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Voivod - Angel Rat  CD (album) cover

ANGEL RAT

Voivod

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.97 | 96 ratings

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slipperman
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Funny how one of the most streamlined Voivod albums is also considered their deepest foray into prog-rock. Also funny how so many people hated this album when it was released in 1991, but now admit liking it. That's okay.some of the best albums are the ones that take a long time to sink in. I loved 'Angel Rat' from the beginning, but was still shocked at the direction they took, especially considering the last we'd heard from them was the cold tech-fest of 'Nothingface'. Where that album was incredibly ambitious, painstakingly thought-out and sonically antiseptic, 'Angel Rat' exudes a natural, earthy flow. Helped by the tight yet expansive production job of master Terry Brown (yes, THAT Terry Brown), 'Angel Rat' is a triumph.

Gone are the difficult rhythms, the cybernetic coldness replaced by wide, warm vistas of guitar, subtle beds of keyboards and Away's maturation as a drummer of pure feel and deep-pocket groove. Opening track "Panorama" reflects these traits, a straightforward plunge into cerebral rock. Masterfully crafted, its deceptively simple arrangement is bulked up considerably by the infectious rhythmic drive and Snake's (finally) human vocal approach. "Clouds In My House" brings the prog in, with a gorgeous backdrop of shadowy keyboards laying down its foundation. Rhythms are driving and smooth, with a wonderful tone to Blacky's bass. At this point it becomes quite clear that no other metal band had ever progressed so far in so short a time. To think that the churning noise of 'Rrroooaaarrr' was only 6 short years before 'Angel Rat', and that all 4 members made this evolution together.you see how 'Angel Rat' is a very special album in the band's discography.

"The Prow" is next. Capable of conjuring deep emotional reaction, this deceptively simple song is spiced with a shimmering mid-section and a compelling nautical vibe. Purely passionate performances from all members. There's a lot to say about its superbly crafted 3:30 running time, but let me only point out Away's hi-hat/snare syncopation--a joy to listen to every time. (An underrated master of his instrument.) From here the album scatters in a variety of directions, from more straightforward moments like "Best Regards", "Twin Dummy" and "The Outcast" (all of them having their own character) to spacious epics (in scope, not in elapsed time) like "Angel Rat" and "Freedoom". Piggy's guitar work is compact and relativity conservative, but when he shines, he's a neon star exploding. Check out his deceptively simple "lead" at the end of "Best Regards": one caterwauling note-bend that finally dissolves into space. Intuition on the level of David Gilmour. Blacky's bass is a crisp punch during this entire sequence. This song is one of his best moments; it's sad this was to be his final album with the band.

Though they're fairly short (3:35 and 4:37, respectively), "Angel Rat" and "Freedoom" are the prog highlights on the album. The title track is sympathetic and edgy, making smart use of dynamics and getting the most out of their studio and producer. "Freedoom" is a cosmic chill-out that ends up exploding in an "Astronomy Domine" fashion in its climax. And then there's the sad tale of "Golem" (dominated by Blacky's simple-but-effective bass lines) and the science-fact lesson of "Nuage Fractal", both deep-album tracks that keep the album moving with considerable momentum. Things come to an end with the urgent "None Of The Above", which swings the folk-tale musings and science-fiction delving back to the real world. A driving, rhythmic, pulsing song, the album ends almost like it began.

'Angel Rat' is Voivod's ultimate triumph. It shows a band that has learned much from the experimental and complex material of albums previous. It is masterfully written and suberly performed, a clutch of songs maintaining the spirit of discovery and progression they've always strived towards, with emphasis on studio creation, songcraft and aural escapism. Everything the band had been working toward comes to fruition on 'Angel Rat'. It was a commercial failure upon release, but seems to be enjoying a resurrection as an "ahead-of-its-time" prog-metal classic these days. Long may it fly out of the cut- out bins.

slipperman | 5/5 |

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