I know what you’re thinking – “YOU of all people, reviewing a Voivod show?!?!”….and for the third time this year to boot. I mean, really, who’d have seen this coming, right? But, joking aside and in all honesty, if any of my esteemed Shamanic colleagues had tried to muscle in and cover it in my stead, I’d have fucking marmalized ’em. Voivod are my band. This is my manor, you slags.
Now, before we get to the main event, there is the small matter of the opening acts to contend with. First up were underwhelming local sludgers Jacknife Holiday, all sound and fury, signifying nothing – to paraphrase the Bard. When I entered the venue, there were but three people paying any attention to the five piece, and I suspect they were friends of the band.
Possessors of all the requisite sludge accoutrements – beards, check, swampy guitars, check, harsh screaming vocals, check – the band made all of the right moves but somehow managed to make absolutely zero impression. A total lack of memorable riffs, hooks or songs and a general sense of being utterly generic did nothing to help. New Orleans still has a lot to answer for.
Personally, I’d have rather seen the ‘local’ openers slot go to a more interesting and suitable band such as Bastard Of The Skies.
Flashback time hit me hard as legendary crusty bastards Doom stomped on stage following their somewhat lengthy Crass ‘Reality Asylum’ intro tape, sending me back to being 15 years old again, standing in Liverpool’s Planet X and seeing the dreadlocked reprobates ripping through ‘Police Bastard’ – a track that I was once shut up inside a folding sofabed for singing during a visit to a party I was at by the local cuntstabulary – and the like first time around. Ahhhh, memories…..the sights, the sounds…..the smell.
Having won over Voivod driving force Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – amongst many others – at this year’s Roadburn festival, their presence on tonights bill and others on the tour came as no real surprise to me. Many people tend to forget the influence that political punk and hardcore had, and has, on Voivod, an influence that is plainly evident lyrically on the Killing Technology album, for one.
Sounding better than ever these days Doom are a finely oiled crust-punk machine, D-beating away mercilessly with a brutally rock-solid guitar and bass tone that could blister paint at twenty paces as frontman Denis rips into the tracks like a bloodthirsty rabid dog, unrelentingly gruff and intense. Amidst the churning crust we are repeatedly entreated to “Fuck homophobia!”, an admirable sentiment serving as a small reminder that the music of Doom sits entirely upon a political and ideological basis.
If it was any other band following the bludgeoning that Doom dished out I’d be slightly concerned about their ability to follow it but, hey, this is Voivod I’m talking about here. The boys from Morgoth have never let me down yet and, based upon their Roadburn performances back in April, they’re currently on absolutely tip-top form.
Taking my traditional Voivod-watching position, slightly to the side of bassist Jean-Yves ‘Blacky’ Theriault’s monitor, I braced myself for impact as the crunching atmospheric intro of opening salvo ‘Voivod’ started up before ‘ALL SYSTEMS GO!’.
The band ripped through a selection of classics that covered most eras of the ‘Vod’s existence – although tracks from Angel Rat and The Outer Limits were conspicuous by their absence tonight – and threw in three brand-spanking-new ones from the forthcoming Target Earth record.
Old-school ragers ‘Ripping Headaches’, ‘Overreaction’ – replete with by-now traditional clowning around intro from Blacky – and ‘Chaosmongers’ were aired, to much crowd appreciation, as was the rarely performed Killing Technology stormer ‘Forgotten In Space’, which pleased me no end.
Coming from the Newsted years was ‘Global Warning’ with its oddly surfy rhythm and vocalist Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger’s impressive mime skills on display, the Eric Forrest years gave us the heavy-as-lead banger ‘Forlorn’, but only ‘The Unknown Knows’ represented the Nothingface years – my own personal favourite period of the band.
Of the brand new material, recently released single ‘Mechanical Mind’ was given an airing as was album title track ‘Target Earth’ – previously unleashed at Roadburn – and another, unknown to me, track apparently entitled ‘Kluskap O’Com’ , concerning a Canadian indigenous tribe known as the Mi’kmaqs and boasting a very odd heavy-breathing intro and a full-on gang chorus.
All three tracks are characterised by a noticeable return to the discordant, rhythmically turbulent and claustrophobic paranoiac feel and sound of the Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss years, which is sure as shit no bad thing IMHO.
Closing the set tonight was weirdly intense Hatröss number ‘Psychic Vacuum’, with fellow Hatröss classic ‘Tribal Convictions’ serving as an encore, along with Pink Floyd cover ‘Astronomy Domine’ – now traditionally dedicated to guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour, their sadly missed fallen comrade.
As impressive a display as I’ve ever seen from the band, Voivod really are on the form of their career right now, more than likely due to their being heavily revitalised from having Blacky back on bass after a fair few years away from the band and new guitarist Dan ‘Chewy’ Mongrain filling Piggy’s monolithic shoes with quite some aplomb.
I know I’m really quite biased towards Voivod, but I really do urge anyone and everyone with even the slightest trace of interest in the band to catch ’em next time they come through town. The energy they generate just spills off of the stage and seems to generate a massive positive charge that runs right through the crowd. We are, indeed, connected.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson