Home Read Albums Of The Week: Voivod | Synchro Anarchy

Albums Of The Week: Voivod | Synchro Anarchy

Nearly four decades into their career, the Quebec metal mathletes drop another triumphant fusion of creative invention, technical precision & thrashing intensity.

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“Hey!” barks Voivod frontman Snake on Paranolmalium, the opening track to the Quebec metal mathletes’ 15th studio Synchro Anarchy. “Can you hear me? I’m alive.” Damn right they are. And that ain’t the half of it.

After nearly four decades of bashing it out in the studio and grinding it out on the road, the four horsemen of Voivod‘s latest incarnation aren’t just surviving — they’re beating the damn odds, defying gravity and reversing the aging process to boot. All of which is to say that Synchro Anarchy is the latest in a long line of artistic and technical triumphs. Intricate and intense, angular and adventurous, mind-blowing and head-crushing, its nine tracks deliver all the lofty lyrical concepts, shifting prime-number time signatures, thrashing speed, flawless musical execution and psychedelic flourishes you have come to know, love and expect from Voivod — not to mention plenty of lyrics about the intensity and insanity of life in pandemic times. How do they keep pulling it off? Find out this weekend when I post my video interview with Snake. Meanwhile, gird your loins, strap yourself in and hold on tight.

 


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Very few bands survive for four decades. Even fewer are those that continue to reach new creative heights, long after legendary status has been achieved. Voïvod were never like other bands: even as the thrash metal scene exploded in the early ’80s, the Québec crew stood apart, both as unique visionaries and as proud subverters of the metallic norm. From early prog thrash classics like Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss through to the psychedelic explorations of The Outer Limits, Voivod have been standard bearers for individuality and creative freedom for nearly 40 years.

Always defiantly out of step with prevailing trends but widely respected as true mavericks, Voivod even weathered the untimely death of talismanic guitarist and songwriter Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour in 2005. Buoyed by the support of their huge global following, surviving original members Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals), Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault embarked on a new and challenging chapter in the Voivod story, releasing the much-hailed Target Earth in 2013, with guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain proving himself to be a smart and dextrous successor to D’Amour.

By 2014, bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche had replaced Thériault, and a new incarnation of this indestructible band crossed their compositional beams to forge yet more mind-bending, psychedelic post-thrash wizardry. Released in 2018, The Wake was almost universally hailed as the finest Voivod album since the band’s late ’80s heyday. One of the band’s most successful albums yet, The Wake scored chart entries in Germany (#26), Switzerland (#51), Belgium (Wallonia) (#94) and the U.S.A. (New Artist: #8/Overall: #148): confirmation that the band’s return to peak form had struck a chord with fans old and new. Not surprisingly, Voivod hit the road to reaffirm their status as one of metal’s most unique and powerful live acts.

“At first we went on tour for almost two years, pretty intensively, with great bands,” recalls Chewy. “We went all over the globe, to Australia, Japan and Europe many times, and twice across North America. It was great! We had also a few surprising invitations, like playing the Montreal Jazz Fest. We also won a Juno award for Metal/Hard Music Album of 2019. We came back home in late December 2019, and then everything stopped.”

Confined to their quarters for those long months of lockdown, Canada’s finest simply did what they do best: create. The result is Synchro Anarchy, Voivod’s 15th studio album and yet another unparalleled eruption of wildly imaginative heaviness. Shaped by the weirdest of circumstances, the new songs were born from an intense period of collaboration. “It was a challenge, because we couldn’t jam together very much, but we all welcomed the circumstances as a new creative element,” says Chewy. “Lots of demos and files were shared and it was all worked to the point where it really sounded like the four of us playing in the same room. We could get together and try the ideas out just before the recording process to make all the small adjustments. In the end, it was almost like a race against the clock. It was pretty intense, but we welcomed the challenge!”

Despite the pressures of working amid a global pandemic, Synchro Anarchy sounds like the work of truly liberated artists. Following the career peak of The Wake was always going to be tricky, but the Canadians have smashed the followup out of the park, delivering one of the most idiosyncratic and adventurous expressions of their unique, genre-bending sound yet. Fans old and new can expect something truly mind-blowing this time around. “I think it’s pure Voivod!” says Chewy. “I think it’s a dark record with glimpses of light. It’s intricate, and deep. There’s complexity. There are new explorations on many levels. Of course, there are many references to space, to the advance of technology versus our fragile planet, to mental illness, anxiety, rebellion, fatality, time and space mysteries. Synchronicity and chaos! Lots of food for thought, I suppose. And the tones are fantastic. Francis (Perron, producer) worked his magic at RadicArt Studio. He has been part of the Voivod sound since our Post Society EP.”

Still one of the most fervently creative bands on the planet, Voivod have created another kaleidoscopic sonic monster. The perfect antidote to just about everything, Synchro Anarchy will light up 2022 with crazed, lysergic glee. Meanwhile, its creators are planning their next around-the-world campaign, armed with some of the finest music they have ever written. “We can’t wait to put out the album and go on tour, as soon as it’s possible and safe!” concludes Chewy. “Many things are on the way for Voivod, we have a documentary and a book, and we may do some more online performances … we’ll see! But there are a lot of options. We all miss the touring and meeting our friends and fans around the world. That’s what it’s all about: creating, travelling, connecting with people.”