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Voivod - Phobos CD (album) cover

PHOBOS

Voivod

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.02 | 60 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Voivod was one of those bands I snatched up on cassette in the mid-80's when thrash/power/speed metal was flooding the metal landscape. Though I bought a lot of stuff back then, very few of those bands impressed me enough in later years to be worthy of keeping in my collection on CD. Voivod's debut, War and Pain had a few tracks that I loved, and their third and fifth albums - Killing Technology and their seminal album Nothingface - managed to survive the decades of my changing musical tastes. Then early this year (2012) I took up interest in the band again and soon had my collection of their studio albums complete.

This is one of those bold move albums that either draws people closer or repulses them from the band. Or should I say revolts them? For my tastes however, this album is quite attractive in sound.

The reasons often cited for disliking this album: new vocalist Eric Forrest is nowhere nearly as interesting and unique as founding vocalist Denis Belanger; Jean-Yves Theriault isn't playing bass on this; the guitars are just a wall of sound.

It's usually disappointing when certain band members we have come to love leave the band and the new members can't replace what was lost. But given the direction that Voivod was heading through the period of Angel Rat and Outer Limits, I think it was a daring and bold move to take the new band in the direction of Negatron and Phobos. On the other hand, the band had been moving away from their speed metal roots and these two more recent albums remind us that this is where the band came from. If the last album you heard was Killing Technology and then picked up Phobos ten years later, you would likely not be surprised by the sound nearly as much as by the line-up change.

I actually find this album really interesting to listen to, though I usually prefer to listen to a few individual songs like Phobos, Bacteria, Neutrino, and Forlorn than the whole album straight through. The album is bookended by two sound effect instrumentals Catalepsy and Catalepsy II, which are on their own not much but being there they give the album a sense of conceptualization, a sense that is enforced with the bizarre and sometimes creepy sound effects that link the songs. You will also note that most tracks have a one-word title, further creating the idea of a theme.

There is little variety in the music. Almost every song is like being whacked by a giant tennis racket of distorted guitar, and given Denis D'Amour's penchant for weird and dissonant chords, that sensation of being clobbered is only stronger. The pace of the songs usually varies between doomy space extreme metal and a careening battleship of rapid-paced space speed metal. The songs do find time to fit in some interludes from the mayhem of sound with creepy undistorted guitar with spooky cosmic effects or abrupt tempo changes at times. The vocals are powerful screams from a terribly scratched throat - very much suiting the music - but sometimes they are distorted too and the lyrics are difficult to distinguish. That's a weak point for me. The music overwhelms the vocals.

Two tracks that stand out for me because of the mood they establish are the instrumental Temps Mort and Neutrino. Temps Mort is a solemn and grim piece that reminds me a bit of something from Nine Inch Nail's The Downward Spiral but with accordion played by drummer Michel Langevin. It has a strong post apocalyptic atmosphere but with a folksy European touch. It's a welcome interlude from the sonic assault that composes most of this album. Neutrino has such a sparse but hideously creepy intro. The image that comes to my mind is of some enormous space creature hammering on the hull of a doomed spacecraft while the crew inside are frozen with fear. It gives me the shivers each time I hear it, a great example of how even heavy metal can create images with music.

I was surprised to discover Voivod on this site at first because I believed at first that progressive rock was more like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and the likes. While this album is not Voivod's most progressive work, I think they have - as they usually seem to do - embraced a style of music and put their own unique stamp on it. I have not heard an album that sounds similar to this and usually when Voivod do anything, they do it with their own special twist. I do believe it has progressive elements, but this is tech/extreme prog metal here so unless that's your bag, you should stay away. If you love the classic Voivod then you should approach this with caution. If you want to hear something that will at first give you the feeling of listening to an extremely harsh hangover but later make you feel like you've just heard an album by a Sith Lord's evil twin's metal band, this might just appeal to you.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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