Jan 28th 2013 01:19 pm Heavy Blog Is Heavy-Target Earth-Review by Juular
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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