I’m In the Machine, Going Through My Dreams: A Thing About Voivod’s Dimension Hatröss

I’ve discussed Voivod a bit in these pages before, and I will write up the fourth installment of my Voivod Primer some day soon(ish), but today, I wanted to share something a bit more personal re: Voivod and their fourth album (and my favorite), 1988’s conceptual progressive thrash masterpiece Dimension Hatröss. I won’t go into the particulars of the album too much here, as I’ve discussed it before, and also I don’t have time for that right now, but here are the basics of the storyline:

  1. Voivod’s namesake character/mascot, a.k.a. Korgull the Exterminator, has already destroyed his own land and much of outer space, but his lust for conquest has not subsided, so he devises a laboratory experiment in which he creates a portal into another dimension and visits that realm in an attempt to utterly dominate the inhabitants.
  2. Things don’t go exactly as planned for Korgull.

The album absolutely fucking rules, and when I first got my copy back in June 2008 (almost 20 years to the day after its initial release date, coincidentally), I was completely and utterly under its spell. My copy had no lyrics inside, so I printed a copy off one of those advertisement-laden lyrics websites and listened over and over and over again while reading along; it’s safe to say that I was in the throes of a full-blown Dimension Hatröss addiction.

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One night, while listening for probably the fifteenth time that day, I began to doodle on my lyric pages, letting the dissonant riffs and herky-jerky rhythms guide my pen. I just let the music flow through me, drawing and scribbling whatever I happened to see and feel at that particular moment. Some of it is throwaway, but I rather like other parts, and since I can’t very well separate the parts I like without damaging the overall picture, I hereby present my Dimension Hatröss Lyric Doodles, shared here for the first time ever with anyone other than Mrs. Stay Heavy. (Click on each image below for an embiggened view.)

Track 1: “…Prolog…Experiment” – In which Korgull creates Dimension Hatröss and enters. I find it hard to imagine how I made that Voivod logo. Not that it’s a particularly brilliant rendition or anything, but I used to have so much more patience for that kind of detail…also more time.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 1

Track 2: “Tribal Convictions” – In which Korgull arrives in the dimension to find a tribe performing a ritual dance around a “grand fire”. The tribe believes Korgull to be “what we’ve been waiting for…the flying lord, the god of all time”.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 2

Track 3: “Chaosmöngers” – In which a gang of dissidents appears on the scene and tries to destroy Korgull, believing him to be a creation of the Technocratic Manipulators.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 3

Track 4: “Technocratic Manipulators” – In which Korgull has begun to settle into his new, albeit temporary, life in Dimension Hatröss. He notices that the inhabitants seem to be under some form of mind control, all with “a number between their eyes”, taking “orders from the big head”. Korgull tries to avoid complacency; he’d “rather think, but there’s something wrong”. This song is creepily prescient with regards to modern society.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 4

Track 5: “…Epilog…Macrosolutions to Megaproblems” – In which Korgull learns the true intentions of the Chaosmöngers: “The discord is real now, echo is very loud! No more! Control! Leave minds! Alone!”

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 5

Track 6: “Brain Scan” – In which the Technocratic Manipulators turn the tables on Korgull and get inside his brain in an attempt to control his thoughts and extract his knowledge.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 6

Tracks 7 & 8: “Psychic Vacuum” & “Cosmic Drama” – In which Korgull fights the brain scanning process, reverses it, and steals the knowledge and “unique power” of the Manipulators, then reverses the process that brought him to Dimension Hatröss in the first place, destroying the dimension as he flees back to his own time and space.

 

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 7

 

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 8

By the time I got to the last two pages, I was kind of wiped out (that creature from the “Brain Scan” page had a lot to do with it), which explains the increased abstraction on the final two pages. Speaking of wiped out, I’m not exactly, but I do have other things I need to do (until someone decides to pay me for writing this). I have more to say about Voivod in general and Dimension Hatröss in particular, but it’ll have to wait. Until then, I do hope you’ll stay heavy.

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Cosmic Conspiracy: A Voivod Primer, Part 3

What follows is Part Three of a five part series about the groundbreaking and visionary French-Canadian progressive metal band Voivod.  Part One can be found here, and Part Two can be found here.

Following the tour cycle for The Outer Limits, Snake left Voivod for personal reasons, and remaining members Away and Piggy took the opportunity to reinvent the band, resulting in a drastically different sound through the remainder of the 1990s.  With both vocal and bass duties needing to be filled, they opted in early 1994 to bring in Toronto native Eric Forrest (Voivod alias: E-Force – they can’t all be home runs) to handle both.  Forrest’s debut with Voivod, 1995’s Negatron, is probably the least Voivod-sounding album in the band’s catalog, and is probably my least favorite Voivod album, although that would be akin to discussing my least favorite bowl of Count Chocula, or perhaps my least favorite baseball game. In other words, I’d still rather have that bowl of Count Chocula (it was stale), that baseball game (Yankees vs. Red Sox), and this Voivod album than none at all.

The overall sound – a stripped-down industrial groove – definitely roots the album firmly in its release year (it would not be out of place on the shelf alongside Fear Factory and Pantera), and both Away’s drumming and Piggy’s guitar work are much more straightforward and simple than ever before, or since, but it’s important to remember that the simplest Voivod song is still too weird for the average person’s taste.  E-Force’s vocals are much more aggressive and shouty than Snake’s, and the album artwork is just as stripped-down and industrial as the sounds contained within. Ultimately, Negatron‘s biggest downfall is the relative same-ness of the songs.  A video was made for “Insect”, and there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it before.

“Insect” – This is the opening track, and if you were going to listen to only one song from Negatron, I would recommend that this be the one.

“Nanoman” – Ivan Doroschuck of Men Without Hats (a.k.a. the band that taught the world “The Safety Dance”) co-wrote the lyrics to this one.

“Cosmic Conspiracy” – Piggy’s guitar work in this one is more like classic Voivod than probably anything else on the album.

When the band returned to the studio to record the follow-up to Negatron, Away was ready to bring the original Voivod story line back into play, and he and Piggy made it clear to E-Force that they were expecting more vocal dynamics from him this time around. The resulting work, 1997’s Phobos, is easily the band’s most underrated album, as well as the darkest album the band has recorded to date. Negatron makes so much more sense when you hear Phobos and realize what it was leading to.

From the very beginning of the “Catalepsy I” intro, the album elicits feelings of isolation and desperation, and, like its Greek mythological namesake, it conveys a sense of cold, oppressive, absolute fear. One time when I played it at work, a co-worker described it as “burly as fuck”, and that is definitely an apt way to describe the sound.  Forrest’s vocals are indeed more dynamic throughout, mixing the harsh screams of Negatron with something much more Snake-like (“Bacteria” provides a good example of the latter), and his bass is much more prominent than the previous album.  Away’s drums are up to their old familiar off-kilter, herky jerky tricks, and Piggy’s guitars are overflowing with reverb, and are downright devastating here, from the opening notes of “Rise” through the jarring, unsettling staccato buzz of outro “Catalepsy II”.

As mentioned above, the album revives the story of Away’s childhood nightmare creation, the Voivod, marking his (its?) first appearance since 1990’s progressive masterpiece Nothingface.  The storyline is more straightforward than any of the other related albums, save perhaps 1988’s thrasy-prog masterpiece (and my personal favorite Voivod album) Dimension Hatröss.  The album begins with the Voivod (who apparently found his way out of his own mind, where we left him in Nothingface closer “Sub-Effect”)  “sleeping in death” until a mysterious and diabolical character named Demok sends signals from space, resurrecting him as Anark, wherein he makes his way back to Earth to “restart [his] fear program”, lays waste to the planet (“pure decay, dead planet, virus unknown, plague and curse fall on the globe”), and holes up in “The Tower” to rule the world, where “no one can reach him” and “none shall defeat him”. If we’ve learned anything from the Voivod’s adventures, though, it’s that nothing ever ends well for him, and the tale of Phobos is no exception, as we leave our protagonist “lost in this world, feeling forlorn…Anark my given name, close my eyes, fade away”.  Getting lost in this album, especially through headphones, is an absolutely breathtaking experience.

“Rise” – This song makes me wanna break everything around me.

“Phobos” – Undoubtedly my favorite song from Voivod Mark II (or Mark III, depending on who’s asking). Everything about this song makes me want to live inside it. Utter perfection.

“The Tower” – Like the title track to this album’s predecessor, Ivan Doroschuck co-wrote the lyrics to this one, as well.

“Forlorn – The current version of Voivod has been known to play this song live from time to time, which is a very exciting thing. In fact, I could only be more excited if they were playing “Phobos” live.

Phobos also contains two bonus tracks – a cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” and an original tune called “M-Body”, written by friend and superfan Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam), who also played bass on said tune. Both songs are good enough (the KC cover is especially tight), but frankly they add nothing to the Phobos experience, so that’s all the press they’ll get here. You would not be wrong to look them up yourself.

In 1998, Forrest was seriously injured in a car crash, so to fill the impending space between studio albums, the band released Kronik, a collection of live songs, remixes, and previously unreleased songs, including “Ion”, which was featured in the film Heavy Metal 2000, but was not included on the soundtrack album. It is very much of a kind with Negatron.

2000 saw the release of Voivod’s first official live album, Lives, which includes songs dating back to the 1984 eponymous debut, as well as a cover of Venom’s “In League With Satan”.  I am especially fond of Forrest’s take on “The Prow”, which originally appeared on 1991’s Angel Rat.

The story goes that the band recorded demos for a proper follow-up to Phobos, which would have been the final chapter of the Voivod saga, but after Forrest’s accident, the tapes were shelved, and have thus far not seen the light of day. I, for one, would give nearly anything to hear them. At any rate, Voivod lost their momentum and disbanded in 2001, only to re-form the following year with a couple of familiar faces on board – one old and one (mostly) new. That chapter will have to wait for another day.

Until then, friends, I encourage you to stay heavy, always.

P.S.: Jeff Wagner also has some real proper things to say about Phobos over at the Deciblog.