Review: Voivod ‘Morgöth Tales’

As a teenage metal fan in the ‘80s, I was always weirdly fascinated with Canadian, sci-fi, prog-thrash, originators Voivod. I had seen their early albums, War And Pain and Rrröööaaarrr advertised in the metal rags of the day, but it wasn’t until I purchased their third album, Killing Technology, that I got a taste of the proggy, off-kilter, dissonant, weird thrash of one of the most original bands of their era.

Voivod 'Morgöth Tales' Artwork
Voivod ‘Morgöth Tales’ Artwork

Despite Killing Technology’s sound being so different from the Metallica’s and Slayer’s of the world that I listened to all day every day, I became a curious fan as Killing Technology became one of my favorite thrash records of the time. I followed them from afar, even noting that they toured with Soundgarden during the cycle of what many consider one of their greatest records, Nothingface, but I never really completely dove in.

That changed in the early aughts, when Jason ‘Jasonic’ Newsted joined on bass after leaving Metallica, for the self-titled Voivod album in 2003, which I loved. Additionally, soon after, I found myself working for probably the biggest Voivod fan I know, prior to opening my studio. Literally every day around five was ‘Voivod Hour’, as my friend would spin albums like Phobos, Dimension Hatröss, Nothingface, and The Outer Limits, whilst constantly extolling Voivod’s virtues, which, of course, included the unique guitar histrionics of their legendary guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour who passed away in 2005.

After releasing two albums featuring some of Piggy’s riffs he left behind, Katorz, and Infini, both with Newsted, Voivod, featuring original vocalist Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger and drummer/artist/band mastermind Michel ‘Away’ Langevin would eventually carry on, with both original bassist Jean-Yves ‘Blacky’ Thériault, and then Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche replacing Newsted on the four-string, but it was the addition of Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain, a disciple and mega-fan of Piggy, and probably one of the only people on earth that can replicate Piggy’s sound and style, on guitar. Since then, Voivod has gone on to release a slew of late-career, genre-bending albums, including Target Earth, The Wake, and Synchro Anarchy all to critical acclaim.

A cool, fun record by one of the most unique bands in the history of metal…

Now, in celebrating the band’s 40th anniversary, we have Morgöth Tales which features the current lineup re-recording some fan favorites and live staples from their vast back catalog as well as a new track, album closer, and title track Morgöth Tales. Not surprisingly, all the old material sounds amazing with some updated production, but it’s Chewy’s guitar playing that steals the show as he flawlessly executes the old Piggy material, all the while injecting enough of his own style to really offer long-time fans a real sonic treat. Obscure-as-fuck first track, Condemned To The Gallows, originally showed up on Metal Blade Records Metal Massacre V, sounds completely updated and is the perfect album opener, the driving riffage sounding crisp and clear while Snake’s vocals sound as manic and gritty as ever. Thrashing Rage from Rrröööaaarrr also sounds fantastic with the modern production, while Killing Technology is an impeccable revision.

Macrosolutions To Megaproblems doesn’t stray far from the original, but the modern production serves the instrumentation well as the sonics are crisp and clear. Other highlights are Pre-Ignition from Nothingface, the start-stop riffs and rhythms sound killer, while Nuage Fractal from Angel Rat and Fix My Heart from The Outer Limits are nods to the band’s ‘90s material. Former vocalist/bassist Eric ‘E-Force’ Forrest who replaced Snake in the ‘90s, makes a triumphant guest appearance on Rise from the underrated Phobos album, while Newsted shows up on Rebel Robot from one of my personal favorites, the aforementioned self-titled Voivod. Arguably, the cherry on top of this release is the closing new track Morgöth Tales with its epic up-and-down rhythmic sci-fi riff fest that stays in the tradition of the band’s modern Chewy-era records.

All in all, Morgöth Tales is a treat for long-time fans, and a good jumping on point for those curious about this unusual band. All the musicians sound fantastic, with Chewy’s guitar playing being of particular note, as are Snake’s vocals, the man sounding like he’s hardly aged in 40 years, and, as always, drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin’s artwork graces the cover, that, like usual, his strange renderings add to the band’s overall sci-fi aesthetic. A cool, fun record by one of the most unique bands in the history of metal.

Label: Century Media
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Scribed by: Martin Williams