Published Jan 01, 2006In 1984, four metalheads who called themselves Voivod introduced the world to Quebec underground metal with a screaming sci-fi thrash debut called War and Pain. Twenty-two years and 13 records later, Voivods influence has far surpassed the bands popular success, but the aptly-titled and newly released Katorz proves the Voivod machine cant be shut down, even by the death of one of its founding members.
Over the past two decades, Voivod evolved from raw, raging metal to progressive metal/rock experimentation, with the otherworldly riffing of guitarist Denis "Piggy DAmour providing the ideal counterpoint to the futuristic artwork and concepts of drummer Michel "Away Langevin. Piggy and Away maintained Voivods creative core through membership shake-ups and label changes, illness and near-fatal accidents until 2001, when it looked like the ride was finally over.
It wasnt. Voivod re-emerged in 2003 with a self-titled record featuring the return of original front man Denis "Snake Belanger and new bassist Jason "Jasonic Newsted ex of Metallica, now flogging TV band Supernova, and a long-time Voivod collaborator and fan. Last year, Voivod had a new deal with the End Records and another album in the works when Away announced that Piggy was dying of cancer, and in less than two days, Piggys death crash-landed the bands musical force.
But Voivod presses on. Before he died, Piggy recorded several albums worth of songs on his laptop. Katorz is the first of the records he left behind, the combined voice of a six-string neuromancer and the band-mates who share his musical vision. Piggy wasnt planning on dying when he wrote these songs, and Katorz is no melancholy reflection on a life nearly spent; with its power, vitality, and rocknroll soul, this could be the album that awakens a new generation to Voivod, keeping that irrepressible genius alive.
Away, Snake, and Jasonic put the album together with producer Glen Robinson, using Piggys own guitar recordings and the bass hed captured on Jasonics porch.
Katorz is a thick and heavy monster, the first ten tracks from an after-tour jam session, and while technology made the record possible, its Piggy all the way through unfettered, unembellished, and uninterrupted.
The goal was "getting it pure, getting it right in your face, Snake explains. Jason elaborates, "We used ProTools to record this, but there arent any edits all the way across the god-damned thing correcting and sucking the human factor out of it. This one we had to know that there were always going to be the human factors, the flaws and the beautiful mistakes.
The album rages with a classic snarl and a modern growl, exposing Voivods basic essence. "A lot of people out there know what Piggys all about but this is on a larger scale, Snake offers. "Its more accessible, but I also think this one reflects our main influences because it was all improvs at the beginning, when we were first coming down off Ozzfest and got ourselves together, five or six days of recording with two simple microphones in the rehearsal place. Everything was there we didnt search for it. Its the purest Voivod because of that.
Voivod will always be in tune with early metal and punk Snake mentions Motörhead and AC/DC, Iggy Pop and John Lydon and with the 80s underground where the Voivod sound coalesced. The blocks of metal history imbedded in Katorz resonate with the retro spirit driving the current appreciation for classic headbanging, but this is also a record that screams "now. Jason is happy to expound on Voivods timeless relevance. "Piggy succeeded in creating something that you can put up against any record, as far as the modern feel, the crunch and the grooves and the heaviness. And Snake talks about whats going on today. He can relate exactly to whats happening on television right now, but also whats on 30 years from now and 30 years ago.
Katorz tackles issues like war in Iraq, media saturation, urban violence, right-wing conservatism and biotechnology, offering an alternative commentary on the official story "saying things that maybe some people dont wanna hear but that people want to hear. Snake likens Voivod to medieval troubadours, village fun-makers in a position to criticise those in power. "Were just trying to make people realise what theyre doing and what theyre saying and what theyre dealing with. We dont have a solution but we just wanna make you think about it.
These modern troubadours arent yet ready to be silent. The band plan on releasing at least 13 more of Piggys songs, two retrospective DVDs, back catalogue reissues, and a documentary from Metal: A Headbangers Journey filmmaker Sam Dunn. But while much of this list is focused on looking back, its Katorz that carries Voivod forward. "For us its special, Snake says, "but I think everybodys gonna enjoy it because this is pure Voivod. This is the shit, you know?