Released: 2013, Century Media
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Losing one of your few remaining founding and consistent members can be a bit like losing the gravity that keeps a band’s world from flying out of orbit. Particularly when they have been instrumental in cementing your sound. This is the situation that faced Voivod, those ever so slightly unhinged Canadian progressive thrashers, when guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour tragically passed away in 2005 from colon cancer.
Instead of seeing Voivod fall into a black hole though, the other three original members; Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger, Jean -Yves ‘Blacky’ Theriault, and Michel ‘Away’ Langevin were brought back to Earth. Going beyond just keeping Piggy’s legacy alive, the band took onboard newbie (and long-time fan) Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain for guitar duties and in this - the year of their 30th anniversary - they have realised studio album number 13; Target Earth. It’s a number that some consider unlucky - but not for Voivod.
If you’re approaching Target Earth with all the trepidation of a man facing a directors-cut Twilight marathon and discussion group, then save that internal clenching for another day, because this sounds reassuringly familiar - like Voivod but not in a contrived way. Piggy’s absence is noticeable, but not as a missing piece of the picture, more the final focus on it.
The guitars are angular, the bass dissonant, and Snake’s voice still has that slightly nasal rough quality that makes it sound beyond human, but not machine made. The album plumbs depths that most bands can only swim above, yet doesn’t struggle for air, and it seems that the weirdness hasn’t lessened over time with many of the tracks sounding like they missed their meds.
Target Earth doesn’t always wear the same musical face though - the melody led ‘Empathy For The Enemy’ is slower like the spreading of a bruise, whilst ‘Mechanical Mind’ is more abrasively technical. ‘Target Earth’ itself is a bit like an overlord anthem for an oppressed world - a bleak musical landscape with sharp corners to bump your elbows on, whereas ‘Kluskap O’Korn’ takes a Rolf Harris opening into speed metal territory.
With today’s progressive metal getting ever more complicated, I was worried Voivod’s thrash-based style would sound a little archaic. In actual fact the only disappointment is that to my much-damaged ears the production on Target Earth sounds somewhat muted - it’s not lift music by any means - but it’s almost like Voivod is the steadily-ticking grandfather clock in a room through of shrill screaming alarm clocks.
And that’s not a bad thing - cause most people just want to put their fist through an alarm clock. Try that with a grandfather clock and you’re coming off worse. Likewise try writing Voivod off, even after all this time, and people will rightly look at you like you come from another planet. Outside this universe. That hasn’t ever heard of music.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs