Feb 20th 2013 07:23 pm Target Earth review on Metal-Fi.com by Alex

Progressive thrash. Dissonance. Minor chords. Odd signatures. Distorted bass. Canadian. Voivod. Any questions?

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Truth be told, I was extremely late to the Voivod party. While Voivod was conquering outer space with their quirky sense of rhythm and structure, I was but a wee lad still addicted to Bay Area thrash. And by the time I developed an ear for anything even remotely labeled as progressive, Denis “Piggy” D’Armour, the band’s lead guitarist and heart and soul, had already tragically lost his fight with colon cancer. After Piggy’s death in 2005, I had written off Voivod as dead. Well, I was thankfully wrong, since here we are, 8 years later, with a reinvigorated line-up and their sixteenth full length release, Target Earth.

Just to be absolutely crystal clear, it’s not possible to replace a singular talent like Piggy. But after a few minutes into this record, it’s quite obvious that new lead guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain has done his homework, as he really captures the essence of Piggy-era Voivod: Mind-boggling riffs and odd time signatures are found in every nook and cranny of this album, almost ad nauseam. Couple that with the return of Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault’s iconic bass playing, and Target Earth might just be their best work since 1993′s Outer Limits.

I can’t really imagine a better way to start this record off than with opener “Target Earth.” After a few seconds of establishing an alien dial-up connection, Blacky lays down a massive bass chug that just oozes classic Voivod. Denis “Snake” Bélanger’s trademark hardcore punk vocals soon follow and sound marvelous. In fact within the first few minutes, I am confident that most long time fans will be sold hook, line and sinker on this record’s pedigree. Of course, you still won’t be prepared for Chewy’s incredibly off beat solo at around the 3:45 mark that just launches this song into outer orbit. Do not miss. “Kluskap O’Korn” begins with what sounds like an older gentlemen having a seizure, before Michel “Away” Langevin makes his presence known with some groovy drum work. The track has a spastic pace to it as Blacky and Chewy constantly fight for your eardrum’s attention, either through an out right breakdown or some kind of fill between Snake’s frantic singing.

This whole album is filled with one highlight after another. The third track, “Empathy for the Enemy,” has Voivod going Japanese (“I really think so”) for the first few minutes as a shamisen provides the introductory melody before they re-enter Canadian space. Snake’s vocals have a more subdued tone and for the first time thus far, the riffs are more straightforward allowing you to just rock out. Don’t fret, because the next track, “Mechanical Mind,” is a seven and a half minute all out spacey romp with Chewy providing some mind blowing riffage mid-way through. “Warchaic” is in the same vein as “Target Earth” and “Resistence” for at least its first half, is all out punk. The album really never loses steam as “Kaleidos,” the very French “Corps Etranger,” and “Artefact,” all provide various twists and turns on this strange roller coaster ride, never ever leaving you bored. If there is one gripe I have, its that the last track, “Defiance,” is a short minute and half medley that really feels like an incomplete song. I am not sure why they had to end this album this way, but hey, that’s Voivod.

Target Earth was mixed by Sanford Parker and mastered by Colin Jordan of the Boiler Room. This mix is classic Voivod through and through. Blacky’s bass really shines from start to finish in spite of Jordan’s quest for loudness. Parker did a superb job of maintaining the balancing act between the technical guitar wizardry and Snake’s inspired vocal performance. After listening and reviewing several Jordan masters, I have come to the following conclusion: the man clearly knows what he is doing, but I suspect is playing the “good soldier” – appeasing bands by mastering loud so they can stay “competitive” within their respective label roster. As a result, there is no clipping to speak of despite the brickwall, each track has been compressed to the very limit before distortion ensues. The biggest victim of course is Away’s drums which are just lifeless and feel somewhat artificial. In the end, I believe the band wanted to capture that old school punk rawness found on many of the classic albums, but with a modern twist. On at least that front, they succeeded, but at a cost.

Voivod once again reaffirms their position as progressive thrash titans, as Target Earth is a fantastic addition to an already impressive body of work. Act now and pick up the limited edition box set which looks fantastic – I know I did! Highly recommended.

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