The Lowdown: Voivod have always had a style all their own. The Canadian thrash/prog veterans have broken all kinds of musical boundaries since their 1982 formation. The band’s trajectory has soared since 2013’s Target Earth, followed by 2016’s EP, Post Society. On its 14th studio album, The Wake, the band continues its post-apocalyptic, sci-fi creations across eight expansive conceptual tracks. After new guitarist and now main songwriter Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain took over from late founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, he has stayed true to Piggy’s groundbreaking guitar techniques, while still evolving the band’s sound. Denis “Snake” Belanger’s vocals are just as wonderfully odd as ever, yet he’s progressed his voice exponentially over the years with a more melodic delivery.
The Good: Opener “Obsolete Beings” immediately grabs the listener’s attention with the band’s classic, dissonant chord progressions, rapid fire snare drum rudiments and driving rhythm section, which consists of original drummer Michel “Away” Langevin and new bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche. “The End of Dormancy” introduces some cinematic orchestral elements, marching Phobus-era rhythms and sharp melodic guitar chords, while “Orb Confusion” contains odd dissonant melodies with vibrant walking basslines and a groovy jazzy/proggy vibe. On the 12-plus-minute epic album closer “Sonic Mycelium,” the band reintroduces the orchestral elements and shows off its diverse layers by combining various parts throughout the album and inserting them seamlessly into one track. In fact, the whole album ebbs and flows and constantly shape-shifts with dynamic results.
The Bad: It’s hard to say anything remotely bad about The Wake. Perhaps the blower-horn bass sound that former member Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault achieved is missed slightly. If anything else, although the production is crisp and pristine, it could be argued that it’s a bit too polished.
The Verdict: If you’re already a fan of Voivod, then you know how incredibly unique they are, and the quality of songwriting on The Wake is top-notch, making it one of the strongest metal albums of the year. Voivod have progressed exponentially since their raw punkish days of “Condemned to the Gallows” from Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre 5 compilation.
Essential Tracks: “Always Moving,” “Sonic Mycelium,” “The End of Dormancy”