For any new band starting out and looking for a role model on which to base their fledgeling career, they won’t go far wrong by looking at Canadian extra-terrestrial metallers Voivod. Now into their 35th year together, and having just released their 14th studio album, the rather splendid ‘The Wake’, the band appear to be at yet another creative high on their rollercoaster ride of a back catalogue, and judging by the very respectable midweek turn out in The Globe tonight I’m not the only one thinking this way.
Greek thrashers Bio-Cancer are certainly one of those bands who could learn a thing or two from their European touring counterparts, largely because playing traditional thrash over which singer Lefteris Hatziandreou delivers screaming death metal vocals is not exactly an easy first listen. So, for the first few songs I honestly think this all might be something of an elaborate in-joke, and if my memory banks serve me correctly isn’t that exactly how tonight’s headliners were also described in their very early days? This small point aside certainly doesn’t detract from the fact that the five-piece immediately win over the crowd who absolutely lap up the tight as hell and in your face brand of ear-piercing thrash that these young lads from Athens take great pleasure in blitzing us with. It’s, unfortunately, all pretty one-dimensional stuff for the uninitiated however by the time the guys reach set closer ‘Spread The Cancer’ even I’m nodding along in appreciation.
Tonight, is actually my first time of seeing Voivod indoors, it’s also the first time the progressive thrash giants have ever played in Cardiff (Bristol being the nearest they’ve ever gotten to crossing the River Severn previously), and as would be expected for such a momentous occasion stage front of The Globe is totally buzzing with anticipation as the band’s atmospheric intro tape kicks in. Taking to the stage with the explosive punk metal of ‘Post Society’ from the 2016 EP of the same name the band are immediately firing on all cylinders and the sound is loud enough to totally piss the venue’s neighbours off once and for all. Led by perma-grinning singer Denis (Snake) Bélanger the enthusiasm with which the guys deliver their material simply acts as a means of drawing you into their headspace, then once you’re on board, whoosh you’re off on a musical trip that celebrates a huge chunk of the three and a half decades the guys (in various guises) have been producing some of the most direct yet challenging music ever to be released under the banner of Heavy Metal.
Across the next ninety minutes, we are treated to a set chock full of classics from the band’s back catalogue along with three of the very best tracks (‘Obsolete Beings’, IConspiracy and ‘Always Moving’) from the recently released ‘The Wake’ album. Admittedly it’s the earlier ground-breaking thrash thunder of tracks like ‘Ravenous Medicine’ and ‘Technocratic Manipulators’ that really get the audience chomping at the bit. It’s when the band delve into the more genre-busting aural nuggets like ‘Into My Hypercube’ from 1989’s ‘Nothingface’, ‘The Prow’ from be hugely underrated ‘Angel Rat’ album, plus ‘The Lost Machine’ from ‘The Outer Limits’ that I start to wonder why Voivod have never really achieved the same crossover success that a band like Mastodon has, and if you do have the answer to that one, please make sure to mail it to the usual RPM address, because I’d love to know why.
With drummer Michel (Away) Langevin being the only constant member of the band since their formation in 1982 it’s certainly worth highlighting that he is also one of the most technically proficient drummers I’ve seen performing in this genre in recent times. At the festivals I’ve seen that band at previously that wasn’t always so obvious but, in a venue, where you are literally standing eyeball to eyeball with the musicians he is nothing short of astonishing, especially on jackhammer fast blasts like ‘Order Of The Blackguards’. Let’s also not forget the newer guys Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain on guitar and Dominique ‘Rocky’ Laroche on bass who more than hold their own, in particular, Chewy who has been in the band since 2008 and is the almost perfect replacement for the seemingly irreplaceable Denis (Piggy) D’Amour.
With the band also dedicating their signature tune ‘Voivod’ to their lost brother before leaving us, albeit very briefly, ahead of the thoroughly deserved encore of ‘Overreaction’ which sends every one of us home buzzing with excitement and my ears ringing like when I was a teenager. On leaving the venue it was also heartening to see the whole band almost immediately hanging out around the merch table happily chatting away signing shirts and records for fans without the need for the whole VIP bollocks that is being exploited elsewhere in the business right now. Thirty-five years in the business and these guys are still more punk rock than some punk rock bands are in 2018.
Unique, influential and above all absolutely fucking essential in an age of beige. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Voivod.