Monday, February 4, 2013

Voivod - Target Earth

Target Earth
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

For all intents and purposes, the future of Quebec (Canada) based progressive metal outfit Voivod was looking uncertain when Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour sadly passed away in 2005. Aside from being the guitarist in the band, he was the group’s founder, principal song writer and the driving force within the group since their inception way back in the early ‘80’s. And while the band managed to piece together two albums worth of material from music D’Amour had recorded prior to succumbing to cancer (2006’s ‘Katorz’ and 2009’s ‘Infini’), the thought of finding a replacement for D’Amour and Voivod continuing seemed unlikely.
As a tribute to D’Amour, Voivod recruited Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain (Who has in the past played with Martyr, Gorguts, Cryptopsy and Capharnaum) in 2008 for a series of live shows. The shows were an unexpected success for the band, and it wasn’t long before the band announced their plans to continue making music, with Mongrain filling in the big shoes left behind by D’Amour, along with Jean-Yves ‘Blacky’ Thériault’s return to fold on bass in more than twenty years (He last appeared on 1991’s ‘Angel Rat’).
After spending the better part of the last four years touring the world (Which resulted in no less than three live releases in that time – 2009’s ‘Tatsumaki: Voivod In Japan 2008’ D.V.D., 2011’s ‘Warriors Of Ice’ album and 2012’s ‘Live At Roadburn 2011’ vinyl release), Voivod (Who also comprise of vocalist Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger and drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin) have returned with their highly anticipated thirteenth studio release ‘Target Earth’.
Voivod open up the album with the title track ‘Target Earth’, which is without a doubt one of harshest and grittiest slabs of thrashing/progressive metal the band has laid down in some years. Belanger’s snarls sound more menacing than ever, all the while maintaining a sense of melody within the odd choruses with his cleaner vocals, while Thériault’s trademark blower bass sound makes a welcome return to the band’s overall sound. Mongrain does a fantastic job at honouring D’Amour’s unique approach to guitar sounds and riffs too, while stamping his own personality within the solo.
After a brief and rather odd sounding introduction (Provided by Katajjaq Inuit throat singers), ‘Kluskap O’Kom’ sees the band step things up with the track fusing together elements of punk, progressive rock and thrash metal to perfection, while the lengthy first single ‘Mechanical Mind’ (Which is again introduced by some weird and wonderful sound effects) is an angular thrash based progressive metal gem that is easily an example of Voivod at the best.
Elsewhere, ‘Empathy For The Enemy’ (Which features a guest appearance from Periklis Tsoukalas on the Oud) and ‘Warchaic’ focus more on brooding soundscapes and atmospherics that ebb and flow within the progressive rock mould, while ‘Resistance’ and ‘Kaledios’ tend to have more in common with the latter day Voivod with their more direct sounding punk/rock influences.
The French sung ‘Corps Étranger’, which translates to ‘Foreign Body’, is a speedy slab of punk-like rock that boasts some great riffs from Mongrain and a biting vocal performance from Belanger, while ‘Artefact’ follows a similar path direction wise to the former, but with a greater progressive edge that brings to mind the sound often associated with Voivod’s classic era.
The only real disappointment is the closer ‘Defiance’, which is faded out after a minute and a half in. Maybe it’s a teaser for things to come, but either way, it’s a real shame that the track falls away just as it starts to get off the ground.
Barring the half aired closer, Voivod fans will be thoroughly pleased with ‘Target Earth’. Voivod haven’t reinvented themselves on their latest album, but they have managed to make an album that honours the sound forged by D’Amour while moving forward into the future. And the fact that ‘Target Earth’ sounds more cohesive and consistent than anything from their last two albums only reinforces the notion that Voivod still have plenty to offer on the musical front.

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© Justin Donnelly

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