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Target Earth

Century Media (2013)
Rating: 8.5/10

13 albums! As a spotty teenager growing up in the 80s and thrashing out to War And Pain (1984) I would’ve never have guessed that these Canadian weirdos would have made it this far, let alone become one of metal’s most innovative and important bands.

Let’s face it, there’s no-one else quite like Voivod. Beginning life as a clanking, punkoid-thrash outfit bolstered by Blacky’s blower bass, Piggy’s distinctive rattling guitars and songwriting structures, and Away’s spaced out industro-drums, coupled with that spiky Snake vocal, Voivod were a noisy thrash act who evolved beyond the genre to create surreal Pink Floyd-esque soundscapes and dreamy passages.

Whether it was the bamboozling concept of Dimension Hatröss (1988) or the buzzing sci-fi surrealism of Angel Rat (1991), there was no doubting the genius of these guys. It was only natural that the last batch of albums would seem normal by comparison despite their usual bouts of high strangeness.

Voivod, bereft of Blacky, had begun to take on a rock ’n’ roll-style approach. However, their brain was tragically removed when Piggy (Denis D’Amour) passed away in August 2005 leaving a huge void. However, 2013 sees Blacky back in the band and new guitarist Chewy (aka Daniel Mongrain, formerly of Gorguts and Cryptopsy) paying tribute to that formidable Piggy tumult by giving the performance of his life, slipping in nicely and leaving no trace of a crack.

Target Earth is Voivod revamped, rebooted and very much returning to that momentous sound that bridged the gap all those years ago between Killing Technology (1987) and Dimension Hatröss.

The opener, and title track, kicks in with that nauseous bass from Blacky, rattling the bones as it gallops like some ill-constructed metallic horse. Chewy’s guitar chugs in and Snake returns to spitting venom, backed by Away’s tumbling drum assault.

This is the Voivod we know and love; jagged round the edges, spiky throughout, at times inaccessible in its remoteness and yet so enticing with its jarring complexity. Interestingly, this is the first Voivod album without any contribution from Piggy, but his ghost will always loom large.

‘Kluskap O’Kom’ begins with an eerie shuffling voice and then hurtles at us with that cosmic weirdness reminding us of Nothingface (1989) and Angel Rat combined. This time round however, there’s anger in those strained vocals. ‘Corps Étranger’ follows the thrashier path, but is completely unlike ‘Kluskap O’Kom’ with its marching drum / guitar attack and Snake’s dreamy vocal injection.

The epic ‘Mechanical Mind’ and ‘Warchaic’ concrete the mid-section of the album. The former is a jarring, bony experience that splinters in its aggression, with Chewy’s guitars sprinkled like chards of glass as Snake takes on a dirty sneer. Although these two are my favourite tracks off the album, it could still be argued that Voivod have been bereft of that rusty heart for too long, and it’s something that only beats sporadically throughout this album. Even so, there’s so much to get your teeth into here. ‘Warchaic’ features that classic Voivod drum sound, proof that Away was always, well, er… away with the fairies.

‘Resistance’ creeps into the speakers with the usual progressive and moody aplomb, while ‘Kaleidos’ and ‘Artefact,’ both clocking in at over six minutes, are equally striking; the latter featuring a killer bass.

Clearly this is the sort of album that is going to take a while to fully appreciate. It’s like climbing over a barbed fence knowing there’s something sinister yet tempting on the other side, and yet those barbs are just not letting go. Yes, it’s Voivod in every sense, but it’s not the exact monster that some of the fans want. But if you ask me, for any band to resort back to a sound they perfected back in the 80s would be silly; those times, emotions, and sounds have long gone, and why try to replicate something that was so great in the first place? Even so, with tracks like ‘Resistance’ the band are still clearly able to thrash with the best, but as always with Voivod, we expect the unpredictable, and in that sense Target Earth delivers. So how can anyone complain?

This is most certainly a transitional album, and once Chewy has settled in I see Voivod coming back harder than ever. Target Earth is the perfect launchpad for another trip into the outer limits. Long live Voivod… mechanical beast supreme.

Neil Arnold