Fresh from reviewing their new album Target Earth, Snagon delves into the past of the band and their seminal 1989 album Nothingface.
Science fiction is certainly nothing all that strange to be writing metal music about, but back in the late 1980′s it was a very different concept, and usually left to progressive rock bands, who deemed themselves nerdy enough. with a wealth of influences from Pink Floyd to Kreator, however, Voivod were and are nerdy enough to get the job done, and you can bet that not only was it good, but it was all the more unique for its time. Nothingface is the album that really put the band over the top for many, as they went from brash and in-your face, incubated that during Dimension Hatross, and came back full circle in 1989 as the quartet of Snake, Piggy, Blacky, and Away released what was their fifth album, and was equal parts progressive rock, thrash metal, sci-fi and just plain different.
Opening with the celestial track of “The Unknown Knows“, you are met with Snake’s vocal delivery and Blacky’s lively bass playing. The guitar playing of the late Piggy is very deeply rooted in the progressive rock of the early ’70s, which was eschewed from metal music until a band of Voivod’s ilk said that this was in fact okay. The middle section has Piggy slowly riff away after his main line is slowed, as the band seems to explore a bit of eastern European traditional themes as the song draws to a close. The title track is next and features more excellent high bass, with varying changes in tempo; from the mid-paced to the faster and more thrash type sections. The song continues to changes speeds and the lyrics get more and more odd “Lapse of time, Synchro freeze, Loop rewind, Forward speed.”
Perhaps Voivod’s greatest claim to fame is their cover of a Pink Floyd b-side, “Astronomy Domine“, from the band’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album and debut, featuring the planetary lyrics written by the late Syd Barrett. The astronomy aspect of this song clearly spoke to the Quebecker, and Barrett may well have been a kindred spirit only two decades prior. The song is not particularly metal, nor does it need to be; the tripped out riff sections are what make this version of the song even more unique and even had the band featured with a music video on Headbangers’ Ball for a time.
“Missing Sequences” starts off a bit slow and works its way to mid-tempo, then eventually a faster thrash one, while spitting the lyrics “Bio-atrophy, doxite double-wind, forgetful retry, aphasic clouded cult, synaptic planet pulse, lost engram.” – half of which might require a textbook to understand – however a different one than those used by fellow geeks Carcass. The song is just another that sees Snake use a vocal filter to make him sound as if he is crooning the very stars, and it works masterfully. “Inner Combustion” gives way to the thrash awfully early and has Piggy doing plenty to keep the metal and prog flowing at a constant rate. The band’s notable metronome Away adds essential drum fills that help to pace the band through their oddly assembled songs. Away is a hidden gem for a band much more well known for the other three members, yet it is he who created a ton of the band’s art as well as being a beast on the battery.
The strangest of the band’s influences comes in the form of Stravinsky’s ’The Rites of Spring” as the middle section of “Pre-Ignition” leans heavily on said influence. Piggy’s guitar tone knows no bounds as he is able to tie progressive elements together as well as weave in the classical elements of famous composers in a way that only he knew how. The angular riffing finds it’s way into just about every facet of the music and justifies the band’s sound as one of a kind.
I end my analysis with one of the most in your face songs on the album namely “Into My Hypercube” and the overpowering bass of Blacky and the insane solos by Piggy make for a rocking number any metal fan can enjoy. Away pounds the drums in a slow gallop and Snake casts his lyrical hand over things like: “nether falling, wisdom’s dipping, spiral stairway, logic’s dripping.” Even twenty four years later, Nothingface is the classic it was destined to be and even more so than the band had surely ever intended it to be.
Voivod will be releasing their newest album Target Earth next week and after listening to (and reviewing) it, I gained even more respect for Nothingface as it really was the genre defining giant of an album. It paved the way for other bands like themselves, as well as providing ample growth from the band’s earlier material. Unlike Voivod, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour is no longer of this earth, losing his battle to colon cancer in 2005. The band made sure to repay his debt to the band by making sure that each and every riff he created made it on to a Voivod album and thus came Katorz and Infini; the final homages to their fallen brother. Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain is now the resident axeman and he does a great job to live up to the expectations of his favorite guitarist, while not forgetting where he learned to play that way.
Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. Check out some more classical influence on metal with Mussorgsky aiding Mekong Delta and also check out some great thrash too. Until next week.