Voivod – Target Earth

Science fiction prog/thrash metal fusion has never exactly been a formula for commercial success. But 1989 was a strange year. In the hazy netherworld where thrash metal’s generic quasi-crossover overlapped the then-burgeoning alternative scene, metal tinged acts like Faith No More, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden somehow managed to carve out the small niche of “thinking man’s metal” that would later translate as grunge. Voivod were fortuitously on that scene, achieving a degree of notoriety with 1989’s Nothingface. The grunge crossover, however, was not as kind to Voivod as it was to their peers. But the band trudged on, with the expected revolving door membership and diminishing returns, into the new millennium – finally screeching to a halt when guitarist Dennis “Piggy” D’Amour succumbed to cancer in 2005. Piggy’s distinctive guitar playing, it seemed, was the irreplaceable X-factor of the band’s sound.

That’s why Voivod’s Target Earth is such a pleasant surprise. The band’s classic lineup (sans Piggy) is back, aided and abetted by new guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain on guitar – who does a damned good job channeling Piggy’s style.

The new Voivod is pretty much the old Voivod, which is to say that Target Earth is metal enough for the thrashers and musically difficult enough to appease the prog nerds. Sure, the album is chock full of high register, dissonant guitar chords and time changes galore. But Voivod somehow temper all this cacophony in the service of the album as a thematic whole. The sound is characteristically jarring – but not so much as to erode the rock factor. Listeners are more likely to think “hey, this is cool,” than “hey, this is weird.”

Target Earth is better taken as an album, not as individual songs. The vocals, bass and drums provide the rhythmic elements, and the guitar carries the “melody,” as it were. It’s hard to make out the lyrics (which are usually about some kind of post-apocalyptic, dystopian, totalitarian future and blah, blah, blah), but who cares? Target Earth is best understood as a deserted, monolithic hunk of haunted space junk that echoes with a rad sound. It’s creepy and it’s fun. Here’s hoping Voivod circa 2013 reap some well-deserved respect.

Target Earth
[Century Media]