Voivod Cannot Be Silenced

Voivod Cannot Be Silenced
In 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, Voivod’s influence has far surpassed the band’s popular success, but the aptly-titled and newly released Katorz proves the Voivod machine can’t 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” D’Amour providing the ideal counterpoint to the futuristic artwork and concepts of drummer Michel "Away” Langevin. Piggy and Away maintained Voivod’s 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 wasn’t. 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, Piggy’s death crash-landed the band’s 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 wasn’t planning on dying when he wrote these songs, and Katorz is no melancholy reflection on a life nearly spent; with its power, vitality, and rock’n’roll 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 Piggy’s own guitar recordings and the bass he’d captured on Jasonic’s 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, it’s 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 aren’t 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 Voivod’s basic essence. "A lot of people out there know what Piggy’s all about but this is on a larger scale,” Snake offers. "It’s 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 didn’t search for it. It’s 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 Voivod’s 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 what’s going on today. He can relate exactly to what’s happening on television right now, but also what’s 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 don’t 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. "We’re just trying to make people realise what they’re doing and what they’re saying and what they’re dealing with. We don’t have a solution but we just wanna make you think about it.”

These modern troubadours aren’t yet ready to be silent. The band plan on releasing at least 13 more of Piggy’s songs, two retrospective DVDs, back catalogue reissues, and a documentary from Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey filmmaker Sam Dunn. But while much of this list is focused on looking back, it’s Katorz that carries Voivod forward. "For us it’s special,” Snake says, "but I think everybody’s gonna enjoy it because this is pure Voivod. This is the shit, you know?”