September 20, 2018 Voivod – The Wake (Album Review)
Much like Primus, The Mars Volta, or Mr. Bungle, the Canadian Metal band Voivod stands on a unique pedestal, its only predictor being unpredictability. Earlier records may have had more of a Punk or Thrash vibe, later touching on Sludge, Stoner, or even Nu Metal, but the band has always used influences uniquely, shaping them to do their own bidding, however obscure. That in mind, the most recent collection of madness is The Wake, set for release on Friday, September 21st through Century Media.
After a series of splits, singles, and one EP, The Wake marks the band’s first full-length album after a recent lineup shuffle. The dysmorphic images on the album cover are meant to represent the band members as they hold a funereal wake for the doomed planet: founding members Michel “Away” Langevin on drums and Denis “Snake” Bélanger on vocals, joined again by Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain on guitar and relative newcomer Dominic “Rocky” Laroche on bass.
Eight tracks in total, it opens with “Obsolete Beings,” the first single and the first music video released from the album back in July. Described by Away as the simplest song on The Wake, it serves as a brief primer for the madness that follows. The video shows studio recording footage mixed with recent live efforts. From there, “The End of Dormancy” traipses through as a rag-doll lock-step death march. This track gives the album its title, as Snake croons, “The wake/ this is the end of dormancy/ the wake/ something from the bottom of the sea.” The march builds into a loud crescendo as the vocals take center, before everything calms down and the vocals whisper an almost-lullaby before stepping “away” from the microphone to ask a series of abstract questions. Something has been awakened on here – “this is what happens when you know too much” – which then weaves a web that covers the remaining six tracks.
“Iconspiracy” paints a grim picture of sheepish mind control, with ‘psycho-giant weapons’ in use to control the populace. There are subtle hits of keyboard here, and the guitar solo as well as ensuing riffs just past the midway point could easily find themselves onto a modern Black Metal album; the band quickly shows it is as versatile as ever. Voivod have released a music video for this track as well, and it is just as bleak as the lyrics – “lockstep sheeply humans controlled and harvested by looming spaceships.” The threat may be from overhead, but the words give the feeling that these beings are being drawn to Earth as a direct result of human behavior; whether these beings were actively welcomed by the populace or simply left open to take hold by arrogance is a question left best for each listener to answer.
Moving on, the opening and rhythm riffs of both “Orb Confusion” and “Spherical Perspective” could almost fit inside typical ’90s Alternative hits, but here they are hardened and placed within the dreary world painted by Snake, and bookended by the aggressive percussion of Away. The veteran drummer takes things to new heights on “Always Moving” by coaxing his bandmates into a 15/4 time signature. Finally, The Wake comes to a close with “Sonic Mycelium,” an aural history of the seven songs that already passed, though in no particular order. The final minutes of the closure are a stirring string arrangement – the original intent of the song, before the band decided to flesh it out into twelve minutes of sonic remembrance.
Voivod recently celebrated their 35th anniversary as a band, an impressive milestone. Amidst the lineup changes, and one unfortunate death, the band have continued to release solid, impressive, and otherworldly material, changing styles and genres as easy as others may change strings. The Wake finds them fresh and motivated, and ready to continue with a strong lineup for many more years. That is why CrypticRock give The Wake 4 out of 5 stars.
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