Canadian metallers Voivod gained a name back in the 1980s with their blend of thrash metal and prog stylings, and their somewhat absurdist approach in general. Much to the delight of fans, in particular fans of their landmark works like ‘Nothingface’, Voivod have brought their idiosyncratic side to the fore for their fourteenth studio album, ‘The Wake’.
Voivod first gained notoriety just before alternative music was given a bigger platform in the 90s. They were ahead of the curve, and arguably paved a way for a lot of bands to take their mantle. Upon hearing Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger‘s vocals, you can draw comparisons to other vocalists who would rise to fame after Voivod‘s heyday, such as Mike Patton, Jonathan Davis, and Tobias Forge.
We start with ‘Obsolete Beings’, an atmospheric opening with unusual soundscapes draw our attention, and then we’re off. When the band come in, we have angular vocal lines, and some unconventional guitar work courtesy of Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain, who has done a brilliant job filling the shoes of the late Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour.
The band can provide plenty of unexpected twists and turns, with the middle of ‘The End Of Dormancy’ offering a military-style section with thudding drums. In this song, it’s hard to detect exactly what Bélanger is on about with his shouts, but they sit nicely inside the build-ups offered by the band. Off-kilter time signatures and dissonant guitar chords are notably utilised in ‘Event Horizon’, which is another highlight.
If you were to be nit-picky, the guitar tone could benefit from being a little harsher, as it would certainly make for the stab-chord sections being even more unnverving, and the cleaner parts sounding more alluring.
Ending the album with prog-a-thon ‘Sonic Mycelium’ is a great move. What seems like a build-up then fades into a solo string section, then the string section and guitar trade off to conclude the album on an impressive high.
But this could still be a little more expansive, and at worst you may sometimes find yourself switching off. Given the way that metal is currently thriving creatively, chances are that this may not quite hold up against the works of most modern progressive-minded bands (such as Night Verses and Between The Buried And Me), though this is not through any misgivings of Voivod.
On the whole, Voivod have made an album that sits greatly within their back-catalogue. They may not pick up many new fans with this, but anyone who listens to ‘The Wake’ sure won’t forget it in a hurry.