The Underworld, Camden, London
May 20th, 2015
Words – Ann Sulaiman, Photos – Martine Bocci
Two years since the release of their last record, ‘Target Earth’, iconic space thrashers Voivod embarked on a European tour that first took them to The Underworld venue in London. Even if the show suffered from out-of-place support acts (and not entirely enthusiastic ones to boot), the headliners still turned it into a reflection of the heavy metal world’s brotherhood, as well as its comparative open-mindedness towards rock ‘n’ roll.
To illustrate the former point about the support acts, this reporter will talk about the first band, Desertstorm.
While a four-piece of short-haired youngsters playing sludge/stoner metal might not sound so bad to some, as an opening band for a thrash metal group, they made for an ill fit. In addition to not being suitable for the headliners thematically, in the science fiction sense, they were a poor match musically as their American Southern riffs and jams had no connection with the spacey sound of Voivod.
Add to this the lack of earnest passion, and what was seen here was a run of the mill band who latched onto the sludge/stoner trend. At least some people in the crowd enjoyed songs like ‘Sway of the Tides’ and ‘Caught In the Icy Tundra’, from this band.
Next were Krokodil, a group of well-coiffed musicians whose mainstream hardcore sound made the mind boggle further, seeing as how the main draws of the night didn’t have any elements of hardcore in their music.
Even more embarrassing for this band, however, was that bluntly they were awful. Their music didn’t come together, the frontman’s shouts were lost into noise, and effectively, nothing worked. While it’s true that I, the reporter, didn’t enjoy any of their set let alone songs ‘Sun Riders’ or ‘Dead Man’s Path’, that literally no one in the audience was stirred into excitement or moshing for a hardcore band says it all in my book.
Mercifully, the worst part was over, and Voivod finally came out on stage. Without any of the pretence or awkwardness that the support acts had, this old school band greeted the long-waiting crowd, before they started playing.
It’s important to note here that part of why Desertstorm and Krokodil were terrible choices for the night, is because musically, Voivod are a band who stand out from popular trends. While not exactly thrash metal as most know it, and not even entirely old school rock ‘n’ roll, they fill an interesting space somewhere in between the two genres and have made their nest there, entirely to their benefit. It was in this vein that frontman Snake eased the crowd through the group’s back catalogue, with mid-career songs like ‘Chaosmöngers’ and ‘The Prow’, before bringing out ‘We Are Connected’ and ‘Mechanical Mind’.
Watching Voivod’s set was not only a journey into the middle path between metal and prog rock; the warmth and enthusiasm from the band to the audience – including a few young metalheads proudly holding up purchased vinyls – was such that it felt like being welcomed by a good friend. This was shown for new bassist Rocky, whom Snake encouraged everyone to cheer and congratulate in the venue on more than one occasion.
The strongest evidence of their sense of community however, came by the end, when Voivod decided to pay tribute to ate guitarist Denis D’Amour, aka “Piggy”. Those familiar with Voivod will already know of Piggy and his role in Voivod’s history as its founder. Thus, it was only fitting that his surviving friends and peers’ cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Astronomy Domine’ would be as emotional as it was poignant to listen to, especially with the added words, “For Piggy!”