Canada’s metal overlords, Voivod return with a thirteenth studio album, “Target Earth“. It marks the first album without any content from original guitarist, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, and the first to feature new guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (Martyr, Gorguts). “Target Earth” also hails the return of original bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault who last appeared on 1991′s “Angel Rat”. Founders Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals) round out the current line-up.
Voivod has always pioneered its own path through heavy metal, using speed, thrash, progressive and traditional elements to create a distinct signature. “Target Earth” continues that band’s unique sonic journey. While the band’s previous two albums were solid, they seemed a bit adrift, but “Target Earth” is firmly anchored by the band’s early roots to which they return without apology. That said, there is still plenty of modern progression at play here as well.
The album opens with the title track which immediately immerses the listener into the band’s heavy progressions and futuristic ambient pool. Blacky’s muddy bass sets the tone, and leads into an almost industrial vibe. The guitar is at once thrashy yet surprisingly buoyant and emotive. While Mongrain doesn’t stray far from the style of D’Amour, he sets his own place at the table, showcases his own identity, and proves without effort, that this is where he belongs. There is even an odd jazzy moment in the breakdown. A decidedly wicked opening salvo.
“Kluskap O’Kom” enters like a panting robotic dog then offloads a punkish riff and trots off into a discordant thrashy gallop. Plenty of layers here, gang vocals, riveting drums and Snake’s gritty and engaging vocal attack. Two songs in and it is quite clear that Voivod is still a charismatic metal force.
The sway of sonic dissonance continues onward with “Empathy For The Enemy” before dropping us into the progressive intricacies of the album’s first single, “Mechanical Mind”. The latter showcases the various twists and turns Voivod will take the listener through and sets the stage for the modern line-up, while simultaneously assuring the listener that classic Voivod is not going anywhere. This one track encapsulates all that is diabolically magnificent about Voivod and “Target Earth“.
Blacky and Away set the tone for the divinity of “Warchaic”, a very deeply textured track. This kicks off the second half of the record which is a strong and dynamic as the first half. There are admittedly a few moments here and there that the band might have pared back a bit, shortening a few of the tracks, but overall, there is no noticeable weakness on this record.
The band handled its own production before turning over mixing duties to Sanford Parker (Pelican, Nachtmystium). Recording was handled by Pierre Rémillard and Blacky at Wild Studio, Saint-Zénon, Quebec, Canada. The sound is crisp and very modern without being overdone. Away created the album’s colorful artwork.
With “Target Earth” Voivod not only keep Piggy’s memory alive but breathe new life one of metal most iconic legacies. The spirit of Piggy soars onward through equal parts emulation, respect, and enthusiasm. “Killing Technology“ (1987), “Dimension Hatröss“ (1988), “Nothingface” (1989) and “Angel Rat“ (1991) are arguably Voivod’s best and most seminal works, and “Target Earth” fits right into that mix as if it were born of that era. The vocal performances are among Bélanger’s best in over two decades, while his lyrics continue to intrigue. Langevin remains one of metals elite and most overlooked skinmasters, and the distorted rumble of Thériault’s bass marks a welcome return. Mongrain performs with soul and emotion, paying homage to the departed D’Amour, while staying true to his own heart and style. All of these elements come together on “Target Earth” in an inspired, freakishly weird, imaginatively wondrous, and oddly beautiful album.
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Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.