Voivod – The End of Dormancy (EP Review)

Fighting off stagnation and boredom, genre-bending Quebecois quartet Voivod will release The End of Dormancy, a quick three-song EP, on Friday, July 10th through Century Media.

Coming quickly on the heels of their 2018 album The Wake, not only does the track “The End of Dormancy” give title to the EP, but with a chorus that announces, “The wake/ this is the end of dormancy/ the wake/ something from the bottom of the sea,” it is also the source of the earlier album title. That said, none of the three tracks offered here are original versions from The Wake. Instead, the EP opens with a studio version of “The End of Dormancy,” but one which extends the original four-piece recording by splicing in a fresh new horn arrangement.

This idea for brass first came to genesis ahead of the 2019 Montreal Jazz Festival. Guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain – who wrote the main riff of the original song – suggested the band pull off something special to mark the occasion of playing the storied venue, and within their home province to boot. After one quick rehearsal, the band – rounded out by Dominic “Rocky” Laroche on bass and founding members Michel “Away” Langevin on drums Denis “Snake” Bélanger on vocals – quickly drafted some horn progressions.

After a single rehearsal, the band, now with their brass section, played the festival to raucous audience applause. Buoyed by the live success, the band then arranged to have the horns recorded and laid them over the original studio version of the track; both versions appear on the EP, as well as closer “The Unknown Knows,” also recorded at the festival, and whose studio version originally released on 1989’s Nothingface.

If the first pass of “The End of Dormancy” was a listless submarine, teetering between a decision between the surface and returning to the dark depths, the horns make the teetering more severe. Rather than stoke the fire and fetch a blanket, the horns – and quite immediately, since they alone start the track – make the periods of calm plainer and the waves of cacophony more outrageous. Where the original track might have used silence or a fading guitar line to pause for a breath, the re-worked version has almost no let-up; the plodding death march takes no respite.

As befits a track with such cinematic power, a new video has been shot for the updated version of “The End of Dormancy.” Within the video, shot this past Fall, stands the band, performing the track surrounded by a milieux of scientific activity: organism growing in Petri dishes, and monsters being tracked with military equipment. Eventually, Bélanger is seemingly stricken with a combination of the growth and discovery; eventually the rest of the band follows, cryogenically frozen as the video plays out. Filmed ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, the video stands as a quick snapshot of a simpler time, when Science Fiction and Progressive Rock were playing with ideas rather than reality.

Using two strong tracks as a basis, The End of Dormancy gives Voivod and Progressive Rock fans a bit more to chew on between full releases. The band is feverishly working on the follow-up to The Wake, as well as a full live album slated for the Fall of 2020; one which is not likely to include the works here, so the EP is less of a stop-gap and more of an important release in its own right. All this in mind, tweaking to two dynamic tracks like “The End of Dormancy” and “The Unknown Knows” make The End of Dormancy a welcome listen and strong addition to any collection. As such, Cryptic Rock gives the EP 4 out of 5 stars. 

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