Voivod – Warriors of Ice

I wouldn’t normally buy a live album, let alone review one. The be-all, end-all of live albums for me is Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death”. It just doesn’t get better than that in my opinion, so why bother. Be that as it may I did recently purchase “Dio at Donnington” because come on, it’s Dio. So why would I go against my own rule about live albums and buy this one? Because come on, it’s Voivod.

Voivod and I go back twenty five years to a record store in a mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was just a wee lad in the early years of my metal infancy when I came across Voivod while sifting through the miniscule metal section at the back of Record Town. The LP was “Rrröööaaarrr” and the cover blew my mind. The front was this drawing of a futuristic spiky armored war machine, which to a teenage boy in the 80s was pretty damn cool. On the back cover were pictures of the band; they were all decked out in leather and spikes and just looked so metal I couldn’t stand it. I had to buy that album. I still have that LP.

A few years later Voivod would release “Nothingface” an album that would come to reside firmly within my top ten all time favorite metal albums. “Nothingface” was like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was this weird sci-fi metal that was both dissonant and melodic at the same time. We used to joke that if you were playing guitar and flubbed a chord you were playing the Voivod chord. But Voivod wasn’t flubbing, they were just in a completely different place than everyone else, and it was a place I wanted to be.

I’m sure most people have an album that helped them get through a rough period in their life. An album, or song, that when you listen to it now maybe you flinch from remembering how bad things were, but you also remember how much that music helped and it’s like seeing an old friend again. That is “Nothingface” for me. “Nothingface” and “Cowboys From Hell”. But that’s another story.

Over the years Voivod’s sound matured and changed, members left and came back again. Jason Newsted of Metallica joined the band for awhile, which I thought was great because I’m sure it brought some added recognition to a band that has never received as much credit as they deserve. Finally in 2005 my heart broke when I heard that guitar player Denis "Piggy" D'Amour had died (and I shit you not I am actually tearing up again now thinking about it while I type this.) I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to finally see them play in 2003 on the Ozzfest tour.

It sounded like that would be the end of Voivod, after all Piggy’s unique guitar style was the backbone of Voivod. We had at least one more gift coming, however, as Piggy had been recording songs while he was in the hospital. The rest of the band eventually took these final tracks and finished recording the songs around the guitar tracks and released the album “Infini” in 2009.

So here we are in 2011 and Voivod are releasing their first live album. It was recorded in Montreal with new guitarist Daniel Mongrain. I’ve snatched up every Voivod release I’ve ever seen, this wasn’t going to be an exception.

I have to say I’m pretty surprised with the sound quality. I guess I’m used to hearing too many bad live recordings. “Warriors of Ice” sounds great. Live albums sometimes lose the vocals buried in the music, particularly with thrash music that can get muddy in a live situation. But these vocals are clear and easily heard above the music. Denis “Snake” Bélanger’s voice sounds great to me, I actually expected it to be much different from the studio sound, but he replicates it quite well. The new guy on guitar does a good job of standing in, if not filling, Piggy’s shoes.

So, I for one am loving on this new Voivod release. I’m sure far too few people will agree with me, it is the way of this kind of music. But whatever, it’s just one more reason why most people’s musical taste sucks. Long live Korgull the Exterminator!