VOIVOD aren’t an easy band to write about. Their early years saw them peddle out speed metal like they were members of MOTÖRHEAD’s road crew, whilst later releases saw them pioneer a technical thrash metal pretzel made of Bay Area thrash, British prog-rock, and avant-garde flavours. They’re outliers in every sense of the word. Celebrating 40 years of changing sounds quicker than a shooting star travels through the cosmos, the quartet bring us Forgotten In Space – a deluxe boxset that pulls together their mid-to-late 80s output on Noise Records.
Featuring three albums, – 1986’s Rrröööaaarrr, 1987’s Killing Technology, and 1988’s Dimension Hatröss – as well as 1987’s Dimension Hatröss Demos and live album No Speed Limit Weekend ’86; Forgotten In Space offers nothing new for diehard fans to seek their teeth into. Sure, the studio albums shine through VOIVOD’s signature monochrome soundscapes thanks to remastered editions, but beyond the satisfaction of hearing the same songs you’ve heard before in better condition, it feels like swimming in shallow water.
What Forgotten In Space lacks in substance, it makes up for in storytelling. There are no three albums in their discography that paint a clearer picture of their evolution from machine gun sprayers to atomic bomb creators. Rrröööaaarrr is a primitive pounding of the senses, setting mascot Korgull The Exterminator off into the atmosphere to hunt you down and feed you to visionary guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour’s acid trip chord voicings, whilst Killing Technology sees their sci-fi spaceship time travel to the cold war and take on totalitarianism, their sound shifting gears as the rhythm section of drummer and bassist’s Away and Blacky shuffle out of the shadows and drop in our eardrums like bombs in the blitz, letting vocalist Snake inject melody into absolute madness.
Working your way through, from Fuck Off & Die’s anarchic adrenaline to the complex crunch of This Is Not An Exercise, is like watching a kid work their way through maths homework – and once you hit Dimension Hatröss, you hear the lightbulb going off in their heads. Arguably their magnum opus, the 1988 concept album combined soundscapes as structurally complex as the Great Pyramid of Giza with a penchant for head-pounding heaviness that terrorises your eardrums like The Huns did the Roman Empire. If you’ve never deep dived into VOIVOD, this is an excellent introduction to their weird and wonderful world.
The Dimension Hatröss Demos are audible liner notes. Recorded in a flat above a strip bar shared by members of VOIVOD in Montréal, the demos were done live and in the moment, painting a picture of a band piecing together a masterpiece from scratch. Whilst the seeds were already sewn, it’s the early workings of Macrosolutions To Megaproblems and Psychic Vacuum that let you fully appreciate the fruits of their labour that would come just a year later.
Whilst VOIVOD are no strangers to sharing their live shows over the years, with a penchant for putting out their hometown shows, the No Speed Limit Weekender ’86 captures the band at their most chaotic. Punk energy prevails as they speed through a set dominated by cuts from War And Pain and Rrröööaaarrr with a ferocity so velociously they might as well have been in hyperspace.
Forgotten In Space doesn’t offer any anything new for the diehards, but it does continue to document the history of VOIVOD – a band who simply do not get the attention or appreciation they deserve as purveyors and pioneers of progressive and technical thrash metal. If nothing else, Forgotten In Space is a history lesson you shouldn’t skip.
Forgotten In Space is set for release on July 29th via BMG.
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