[4 February 2013]
From Mastodon and Enslaved, to Botch, the Dillinger Escape Plan and beyond, Voïvod’s wild collision of jarring time-signatures and imaginative concepts have filtered through the consciousness of metal’s most celebrated artists. Undoubtedly one of the greatest progressive metal bands to ever exist—just engage the scope and dexterity of 1987’s Killing Technology, 1988’s Dimension Hatröss, and 1989’sNothingface—incredibly, Voïvod still remain criminally under-credited for having a hand in creating the template for what is deemed and accepted as “progressive metal” this century.
These Canadian visionaries have always been ahead of their time, and Target Earth, the band’s 13th studio release, sees the time/space continuum further expand between Voïvod and everybody else. Target Earth is an extremely important release for a number of reasons. Not only is it the band first with original bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault—who replaces Jason Newsted—since 1991’s cult hit Angel Rat, it’s the first studio effort with Dan “Chewy” Mongrain (Martyr) in the hallowed place of the gone-but-not-forgotten guitar genius, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour. It also happens to be the first Voïvod studio release since Piggy’s death (he passed away in 2005 after a lengthy battle with colon cancer) where his inventiveness has not directly played a part. The past two Voïvod records were created from the vault of riffs and ideas Piggy left his band-mates and life-long friends.
Because of these re-alignments, Target Earth is the sound of Voïvod reborn and aiming straight for the sun again. With Blacky back on “blower bass”, each of the 10 songs that form this record sound three-dimensional. His dominant phrasing on “Empathy for the Enemy” and the fantastically warped “Warchaic” prove to be much more experimental than Newsted’s sturdy contributions, and the chemistry of his interplay with drummer Michel “Away” Langevin on the myriad rhythmic changes of “Mechanical Mind” recall the band’s ‘80s heyday. In fact, were it not for the modern production you would be led to believe Target Earth is the natural successor to Nothingface in terms of being more rhythmically complex, forceful and lively than Voïvod have sounded in an age. And making such bold statements is entirely vindicated once Chewy’s immaculate contributions are fully considered. Anyone who has witnessed Voïvod live since Chewy joined the fold, or listened to 2011’s Warriors Of Ice live album, knows that his playing is sincere and respectful of Piggy’s legacy, but not only that, he carries his own distinct energy, and this excitable force permeates each shape-shifting riff and flow of melody on Target Earth. His memorable riffs, rich in angularity and adventure, dictate the tone of each composition, not to mention his winding solos on “Target Earth” and “Resistance”, which take on a life of their own.
Target Earth is not however, a case of being great due to outstanding individual performances, and unlike the last two records which were painstakingly crafted out of the remaining backlog of stored riffs belonging to Piggy, songs the quality of soon-to-be-live-favourite “Kluskap O’Kom” and the rapid “Corps Étranger”—which vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger snarls away in his native tongue—are indicative of a band who have found love for creating music again, and in certain a respect, feel comfortable moving on with their lives and creating music without their fallen comrade. Because of this, Target Earth feels like a truly collective effort, one that sees riffs and rhythms repeat, liquefy, mutate and reform as new entities, with Snake’s characteristic delivery and lyrical imagery equally focused and defiant. Voïvod version 2.0 is now fully animated and honed in on the future; Piggy would be proud of what his friends have achieved here.