SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Negatron (1995).
After The Outer Limits failed to grab an audience, Voivod’s lead singer Snake departed the band. With just the two original members left (and no bassist or singer), Piggy and Away decided to start again. And they went dark and heavy. For the first 45 second of this album, you think, wow, Voivod has made a really heavy album—with thundering riffs and, yet still, some unusual chords from Piggy (the chord progressions are definitely still weird). Then new singer (and bassist) E-Force opens his mouth. And that’s when a good portion of Voivod’s prog rock fan base started weeping.
E-Force is a screamer. He’s not unlike Snake on the first couple of albums (although without the French accent). But there’s very little diversity. E-Force’s voice isn’t a total failure. It works pretty well with the heaviness of the music. But those of us who grew used to Snake’s singing can’t help but be disappointed by E-Force’s very limited range and style.
Opener “Insects” has some very cool parts and the music is kind of interesting—Piggy is always inventive and it’s cool to hear him mix some of his weird chords with such heavy music (the style is kind of like Killing Technology era but heavier and weirder). And there’s some sequences where the chords are just bizarre and cool. There is a bridge in “Insects” where E-Force sounds a bit like Snake and it’s like a great heavy Voivod album of old.
Speaking of heavy, Away sounds like he is having a great time banging the hell out of his drums. I feel somewhat surprised that after the last few albums of mellowing out that both guys could ramp up to play so fast and heavy again. “Project X” gives E-Force some room to do some different vocal styles (like on the first bridge which is actually kind of catchy), but the song is more pounding than exciting,
“Nanoman” brings some diversity, with a standard, but cool metal riff (and double bass drums). It also has a chorus that you can sing along to (or scream along to at any rate). “Reality?” is by now standard scream fare, but there is a chorus “upside down reality” in which E-Force shows he can actually sing and that part is quite good. “Negatron” is over 7 minutes long, and yet there s very little prog at hand. It does have some astonishingly noisy dissonant chords, though. “Planet Hell” opens with a bass riff that stands out a bit on this pounding album. But it quickly begins to sound like much else of the album. I do like the middle of the song where it breaks down into alternating guitar and drum breaks.
Starting with “Meteor” the album gets a little more interesting. There’s more high notes in this song, especially in the bridge—it’s still heavy and bludgeoning but there is some diversity here. I haven’t talked about the lyrics on the albums mostly because I can’t make them out, but on this song you can actually hear the lyrics and you can tell that they’re also not really up to snuff: “I don’t fucking care, I don’t care no more, I don’t give a shit.”
“Cosmic Conspiracy” opens with a simple echoing guitar line. It introduces a sci-fi element that the album has sorely lacked. Between that and the heavy drums and the crunchy bass, the song sounds really promising. Indeed, when E-Force starts singing, it’s muffled in an interesting way. And mid way through, it breaks into just martial drumming from Away. This is the diversity we’ve been looking for. There’s even an impressive (an interestingly effected) drum solo. Then the guitars that kick in are fairly traditional but actually fun speed metal. Sadly, E-Force’s voice doesn’t work with this section and kind of ruins it, which is a shame. There’s some interesting guitar work in the end of the song but it’s kind of drowned out by E-Froce’s screams. “Bio-TV” has a staccato sound that breaks up the pummeling. And the middle has a kind of pretty guitar riff (and a simplistic sing along section that sounds great amidst the chaos).
The final track is by far the most interesting and unusual. It is called “D.N.A” which stands for “Don’t know Anything” (seriously). But what’s unexpected is that the song is primarily written by and sung by Jim Thriwell (of Foetus). It’s not entirely clear if Piggy’s guitar is even on it (it is so distorted beyond guitar that it could be anything), although you do hear some chords near the end. Away’s drums are in the mix somewhere (it may indeed be all machines). It sounds like a Ministry/Skinny Puppy hybrid, and I would have preferred that electronic direction to the fairly generic death metal sound of the album. I’m really not sure what to make of this song. If you like noisy industrial music, this is an unexpectedly interesting track and surely a weird place to look for something like this.
There is a degree of irony that Blacky left to play more electronic music and Voivod recorded “DNA”. But even more ironic is that Snake left in part to start a much more heavy hardcore band (Union Made) and then the next Voivod album was the heaviest they’d done. It’s cool that Voivod is ever evolving, but this is a weird sidestep in a career of progression. It’s not a failure, but it takes a number of listens to find the gems within the noise.
[READ: September 17, 2013] “The Tribal Rite of the Strombergs”
This Simon Rich story is very funny. It begins (as the picture that accompanies it shows us) with Scrabble. Jeremy is playing his father. Jeremy always loses to his father. And yet, Jeremy reveals that he has been playing Words with Friends (his father doesn’t know what that is). And through Words with Friends he has learned that words like “qat” are playable (his father doubts the word but doesn’t challenge).
It soon becomes clear (because Jeremy can see the score) that although he is losing, it’s close enough that he might, for the first time, be able to beat his father.
When Jeremy plays Ta (a word they have always used), his father challenges. But it is useless. Jeremy’s father has a Z and that should do it. (more…)
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