pallbearer still haven’t figured out how to calculate. Their convoluted structures, meanwhile, presaged entire metal subgenres largely preceded by the prefix “tech,” but mainly populated by dorks opting for boilerplate brutality over having personalities.

On Nothingface (1989), Angel Rat (1991), and Outer Limits (1993), Voivod eased their claustrophobic congestion some, letting in more psych/prog/goth beauty, alternate-reality pop hooks, two late-’60s Pink Floyd covers, one 17-minute epic, and melodic college-radio jangle two decades before Baroness. The years since have been tumultuous: five often grumpy studio albums (plus live and outtake sets) between 1995 and 2009, including two with a vocalist who wasn’t Snake, three with a bassist who wasn’t Blacky but who used to be in Metallica, and two recorded after colon cancer killed Piggy but featuring guitar parts he’d cranked out before he died. Voivod (2003) is one of the band’s catchiest records; Katorz (2006) one of their most rhythmic.

Target Earth, their new one, deserves to be the album whereon social-media-era tastemakers finally anoint them legacy heroes, in the amusingly eons-behind-the-curve tradition of Swans, Nick Cave, and Voivod’s own early inspiration Killing Joke. Blacky’s back, and if new guitarist Chewy from Quebec tech-deathers Martyr is no Piggy (nobody is), he holds his own — his fills in “Kaleidos” are nutso. As albums by Treponem Pal, Mekong Delta, Angel Witch, and others have demonstrated in the past year, great metal bands have a jellyfish knack for eternal regeneration when lineups change, and Voivod remain as sui generis as, oh, the Fall — their noise still can’t be mistaken for anybody else’s. The self-production here is a bit murky, maybe, and the drums and vocals have seen sharper days. But these dudes still turn sharp corners. Seven of 10 tracks last 5:45 or longer, but not even the 7:35 “Mechanical Mind” (first released last fall on one-sided, logo-etched seven-inch vinyl) wears out its welcome. It just builds, from wind-chiming start through yawping bad-dream multiverses and impatient time signatures and nyah-nyah-nyahs unto insanity: “Night arrives! / The guilt inside! / The worms of mind! / Scarred me for life!”

There are all sorts of idiosyncrasies tucked into the album’s wormholes: Inuit throat singing and an almost lounge-jazzy midsection in the First Nations folklore-derived “Kluskap O’kom”; a Mediterranean intro credited to Greek oudist Perikles Tsoukalas making way for traffic-jam honking and extended staccato rhyming in the black-ice depressive “Empathy for the Enemy”; rain-forest polyrhythms under conspiracy theories of suppressed alien visitation (”skulls with conical shape, a map of outer space”) in “Artefact”; intercepted satellite static or aluminum-smelting musique concrète opening several tracks, presumably courtesy of Blacky, who has dabbled in electronic music in recent years. “Corps Etranger,” cold and clammy then raging, is recited in French, and seems to concern a parasitic disease — maybe Piggy’s cancer.

In the world of extreme-metal experimentation, writing songs you’ll remember once the album’s over isn’t cool; either that, or most bands don’t know how. Voivod have for ages — environmental horror and nuclear/biological/chemical warfare and chaos theory and drone weapons of the formerly future frontier have been obsessions since Killing Technology days. Target Earth kicks off with cyber terror: a hacker attacking the power grid. But somehow, Snake’s nasally accented repetitions, more robotic than monstrous, manage to consistently communicate shades of emotion — worry, despair, but also a hopeful calm — outside metal’s usual purview.

So a dystopian nuke-wasteland dirge like “Warchaic” ultimately finds him looking to rebuild a “brand new world” like a 16th-century New France settler, then up next is the swinging punk protest “Resistance,” not entirely un-skeptical yet actively embracing gas-masked street demonstrators toppling champagne-sipping gargoyles from ivory towers — a shout of solidarity with Occupy anarchists or Arab Springsters or Montreal students rioting over tuition hikes or Wal-Mart workers trying to unionize in Jonquiére. Eventually, we conclude with an odd, ominous minute-and-half snippet called “Defiance”: black clouds, world in flames. But it doesn’t feel like the end. Just the opposite; it feels unfinished. To be continued…maybe forever

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Jan 26th 2013 MetalHolic, CD Review: VOIVOD ~ Target Earth by Rustyn Rose

Canada’s metal overlords, Voivod return with a thirteenth studio album, “Target Earth“. It marks the first album without any content from original guitarist, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, and the first to feature new guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (Martyr, Gorguts). “Target Earth” also hails the return of original bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault who last appeared on 1991′s “Angel Rat”. Founders Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals) round out the current line-up.

Metalholic

Voivod has always pioneered its own path through heavy metal, using speed, thrash, progressive and traditional elements to create a distinct signature. “Target Earth” continues that band’s unique sonic journey. While the band’s previous two albums were solid, they seemed a bit adrift, but “Target Earth” is firmly anchored by the band’s early roots to which they return without apology. That said, there is still plenty of modern progression at play here as well.

The album opens with the title track which immediately immerses the listener into the band’s heavy progressions and futuristic ambient pool. Blacky’s muddy bass sets the tone, and leads into an almost industrial vibe. The guitar is at once thrashy yet surprisingly buoyant and emotive. While Mongrain doesn’t stray far from the style of D’Amour, he sets his own place at the table, showcases his own identity, and proves without effort, that this is where he belongs. There is even an odd jazzy moment in the breakdown. A decidedly wicked opening salvo.

“Kluskap O’Kom” enters like a panting robotic dog then offloads a punkish riff and trots off into a discordant thrashy gallop. Plenty of layers here, gang vocals, riveting drums and Snake’s gritty and engaging vocal attack. Two songs in and it is quite clear that Voivod is still a charismatic metal force.

The sway of sonic dissonance continues onward with “Empathy For The Enemy” before dropping us into the progressive intricacies of the album’s first single, “Mechanical Mind”. The latter showcases the various twists and turns Voivod will take the listener through and sets the stage for the modern line-up, while simultaneously assuring the listener that classic Voivod is not going anywhere. This one track encapsulates all that is diabolically magnificent about Voivod and “Target Earth“.

Blacky and Away set the tone for the divinity of “Warchaic”, a very deeply textured track. This kicks off the second half of the record which is a strong and dynamic as the first half. There are admittedly a few moments here and there that the band might have pared back a bit, shortening a few of the tracks, but overall, there is no noticeable weakness on this record.

The band handled its own production before turning over mixing duties to Sanford Parker (Pelican, Nachtmystium). Recording was handled by Pierre Rémillard and Blacky at Wild Studio, Saint-Zénon, Quebec, Canada. The sound is crisp and very modern without being overdone. Away created the album’s colorful artwork.

With “Target Earth” Voivod not only keep Piggy’s memory alive but breathe new life one of metal most iconic legacies. The spirit of Piggy soars onward through equal parts emulation, respect, and enthusiasm. “Killing Technology“ (1987), “Dimension Hatröss“ (1988), “Nothingface” (1989) and “Angel Rat“ (1991) are arguably Voivod’s best and most seminal works, and “Target Earth” fits right into that mix as if it were born of that era. The vocal performances are among Bélanger’s best in over two decades, while his lyrics continue to intrigue. Langevin remains one of metals elite and most overlooked skinmasters, and the distorted rumble of Thériault’s bass marks a welcome return. Mongrain performs with soul and emotion, paying homage to the departed D’Amour, while staying true to his own heart and style. All of these elements come together on “Target Earth” in an inspired, freakishly weird, imaginatively wondrous, and oddly beautiful album.

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Jan 22nd 2013 Voivod inhabits its own planet

Target Earth keeps the Quebec metal band on a singular trajectory while honouring the spirit of its late guitarist

Read more: montrealgazette.com

MONTREAL - Like the Pope or Highlander, there can be only one Voivod. The Quebec metal band is unique, and has been for most of its 30-year existence. It releases its 13th studio album, Target Earth, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, continuing a long tradition of experimental aggression.

Yes, other bands have blended thrash metal’s buzzing fury with prog rock’s intricacy and Newtonian time signatures. But Voivod’s reliance on complex, crystalline chords — the signature style of late guitarist Denis (Piggy) D’Amour — gives many of its songs the erratic dissonance of wind chimes outside of an insane asylum. And the science fiction elements pervading the band’s lyrics and imagery make Voivod all the more difficult to define.

Being unconventional comes at a cost, and Voivod hasn’t obtained the success of thrash-based contemporaries like Slayer or Megadeth. But that comes as no surprise to the group.

“I don’t think Voivod could be a commercial success,” says guitarist Daniel (Chewy) Mongrain. “It’s too unique, too unpredictable.”

Mongrain, also of Quebec death metal band Martyr (currently on hiatus), has a unique perspective on Voivod. Though he only joined the group five years ago — originally as a touring guitarist — he’s a lifelong fan.

“The first song I heard was (1987’s) Ravenous Medicine. I was 11 years old,” says Mongrain. “I became a fan right away. I picked up a guitar because of them.”

Mongrain says he was drawn in by the band’s inventive approach to metal. “(Unusual) song structures, intricate parts, counterpoints, dialogue between instruments, textures, dissonance, tempo changes and odd time signatures,” says Mongrain. “That’s Voivod.”

Voivod began in 1982 in Jonquière, releasing its first album, War and Pain, two years later. Initially, the band’s mix of thrash, punk and Iron Maiden-esque influences fuelled speedy, amped-up tracks that evoked Motörhead overdosing on itself. Its third album, Killing Technology, introduced progressive rock elements, and began more of a focus on science fiction — not the metaphysical meanderings of Dune or 2001, but the grungy, violent apocalypse of a stack of burning Judge Dredd comics, brought to life by the graphic design of drummer Michel (Away) Langevin.

The music came to include influences ranging “from movie soundtracks to Stravinsky,” says Mongrain. “Every album (started having) its own sound, its own approach, but the spirit and esthetic (stayed) Voivod.”

As the band changed, its fans followed. “They were not the kind of band (that did) the same thing all over again,” says Mongrain. “And as a fan, you felt like you (were) evolving at the same time. You (couldn’t) wait for the next one, because you knew it’s going to be new and different and fresh.”

In the ’90s, lineup shifts altered the band’s chemistry. Original bassist Jean-Yves (Blacky) Thériault and vocalist Denis (Snake) Bélanger left, and replacement singer and bassist Eric (E-Force) Forrest quit in 2001 after being seriously injured in a car accident. But its sound continued progressing, becoming more complex and layered without losing any of its raw energy, like a dogfight in an orchestra pit. And the 2002 addition of former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted — along with the return of Bélanger — raised Voivod’s profile.

In 2005, however, the band suffered a devastating tragedy when D’Amour died of cancer. D’Amour’s distinctive sound — full of deliberate disharmonies and schizophrenic progressions — helped define Voivod’s style over the years.

“It was very unique sounding,” says Mongrain. “Every other band was playing power chords, (on the) low register of the instrument, but Piggy played keyboard-style chords up on the neck, very high pitched, and it sounded like chaos. Total post-nuclear vibe.”

The band released two more albums based on material D’Amour had recorded — Katorz in 2006 and 2009’s Infini — before bringing Mongrain on as a full-time member for Target Earth, which also features the return of original bassist Thériault.

The band’s longevity, says Mongrain, comes partly from its approach to songwriting, which helps it stand out. He attributes Voivod’s originality to Quebec’s diverse metal scene, which breeds mutated musical styles like a womb full of lead paint and uranium.

“The mentality (in Quebec) is quite different from Europe, the rest of Canada and the States, and at the same time it’s a combination,” says Mongrain. “Even the language makes us different … because music is a reflection of the language, of phrasing. The way you compose is directly attached to the way you speak. That’s what makes Quebec’s metal different … and I think Voivod was the start of it all in Quebec.”

Becoming an official member of Voivod came with its own set of challenges — especially considering D’Amour’s impact and influence. “Piggy (was) a real music talent,” says Mongrain, “so I put a lot of pressure on myself.”

But the other members immediately accepted Mongrain as one of their own, absorbing him into the creative process. “I felt very welcome,” he says. “Everyone is involved in the creation of the songs. … It’s really teamwork, and that’s the secret of the sound of Voivod.”

With Target Earth, Mongrain hopes to build on Voivod’s legacy while paying tribute to D’Amour. “Piggy is not here anymore, and he was a big part of Voivod. But his spirit is still here; his heritage is here,” says Mongrain.

“I’m honoured to contribute so the band can play live, and the music of Piggy can live on every night we play.”

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Jan 21st 2013 Target Earth Featured review by: UG Team

Sound: Voivod first busted loose from the Canadian heavy metal underground back in the early 1980’s, and soon following began gaining a small worldwide following after select metalheads heard such unique sounding, raging speed metal anthems as “War And Pain” and “Live For Violence”.

Ultimate Guitar

However, throughout the next few decades, Voivod began to passionately embrace such broader influences in the rock spectrum as Rush, Pink Floyd and Saxon, and started implementing progressive and thrash metal stylings into such later outings as the chart hitting “Nothingface” and “Dimension Hatross”. Since then, Voivod have remained heavily active, with this 13th full length studio album released since their 1984 debut. For the most part, established fans should easily be able to feel comfortable while listening to the new album, because for the most part Voivod have maintained their traditional style of sound.

Probably one of the strongest examples off of “Target Earth” is the title track. Heavy as hell vocals, triumphantly powerful guitar work, and a thunderous drum beat all help this song closely resemble the band’s earlier releases, as compared to those from the “Nothingface” era. The elaborate shreddings that are slathered across the new album are surprisingly great, considering this is the first studio album with new axeman Daniel Mongrain taking on full guitar duties, following the unfortunate death of original guitarist Denis D’Amour (RIP). The entire album is simply roaring with dynamic levels of rage and precision, however each song easily makes a broad statement on it’s own. Instead of simply relying on the hits, Voivod went back into the studio with a mission to produce an incredible album of new pulsating metal classics, which rock as hard as their earlier tunes continue to do. And the result of this effort is simply great. // 9

Lyrics and Singing: Denis Belanger has a truly powerful heavy metal voice. Considering he’s been screaming for Voivod since the band first formed in 1982, the fact that he still manages to produce those signature roars that made such albums as “Killing Technology” and “Rrroooaaarrr” so heavily circulated amongst fans. Lyrically, Denis’ lyrics still prove to be as heavy as ever, although they are admittedly a bit hard to decipher behind those heavy screeches of his.

Denis Belanger has a truly powerful heavy metal voice. Considering he’s been screaming for Voivod since the band first formed in 1982, the fact that he still manages to produce those signature roars that made such albums as “Killing Technology” and “Rrroooaaarrr” so heavily circulated amongst fans. Lyrically, Denis’ lyrics still prove to be as heavy as ever, although they are admittedly a bit hard to decipher behind those heavy screeches of his. // 7

Impression: Overall, Voivod give an incredibly solid performance throughout “Target Earth”. Between it being the band’s first album in 4 years, to the first full-time appearance of Daniel Mongrain manning guitar on an album, to the unfortunate toll that time takes on all aging musicians (let alone screaming heavy metal vocalists), “Target Earth” is better than I ever expected. The entire album is standout, but the tracks that stand out the most would have to be the title track, “Mechanical Mind”, and “Defiance”, which closes out the album perfectly. Any established fan of Voivod should easily be able to fall in love with this album, as should any metalhead who’ve been craving a great new album to wake the neighbors with.

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Jan 20th 2013 Target Earth Critique sur Musikuniverse.net

Auteur : Yanick Tremblay

musikuniverse.net

C’est bien la première fois que je ne sais pas comment commencer une critique… habituellement, j’ai déjà un plan en tête mais là, je me dois d’y aller avec un nouvel album venant de l’un des groupes que je respecte à la puissance 1000 / 10 mais qui présente une nouveauté sans l’un de ses membres les plus influents, le mirifique Piggy aux guitares.

Voïvod, c’est une carrière de 30 ans remplie d’embuches mais sans vouloir être fataliste, de succès avant tout. Personne n’aurait pu prédire que ce quatuor jonquièrois aurait pu persévérer à ce point et je me vois, à l’aube de mes 38 ans en train d’analyser un album d’une formation que je vénère. Suis-je objectif alors?

Je crois que oui.

Et le premier constat est que Dan Mongrain, aux guitares, fait un travail fabuleux au niveau de la composition tout au long de l’album, s’étant empreint de l’aura et du jeu de son prédécesseur depuis des années. Ce qui étonne justement c’est que l’on perçoit vraiment l’album comme étant la nouveauté de Voïvod, et non pas comme une tentative de se remettre en marche musicalement après un évènement tragique.

C’est probablement à ce niveau là que le tout fonctionne à merveille sur Target Earth, cette sensation habile et agréable de ressentir une certaine évolution et non pas un essai malhabile de mettre le focus sur le passé. Avec la première chanson, on oublie dans un sens que nous ne sommes pas en présence de Piggy aux guitares car nous sommes agglutinés au niveau des oreilles avec une pièce majeure du groupe qui respecte les standards habituels, et tordus, de Voïvod.

Avec la parcelle émotive de côté, l’écoute se poursuit et la satisfaction nous gagne car le groupe propose un album qui poursuit dans la tradition de Dimension Hatross au niveau du mysticisme mais en gardant cette fraicheur moderne auquel le groupe nous avait habitués avec les derniers albums. Nous avons eu l’opportunité vers la fin de 2012 de pouvoir entendre 3 extraits de l’album que sont les chansons Kluskap O’Kom, Mechanical Mind et la pièce titre donc il serait futile de s’attarder à ces dernières qui demeurent excellentes même, surtout après quelques semaines.

C’est avec Warchaic que la première véritable parcelle d’originalité de Mongrain survient avec un solo ambiant qui sort de l’ordinaire. Plutôt éthéré, ce moment aux guitares nous démontre que Mongrain ne s’est pas uniquement contenté d’émuler son idole mais à plutôt décidé de tirer son épingle du jeu. La chanson Resistance possède un groove très rock énergique qui incite à la levée du coude avec ses accents punkés à l’unisson avec la voix rocailleuse de Snake. Pour ce disque, Voïvod présente sa toute première chanson en français. Par le passé, nous avons eu droit aux Cigares Volants qui n’avaient que le titre de français mais sur Corps Étrangers, c’est une chanson dans la langue de Vigneault que nous retrouvons. Et d’avoir la « blower bass » de Blacky plaquée mur à mur, ca rajoute un élément de la vieille école qui me satisfait encore une fois ! Et la chanson Artefact nous la joue en mode progressif car, il le faut bien!

Donc, c’est vraiment, tellement excellent, est-ce que ca se dit ? Pas parfait comme de raison mais dans le cœur d’un fanatique du groupe qui possède encore ses vinyles sous étiquette Banzaï, de pouvoir écouter ce groupe 30 ans plus tard avec d’aussi bonnes conditions, je ne peux demander mieux !

Je veux le vinyle maintenant !

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Jan 18th 2013 Metalunderground / CD-Berichte / Voivod – Target Earth

Written by: Thorsten Jünemann

metalunderground.at

Was soll man zu VOIVOD sagen?

Liebhaber wissen bereits alles und Band-Unbekannten wird der sog. intelligente Sci-Fi-Chaos-Metal immer noch zu chaotisch daherkommen, um wirklich neue Fans auf die Seite zu ziehen.

Immerhin feiern die Jungs inzwischen ihr 30jähriges Bestehen und haben auf Grund dieser Tatsache auch ihre Klientel.
Große Unterschiede höre ich nicht wirklich zu den vorigen Releases; Es ist immer noch sperriges Futter für Headbangerohren, es ist immer noch laut und klingt teilweise unglaublich verrückt zusammengebastelt, aber das ist wohl das, was hier als intelligent abgetan wird.

In der Bandhistorie gab es mehrere tragische Todesfälle und trotzdem halten die Jungs durch, was natürlich auch von meiner Seite mit Respekt bedacht wird.

Warm werde, bzw. wurde ich trotzdem nie mit ihnen, auch wenn sie gern als „Metalpioniere“ bezeichnet werden.
Auf dem aktuellen Release wurden keine Restposten mehr verwurstet sondern neue Songs geschrieben, was dem Ganzen eine Art Frische verleiht, die auch VOIVOD-Fremdlingen auffällt. Produziert wurde das Album auch sehr ordentlich und wer sich bereits auf den Release gefreut hat, wird auch nicht enttäuscht werden.

Wenn ich Chaos und Progressivität hören möchte, greife ich persönlich weiterhin ins Regal in Richtung STRAPPING YOUNG LADD, DEVIN TOWNSEND, DREAM THEATER, RUSH, etc., weil ich die Melodien brauche.

Nein, unmelodiös ist das Album nicht, aber für meine Ohren sind es einfach zu wenig. Und so geht es mir seit Jahrzehnten, was VOIVOD betrifft.

Was aber nicht an der Klasse und dem Unterhaltungswert der Band kratzen soll, denn ihre Instrumente beherrschen die Jungs immer noch und auch die „neuen“ Bandmitglieder haben sich songwriterisch passend eingefügt.

Von mir gibt es für die musikalische Leistung 4/5 Punkte.

Auch wenn ich nicht wirklich etwas damit anfangen kann und wahrscheinlich auch nie etwas mit VOIVOD weiter zu tun haben werde. Großes Kino für die Gehörgänge und dem Kopf ist es allemal.

Über Kopfhörer hat es mir fast den Schädel gesprengt und das ist letztendlich das, was zählt. VOIVOD bewegen sich immer noch nicht in Richtung „Kommerz“ und die Fans werden das lieben.

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Jan 17th 2013 Daniel Mongrain Interview | Voivod guitarist talks Target Earth

musiclegends.ca

Daniel Mongrain

1. Could you tell me about the upcoming Voivod album “Target Earth” and its recording process?

Daniel Mongrain : The new album is very intricate and progressive, sometimes chaotic and psychedelic with space for dynamics and melody also. It has pretty much all the ingredients of all the previous albums, but also has a new touch to it. Blacky’s killer bass sound is back. Blacky and I wrote the main ideas and riffs of the music and we arranged everything all together at the jam space. We also recorded improvisation that became the core of some of the songs. We really worked as a team. It was one of the best creative journeys I’ve had so far in my career.

2. What were some of the influences used in writing these songs on “Target Earth”?

I don’t think influence is a conscious thing when it comes to writing, I would call that copying. I think if you let your ideas flow out of yourself and if you give yourself the chance to be spontaneous, your influences will all be there as a part of your personality, translated into music (in that case) or any other form of art. Of course there is plenty of influence from all of us on this record, but who am I to pretend that I know what they are…I know I’ve been influenced a lot by Voivod, King Crimson, Allan Holdworth, Zappa, Bela Bartok, etc…But when I write, I don’t think about what influences me to write an idea or a riff…I just write it without thinking.

3. What type of amps and guitars did you use on this album? The guitars sound very tight and heavy.

I really am happy with the guitar sound, it was pretty basic. For the rhythm, tracks were all recorded with my Les Paul Classic with Burstbucker pickups through a JCM 800 and also a Mesa boogie Triple Rectifier, then each head was plugged in a different cab. One was a Marshall with greenback speakers, and the other one was a Hiwatt cab. I used a Boss blues driver before each head just to change the grain of the sound. I didn’t use much distortion, just enough so every dissonant chord could sound precise. I doubled guitar tracks with every head so it resulted in four rhythm guitar tracks. Then Sanford Parker could play with the blend of the amps depending on the song. For solos, I used the Les Paul, plus my Liberatore custom when a whammy bar was needed, played through the mesa. And for the clean tone, I used a boutique amp called Tone King with my Fender thin line telecaster.

4. Any tour dates lined up for Voivod?

Not much details for now, but we have plans. We’re gonna tour the whole planet hopefully– Chile is confirmed for April. I know it’s gonna be a busy year!

5. Would you say that social media has helped Voivod to find new fans?

I guess, I think it’s pretty good for every band, but nothing replaces seeing a band live. I mean, not a live performance on YouTube, but seeing a band live at a concert is where, in my opinion, you really experience the magic of that band.

6. What do you think of promo videos and its importance now?

I think it’s a good way to get to the fans faster and easier. It’s like the teasers in movie theatres. It’s a good tool if you use it the right way.

7. What could we find interesting in your music collection at home?

Wayne Krantz (Two Drinks Minimum), Michael Jackson (Thriller), Zappa (Them or Us), Shostakovitch (String Quartet), Virus (The Agent that Shapes the Desert), Jason Becker (Perspective), UK (Alaska), Aerosmith (Get a Grip), Hank Williams III (Damn Right Rebel Proud)

8. Could you describe what goes on in a day in your life as a musician?

I teach full time in college (music program), jazz and pop music, sight-reading, improvisation, harmony, electric guitar. Then I go home and write music or record or make a music score. Sometimes I’m on tour playing shows, or working as a freelance for different projects of different kinds of music. The last thing I did was a TV Show in Montreal– rappers, country singers, pop…It’s all about music.

9. How is the music scene in your area today?

Pretty good actually! People are still going to shows, but going to a concert is becoming more and more “exotic” since a song is only 1 or 2 clicks away on a computer or on an Ipod. Nothing has yet to replace seeing a band live.

10. Any words for future musicians?

Never forget who you are and the reason why you’re doing music from the start. It’s supposed to be fun, a form of accomplishment, a way to express yourself. Be a good team mate. Do it with love and respect for yourself and for others.

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