Sunday Old School: Progressive Thrashers, Voivod
By many outsiders, heavy metal has been dismissed as "music for idiots," but time and time again, heavy metal bands have proved the naysayers wrong by displaying well researched and intelligent lyrics, along with complex musicianship. One of the best examples of "thinking man's heavy metal," comes from Canadian progressive thrashers, Voivod. The band was formed in the town of Jonquière, Quebec in 1982, and like many of their contemporaries, where influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, as well as hardcore punk and seventies progressive rock bands such as Yes. By fusing these influences, Voivod forged their own brand of heavy metal, which would satisfy the average headbanger, as well as any music critic. The band were also known for adopting aliases. Lead singer Denis Belanger became known as, "Snake," guitarist Denis D'Amour went by the name, "Piggy," drummer and band artist Michel Langevin used the moniker, "Away" and bassist Jean-Yves Theriault named himself, "Blacky." The group released their first studio album, "War And Pain" in 1984, which followed a more speed metal style than future releases.
Their second album, "Rrröööaaarrr" featured a speed metal theme once again before the band began incorporating their love of progressive rock with their next album, "Killing Technology." The album earned the band a spot as one of the more unique young metal bands, and the group continued this path with their next album, "Dimension Hatross," which has become one of their most acclaimed albums to date and featured the staple song, "Tribal Convictions," as well as a comical cover of the 1960's Batman television show theme song. Their next album, "Nothingface," saw the band break through into the mainstream somewhat, as it became their first album to enter the Billboard charts and featured a minor hit in the form of the band's cover of the Pink Floyd song, "Astronomy Domine." Not only was it successful in terms of sales, but it gained universal praise for it's musicianship and songwriting prowess.
After "Nothingface," the band released the album, "Angel Rat" in 1991, which earned mixed reviews at the time, but has since gone on to have a strong following amongst Voivod fans. Shortly before the release of the album however, Blacky decided to leave the band and the album was also a commercial failure. When it came to recording their next album, the band decided they still weren't ready to find a permanent replacement for Blacky, so enlisted Pierre St-Jean to work as a studio musician. The resulting album, "The Outer Limits" was once again considered a commercial failure, though it did feature some interesting inclusions, such as the song, "Jack Luminous," which at over seventeen minutes is the band's longest song to date and another Pink Floyd cover, this time in the form of "The Nile Song." After the release of the album, frontman Snake also decided to leave the band, leaving Piggy and Away as the only founding members remaining. The duo decided to continue the band and solved both the lead singer and bassist problem at the same time, by bringing in singing bass player, Eric Forrest. This ushered in a new era for the band, one which is met with mixed feelings by many of the group's fan base, some of whom criticse Forrest for his performances on the albums "Negatron" and "Phobos." This lineup also released a compilation album in 1998 entitled, "Kronik," and a live album in 2000 named, "Voivod Lives."
In 2002, original singer, Snake rejoined the band much to the delight of many fans. Although it wasn't a full reunion of the classic lineup as bassist Blacky had not come back, the band managed to gain some mainstream exposure by recruiting former Metallica bassist Jason Newstead, who also released the first album from this lineup on his own label, Chophouse, in 2003. The self-titled comeback proved popular with fans and the band were given a slot on the second stage at Ozzfest that year, a tour which also saw Newstead performing bass duties for headliner Ozzy Osbourne. The Voivod story added a sad chapter to itself in 2005 however, when guitarist Piggy passed away after a battle with colon cancer. Instead of recruiting a new guitarist, Voivod used material which Piggy had written and stored on his computer to create a new album, which resulted in the 2006 release, "Katorz." The band did not tour in support of the record, but received positive feedback regarding the album. It was believed that the band would record only one more album after this, which came in 2009 under the name, "Infini." Following the album's release, original bassist Blacky returned to the fold and performed with the band on subsequent tour dates, which featured touring guitarist Dan Mongrain, although Newstead is still considered to be a member of the band. In a recent interview, Away revealed that the group had actually been writing new material together. Whether or not the band will release it under the name Voivod remains to be seen, but either way, the group has left behind a catalogue of groundbreaking metal music and certainly will be looked at as one of the pioneers of progressive metal.
Voivod - Ravenous Medicine
Voivod - Psychic Vacuum
Voivod - Ripping Headaches
Voivod - We Carry On
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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