Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Album of the Moment - Voivod's "Nothingface"
This is an album I absolutely love. I stumbled across it in the bargain bin (for shame!) at a now-defunct music store (F.Y.E. in the Westgate Mall in Lincoln, NE) in late summer 1996, just as I was entering college. It was maybe my first or second week, and I was already discovering some great new music. This was a band I had heard the name of, but had never heard their music. Of course, this was in the infancy of the graphical internet, when designing web pages in HTML was still seen as "geeky" and something you could charge big bucks for. Fast forward a few weeks and I was spinning this CD almost constantly, enthralled by the twisted melodies, the angular, jazz-inspired chords and riffing of Denis D'Amour (erm, Piggy), the demented vocals of Denis Belanger (or Snake, if you prefer), the thumping basslines of Jean-Yves Thériault (Blacky, if you prefer) and the oh-so technical yet tasteful drumming of Michael Langevin (Away, as he dubbed himself), who also provided the deliciously crazy artwork for this, and all other Voivod releases.
This album represented not only the band's commercial breakthrough (indeed, a record contract with MCA), but arguably their artistic peak, combining the aggression of their early thrash works with the technicality and panache of their mid-period and later work, to form the perfect fusion of music and madness. No longer content to dwell solely on the storyline of the Voivod character itself, but now the band was exploring more complex themes involving self-reflection, environmental concerns (surrounded mainly around Alzheimer's and a steel plant in their local area of Canada), and of course plenty of intricately woven tales of science fiction. One can't listen to "Missing Sequences" without being drawn into the world of insects and the band's interpretation of the "working class" in etymological terms. I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight their cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" for two reasons: firstly, that it gave the band their first notable single, and secondly (more important), that it was vastly superior to the original in nearly every way. It captured the kind of demented mindset that Syd Barrett had, but with an edge and realization that was never possible in the lo-fi late 60's.
This isn't a constant spinner - it's one of those albums I pull out every few months and pour over, then put away again to return to when I need that fix. Sadly, the band never again reached this level of greatness. The 2 follow-up albums "Angel Rat" and "The Outer Limits" are brilliant in their own right, each achieving their own artistic greatness in their own way, but never quite firing on all cylinders like this gem. There's a reason why this is one of my favorite metal albums of all time, and it's simply this: sheer brilliance.