This Goes Way Beyond Expectations: A Thing About Voivod’s New Album, The Wake

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything here (or anywhere else, for that matter), and life is my only excuse, and I know that’s a mostly shitty excuse, but it’s the only excuse I have.

Hey, speaking of “shitty”, how about the state of the world these days? I know that on some level, things are not as bad as they seem, and that bad news gets more airtime than good news, but I also know that I’m scared and nervous about the state of things more now than I have been since I was just a li’l guy, back in the final decade of the Cold War, and I know that I don’t like that feeling.

However, sometimes good things do still happen. As evidence, I submit The Wake, the 14th studio album by French-Canadian Metal Gods Voivod, released to the undeserving world on September 21 of this year. I’d planned on writing a proper review of the album, but if I’m being honest, I’m having trouble finding words that do it justice, so I’m just gonna kind of think out loud here. Bear with me…

Exhibit A

I know I’ve gushed about Voivod a lot in the past, both on this blog and in person (and I will continue to do so in the future), but I say this without hyperbole: Voivod is one of the greatest bands in the universe (known or unknown), and The Wake is one of the greatest albums in the history of time and space. Every member of the band is in top form here, and it’s obvious that they love and fully believe in what they’re doing.

Exhibit B (L-R): Away (drums), Rocky (bass), Chewy (guitars), Snake (vocals)
Photo by Wayne Archibald. Please don’t sue me, Mr. Archibald

If, gods forbid, The Wake ended up being Voivod’s last album ( and I have seen no indication that anyone in the band has even entertained the thought), it would be the most perfect way imaginable for a band to close out their story. Throughout the album’s 56 minute running time, the band touches on every era from their past, without ever sounding forced, recycled, contrived, or stale. (The chaotic nuclear thrash metal explosions that are their first two albums, 1984’s War and Pain, and 1986’s Rrröööaaarrr, are certainly least represented, although the early thrash assault does get a brief nod here and there.)

Elements of the Holy Trinity of Killing Technology (1987), Dimension Hatröss (1988), and Nothingface (1989) all pop in to say hello repeatedly throughout the album. The first track, “Obsolete Beings”, especially reminds me of Nothingface. Something about the guitar tone, maybe? I’m not a musician, and I certainly don’t know shit about music theory, so I can’t say what it is exactly, I just know it fucking rules. There’s even a brief vocal bit on “Event Horizon” that would not sound out of place on the Eric Forrest-fronted album Phobos (1997). The heaviest and most consistent vibe I pick up from the band’s storied past is that of 1993’s genius The Outer Limits (Snake even reuses a line from that album’s brilliant “Jack Luminous” on this album’s mind-blowing closer “Sonic Mycelium”).

And speaking of “Sonic Mycelium”…

With a band like Voivod (which is to say, Voivod), it’s easy to find examples of “this is unlike anything I’ve ever heard”, but even in the context of this 100% one-of-a-kind band, “Sonic Mycelium” is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. For lack of a better term, the song is a medley, but not a regular medley, because that wouldn’t be Voivod enough. Rather, it’s a medley constructed with sounds from the seven songs that precede it, and it revisits the album in such an inventive, unique, and compelling way that I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

It opens with the music from the coda of “Obsolete Beings”, over which Snake sings the opening lyrics of “Spherical Perspective” (but to the tune of the lyrics he originally sang over the coda of “Obsolete Beings”), and from there, it just goes, branching out and sprouting up like its biological namesake, and more than anything else this band has ever created, no words from any person can do this song justice or properly explain it, so my best advice is to finish reading this, obtain a copy of the album, and let it take over your life, too. You can thank me later.

(Note: I do not recommend obtaining your copy from MerchNOW – it’s a terrible company, and you’ll end up receiving your copy sometime after all the events foretold in the lyrics come true and our doomed planet starts over from the beginning. #merchneveragain)

The album is maybe best described as “cinematic”, and I, for one, definitely feel as though I’m watching a movie when I listen to it. Did I mention that it’s a concept album? I know that I did not mention that, I was just being dramatic, but it is, and holy shit, what a concept!

Seriously though, I’ve gone on long enough. Stop reading my dumb words, get yourself a copy of The Wake, put on some headphones, read those lyrics, and get lost, till your bones turn to dust.

Thanks for reading, and please continue to stay heavy.

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We Turn It On And You’ll Be Going Crazy: A Sort of Review of Voivod Live at Zanzabar, Louisville, KY, 02.29.16

This show happened five days ago, and I’m just now feeling up to the task of trying to write about it. There are many reasons for the delay, but chief among them are lack of time, lack of energy, and, quite frankly, lack of suitable vocabulary. Voivod crushed the shit out of Louisville, Kentucky on Leap Day 2016, and my brain was among those casualties.

I woke up with the plague that morning, and was as sad and angry as I’ve been in a long, long time. I told Mrs. Stay Heavy that if I didn’t feel any better by the time I got off work, I didn’t think I’d be able to go. I felt like my head was caving in, and there was no way I could miss the next day of work, plus I had to drive 2 hours each way for the show, and like Detective Roger Murtaugh, I’m too old for that shit.

toooldforthisshit

As the day progressed, so did my health, and by the time I got home from work, my body was operating at an estimated 78.3% capacity. That was good enough for me. The missus was getting over her own seasonal bullshit sickness, and she was feeling a bit better, too, so we hopped in the car and drove down, arriving at Zanzabar a little after 7 PM.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I'd gotten the Cobb salad.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I’d gotten the Cobb salad.

We ordered a pizza, which was just okay (though our service was great, which was a welcome change for us). While we ate, Black Fast did their sound check. I hadn’t listened to them before, but I liked what I was hearing. After eating, we scoped out the premises. It’s a small, weird, eclectic space; pinball machines abound, along with some arcade games. I got the chance to play the Star Wars pinball machine that is partially responsible for my dropping out of college my freshman year, and I’m still just okay at it, but it’s still fun as fuck to play.

Anyway, Black Fast took the stage at 8:30 sharp and played a super heavy, super tight 30 minute set. The relatively small-ish crowd that was gathered around the stage was really into it, and the band clearly fed off their energy, giving it back in spades. I could feel myself regressing a bit, so we went back to sit near the bar after a couple of songs so I could reserve my energy for the main event. I was unable to see the very low stage from my seat, but they sounded great throughout, and I look forward to hearing more from these dudes.

Vektor did a fairly brief setup, during which I played more pinball and checked out the merch, then played their ferocious set to a pretty good number of true believers. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d only heard one Vektor song prior to that night, and I only listened to that one a couple of weeks ago, after I bought the tickets to this show. Suffice it to say, I was a god damn fool. Vektor were fucking breathtaking, and I wish I could afford to purchase their entire discography right now.

I had to step outside at one point during their set, because in addition to my slowly declining health, I was starting to get sleepy, too. The missus came with me, and we stepped out the door just in time to see Snake walking by. We exchanged a casual “hello” with him, and I played it cool, but my inner fanboy was about to piss himself with excitement. We went back inside and caught the last song-and-a-half of Vektor’s set, then made our way toward the front, managing to snag pretty premium spots right near the front of stage right, a.k.a. Chewy’s side.

After what seemed like decades, the fantastic and disorienting sound of the delayed bass from around the 2:50 mark of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” came thundering over the PA, and the heroes of the evening took the stage, smiling like little kids on Christmas morning. They cleaved the top of my head off with “Ripping Headaches”, then continued to slowly cut me into little pieces throughout what is easily one of the top five shows I’ve ever gotten the chance to see. I got three shitty pictures right at the beginning…

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Chewy in action. I was also in action. I put my camera away after this.

Chewy in action. I was also in action.

Away, dematerializing.

Away, crossing dimensions.

…and then put my phone away and let the show transport me to another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. The set was absolutely flawless, and the band was obviously having a blast, and sounded tighter than a duck’s asshole. I almost lost my shit during “Inner Combustion”, “Killing Technology”, “The Prow”, and “Psychic Vacuum”. I screamed along until I almost puked during “Voivod”. And I cried like a little baby during “Astronomy Domine”, just as I do every time I watch live footage and Snake dedicates it to Piggy.

By the time the set was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a car and knocked down a flight of stairs. Every song was stellar, and the only downside to the entire show were the three assholes who were standing right around me. Here’s a little bit about them…

There was the drunk guy – I’ll call him “Drunky”. Drunky was okay at first, but he repeatedly leaned on Chewy’s monitor, causing it slide around, and inexplicably just kept pointing at Away, as if to indicate to all of us that Away was, in fact, there. His shit got old before it was all over, but he was mostly harmless. I saw him getting practically dragged down the sidewalk by two friends after the show, so I know he wasn’t necessarily in control of his facilities, but hopefully he learns to handle his booze a little better in the future. Prolly not, though, as he looked to be mid-40s. Anyway…

Then there was The Couple…the missus referred to the guy as “the poor man’s Brendan Fraser”, but I maintain that Brendan Fraser himself gets that distinction, so I called him “Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin”. He was there with his ladyfriend, who we’ll call “Backpack”, since she was wearing one and clearly did not give a shit about the fact that it was constantly knocking into people. These two douche canoes spent 80% of the goddamn show taking pictures and video with their goddamn phones. It was bad enough that Snake said to Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin at one point, “I’m not getting in your way while you’re filming, am I?”, which prompted Backpack to yell out, “but he loves you guys!” As if the rest of us fucking don’t, right?

But did BFDLC get the point? Clearly not, because shortly thereafter, he pulled his goddamn phone out of his goddamn pocket again, only to lose his goddamn grip and send it goddamn flying onto the goddamn stage, immediately to the right of and behind Chewy’s foot. He managed to lean over and picked it up without incident, but he could have easily tripped Chewy, and I was reeeeaaaaly hoping Chewy would step on it and break it. And Backpack just spent the whole show bumping into me with her backpack and holding her phone way up in everybody’s way.

HEY DUMB DICKS: IF I WANTED TO WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH YOUR GODDAMN PHONES, I WOULD’VE STAYED HOME AND LOOKED THAT SHIT UP ON YOUTUBE THE NEXT DAY, YOU DUMB DICKS.

And I get it; I understand that people want mementos, a little something to remember the show by, but sometimes memories should be enough, and I believe if Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin and Backpack had just fucking let themselves get lost in the experience, like I was mostly able to do in spite of them, they wouldn’t need 700 shitty, blurry pictures to remember the night.

“But Joel, you took pictures too, you hypocrite,” you might say. To that I respond: I took three pictures. The picture of Snake was within the first minute of the show, and the pictures of Chewy and Away were both taken during the same song, and from a low angle, so I wasn’t blocking anyone else’s view when I snapped them. That’s part of why they are shitty pictures.

Anyway, the show ended, and Chewy gave me a pick, and I told him and Rocky and Snake that the show was great, and I told Away, in all honesty, that it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, and his response was “Oh, wow, thank you so much. And thank you for coming”, and I’m just like, wow, how fucking amazing is that man – one of the true geniuses of our time, and I don’t believe he could’ve been more polite or humble.

Good lord, am I in some kind of comma splice contest or something?

We hit the merch table on the way out, but they only had the Killing Technology shirts (which is the one I wanted most) in size small, and I didn’t really have the money to spend on a shirt anyway, so I bought three buttons and a sticker, and we began the drive home, arriving back a little after 2 AM. I felt like absolute hell, but I somehow managed to get to work on time and do a serviceable job, and I’ve been living in a strange kind of daze ever since. Part of that is related to the fact that I’m still recovering from this bastard of a sinus infection and am on various and sundry medications, but the bulk of the daze is undoubtedly due to the time I spent in Voivod’s multiverse on a day that only exists once every four years. It is a day I will never forget, even though I only got three pictures.

                                                         SETLIST:

 

  1. Ripping Headaches (from Rrröööaaarrr, 1986)
  2. Tribal Convictions (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  3. Overreaction (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  4. Kluskap O’Kom (from Target Earth, 2013)
  5. Inner Combustion (from Nothingface, 1989)
  6. Post Society (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  7. Killing Technology (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  8. The Prow (from Angel Rat, 1991)
  9. We Are Connected (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  10. Psychic Vacuum (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  11. Forever Mountain (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  12. Voivod (from War and Pain, 1984)
  13. Astronomy Domine (from Nothingface, 1989)

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and remember to stay heavy, always.