Voivod / René Lussier and Robbie Kuster

Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal QC, July 30

Photo: Nadia Davoli

BY Nilan PereraPublished Jul 1, 2019

There were a couple of weird anomalies surrounding this gig. One, that it's being presented under the banner of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and the other is that Voivod won a Juno in March for heavy metal album of the year.
Considering that Voivod won for their 14th album and in their 37th year — long after they've been globally recognized as one of the world's premiere prog metal bands and are legends in their own right — makes all this mainstream "cred" seems a bit after the fact, if not downright hilarious.
Another thing that set this concert apart was the opening act of guitarist René Lussier  and drummer Robbie Kuster, who are in the vanguard of Quebecois avant-garde improvised skronk acrobatics, and legends in their own right. Lussier and Kuster played a set that left a few heads being scratched, but wisely met the audience with Lussier mimicking Meshuggah-style vocals with his daxophone, and asymmetrically shredding and mangling on the guitar. Kuster played close to Lussier, and both were cheered and welcomed by an obviously friendly and supportive audience.
Voivod hit the stage with what proved to be a relentless blast that did not let up for over 90 minutes. Club Soda was packed, and it was pretty obvious that there was plenty of love going in both directions this night. They burned through their set, from "Obsolete Beings" and "Iconspiracy," playing most of the music from The Wake, and ending with their classic cover of Pink Floyd's  psychedelic brainstorm, "Astronomy Domine."
About midway through the set, jaws were on the floor as a five-piece horn section took to the stage for a couple of numbers, blowing up arrangements by guitarist Daniel Mongrain.
It took everyone by surprise, fit perfectly with the thrash and got a rousing response from the fans. A saxophone solo fit perfectly with the energy of Voivod, meeting them on its own terms with free jazz shredding. The band themselves were tight and aggressive, with drummer Michel Langevin and bassist Dominic Laroche powering up the rhythm section, and Mongrain and singer Denis Bélanger front-ending like there was no tomorrow.
And let's not forget that these guys are in their 50s, and like Nomeansno, can headbang and race the stage like they weren't. And like "Snake" Bélanger wryly observed, "thrash metal, punk, prog metal, speed metal… C'est tout de la musique, eh?"
C'est ça.

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