It has been a long and storied career for Canada’s most unique metal band. In recent years, Voivod have overcome the tragic loss of founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour. Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain has stepped in ably, providing excellent work on both 2013’s Target Earth and the 2016 EP, Post Society. Now, having been in the band for ten full years, Chewy is more than an equal contributor to the songwriting, and The Wake, Voivod’s 14th album, is all the better for it.
The Wake is also the first full-length album to feature Dominque “Rocky” Laroche on bass, and the chemistry between the three musicians (including Michel “Away” Langevin on drums) really works throughout. If there’s one theme that defines The Wake, it would be experimentation – something the band is already well known for. Here they take it further in some areas, not just in the songwriting and arrangements but also Denis “Snake” Belanger’s vocals.
“Obsolete Beings” opens with sinister industrial sounds before Chewy’s jagged riffs tear things up. It’s a great opening song, a galloping and melodic track with Snake singing the verses in a mellow, retrospective tone and the choruses with plenty of his trademark bite.
“The End of Dormancy” is one of many standout tracks, a slow march led by a memorable riff, with Snake using a number of different vocal styles, really pushing his repertoire to the max. It is effectively the title track, with a chorus of “The Wake! This is the end of dormancy!” The only song that might beat this one in the riff department is “Orb Confusion,” which isn’t the strongest song on the album but man, what an earworm the riff is.
Other highlights include “Always Moving,” a lightning-fast thrasher featuring Away playing a frantic 15/4 beat, and “Iconspiracy,” which plays much like the band’s late ’80s work. But the capstone to everything is the album closer, “Sonic Mycelium,” which is essentially an ingenious mashup and reworking of the seven preceding tracks. You can spend an entire day figuring out which parts are from which songs.
Aside from the variety in riffs, tones, and vocalizations, Voivod have also decided to add a number of acoustic moments to The Wake, as well as a string group in places, making this a more musically diverse album than we might normally expect.
The only gripe I have with The Wake is the number of songs that feature outros. In fact, nearly every song has an unrelated ending that extends the length by one or two minutes and takes away from the preceding brilliance. To the band it probably adds to the album’s concept, but to the listener it can be disorienting, making the songs disjointed and taking away from what is otherwise an amazing record.
Overall, Voivod have released a stellar album, featuring the band members firing on all cylinders, solid songwriting, excellent vocals, and a welcome sense of adventure. It’s fantastic to listen to one of Canada’s most influential metal bands push their boundaries this far into their career.
(released September 21, 2018 on Century Media Records)
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Watch Voivod – “Obsolete Beings” Video