Intro: Concept bands come and go...at least it's been that way since the late 60's with the "psychedelic-collateral
casualty" acts such as: Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Blue Cheer
(although they smothered such "flower-power" under reverberating feedback-attack). The next
decade (1970's) proved to induce permanent sleep when 'self-indulgent' bands dabbled in tales of fair maidens,
doubtful dragons/kings, amorous elves and costly caravans. However, there were some interesting case studies of
"progressive space-oddities" such as:' Hawkwind' (featuring Lemmy Kilmister on
bass/sometimes vocals), 'Devo'/'Rush',
David Bowie (more or less his 'Ziggy Stardust' persona) &
even 'Iron Maiden' whose 'Eddie' character ended up being
a sad parody. By the early 80's,the idea of the 'concept'
album was pretty much 'D.O.A' in conventional rock music
circles as "punk", "heavy-metal" and "t.n.w.o.b.h.m"
took control and vowed to make music interesting and
violent. As an important 'footnote' to the "progressive-
rock"/"space-muzak" file, a little-known San Francisco
band 'Chrome' virtually created what would be known as
"art-damaged spacerock". They sung about future paranoia,
aliens and living machines. It wouldn't be until 1984
when another band would totally reinterpret and breathe
life into this genre...
That band was...Voivod. Although it's usual for the idea
of a band to come first, then create the conceptual theme,
Voivod is probably the only band that revolves around a
concept character that would reflect the speculative,
bizarre and innovative metaphysical/scientific-fact and
fiction philosophies of the band members. Coming out of nowhere
(actually a small town in the Quebec province), they
pushed way over the known principles of punk/metal/ rock-progressive/
thrash & all points
in between with "double-bind the mind" time signatures/otherworldly rhythms.
Years before "high-tech dystopia", "flying saucer mythos/
invasions", "electronic-age isolation" and "inner body
exploration" became the exploitable norm, Voivod was
saying "the alert is on...the future is now!" In this
article I will revisit the "atom-archives" of Voivod's
past history. I will look at the evolution of this
fictional creature from radioactive vampire to it's semi-
final plunge into deep catalepsy as the "no-being" or
"nothingface". Won't you come down inside the "undershelter'"
as I find the "perimeter zone", get inside the "defense
grid", deactivate the weapons array & turn on the screen
to peer inside...?
This weird tale began in a small town named Jonquiere,
which is located in the northern region of the Quebec province/du le province
Quebecois. I don't know if there
was much of a music scene in the region, but Jonquiere had the largest aluminum
processing/extraction plant in all of North America. Most of the people were employed
there, and one of the local kids who lived nearby was named Michel Langevin. He would use this experience as a
reference much later. Michel drew pictures from t.v. in his
childhood and soon began to create his own characters. He was actually encouraged by a slightly older friend who later
had to be sent away (no pun intended) to a special school. Michel created an
early, rough version of the
'Voivod' character when he was about nine or ten. He spent most of time in his room reading books about science fiction,
particularly J.R. Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings". After a near fatal car accident, he began to delve further into biology/mechanics and technology. He read Bram Stoker's
couple of years later and came upon the name 'Voivod'. He envisioned a "post-nuclear" vampire who lived in a land of
constant war called 'Morgoth'. He drew an early type of the "new-age 'Voivod/Korgull' machine. It was then he thought
of learning to play drums in his room, and started to find others who would bring his concept to fruition. Michel also
knew Denis D'Amour who could play guitar and bass, along with Jean-Yves Theriault. They started jamming around 1980-81
but not much came of it so Michel called it a day, took off a year to further refine the crude early warning. D'Amour
taught Jean-Yves to play the bass guitar after he found him spinning tunes as a DJ in a local pub. They got back together
in November of '82 to find a singer who would be the voice of 'Voivod'. Their nicknames came
from: 'Piggy' (D'Amour was a
rotund child so hence the name), 'Away' (Michel wouldn't show up for practice days at a time) & 'Blacky'
(explained in a
March 1999 online int. by Jean-Yves as "being a black cloud,
constantly bitching." They found Denis Belanger at a game of 'Improvisation' acting as a worm, so his nickname 'Snake'
(facial elongation and large mouth). They did mostly cover songs by:
'Raven', 'Motorhead', 'Thrust', 'Sex Pistols', 'AC/DC', 'Tank' and others, so there wasn't a lot of original material
being written. Michel proposed calling the band 'Voivod', but they didn't go for it & it was only after he explained
the concept when they all agreed. The members brought their varied influences that included fellow Canadian
"prog-hogs" 'Rush' and 'Van Der Graf Generator', 'Motorhead',
'Pink Floyd', 'MC5', 'Iggy Pop', 'GBH', 'Discharge', 'Stravinsky', soundtrack composer Dominic
Frontiere (of "The Outer Limits"/"The Invader;
anthologies) among others. Their first official show was
recorded on 6.25.83/venue unknown (which was issued as a live
demo later entitled "Anachronism"). The four 'Morgoth'
warriors with specialized directives were: (Snake) Denis
Belanger-"throat''/"scream"/"insults"/"mike torture & weapon
operator", (Piggy) Denis D'Amour-"burning metal-axe"/"electro-
motive force & tremolition", (Blacky) Jean-Yves Theriault-
"blower bass"/"pyromania and shit", (Away) Michel Langevin-
"thunder and death machine"/"horror and visions".
In January 1984, ' Voivod' put out a 16 song /four track
practice tape demo "To The Death!" which was sent to a
friend named Wayne Archibald who then forwarded it to
'Metal Blade' records. The record company selected "Condemned
To The Gallows" (which, oddly enough had nothing to do with
the concept and the guys didn't like it much) for the 'Metal
Massacre V compilation which also featured 'Slayer' and
'Hellhammer' (who later metamorphosized into "avante-garde"
omnbudsmen 'Celtic Frost'). This song brought them exposure
outside of their hometown. The demo featured song ideas that
would come out later in the first two full-lengths.
Now it was time for these "artic warriors" to unleash a
full "nuclear-fission blast" upon the music industry, but
it would take money to do so. Not many kids who start a
"rock-n-roll"/"metal" or just plain "loud" band can expect
their parents to subsidize their dreams, but 'Away', 'Snake',
'Piggy's' and 'Blacky's' parents loaned them money to record
their debut album and to upgrade their musical instruments.
"War And Pain" was recorded/mixed at 'Le Terroir' studio
in Quebec,19th-27th of June 1984. The studio was basically
8-track & they did product jingles. In fact, the owner
demanded that 'Piggy' turn down his guitar. The debut album
features the origin of the 'Voivod' concept character who
was a "post-nuclear vampire" that wakes up screaming from
a nuclear war in the land of 'Morgoth'. He's made of .'.". ~- ~- :
flesh and bone, but it's totally "maimed". He's a ruthless,
nihilistic warrior who, along with his tribe want to destroy
everything in their midst. The logo "Voivod" on this album
cover resembles a bleak, militaristic defense outpost with
spiked barriers. The character is in full combat gear with
laser weapon/"rifle fist" and armor. The lyrics strongly
reflect and echo the "cold war anxiety"/fear of nuclear arms
proliferation and a fascination with weaponry. Lyrics also
showed that despite a few lost English translations in
some lines, these French-Canadians were embarking on an
intellectual vocabulary/use of 1st,2nd and 3rd person
perspectives. In concert, the band sported "bullet-belts",
"spiked wrist and arm bracelets" & a gas mask that further
implemented the "look of war".
Other characters populated the fictional 'Morgoth' terrain
on the "War And Pain" album the "hell-fighting" 'Warriors
Of Ice', the "beastial-mech" that breathes carbon and eats
children/"rolls on chains"- 'Blower', plus the fighting
'Iron Gang'. They started a fan club of the same name.
Shortly after "War And Pain" came out, the reviews were
anything but "middle of the metal road". They were called
"the worst band in the world"/"total 'Motorhead' and 'Venom'
clones from someone at 'Kerrrang!' who I think was
convalescing from an earlier "lobotomy" operation! Other
more favorable and open-minded reviewers saw a lot of
potential in 'Voivod' because musically it was a "radioactive
cloud of hard-core hell", "burning metal fallout" and "full
on panzer-tank aggro-power". The record sold approximately
70,000 copies worldwide, with German metal fans being totally
enthusiastic. Strangely enough, many of the band's friends
and neighbors thought they came from Germany/Deutschland/Allemagne.
'Voivod' was soon described as "power/nuclear
metal", which was fine with them. They didn't want to be at
all lumped into the "black/satanist metal" category, which
is pretty limiting. "We're not into Satan" is one of Michel'
early quotes ('Metal Mania '87 int). For some odd reason,
'Voivod' was labelled as 'fascists/nazis' because they
talked about war and weapons, it seems like this unjust
accusation stemmed from the rantings of a simple mind that
can't grasp the art of commentary & analysis for which there's no clear position. In December of '84, they
recorded a live gig in Jonquiere that would be released as
the "Morgoth Invasion" demo.
Shortly after the 1st lp was recorded,. 'Voivod' gained some
international attention from the underground industry and
their first official "systems meltdown" (live show outside
of Canada) was in the U.S. at 'The Ritz' in NYC supporting
'Venom' et 'Cro-Mags' on April 4th,1985. They came on first
and did a forty-minute set which consisted of tracks from
"W.A.P" & the soon to be released follow-up. They debuted
a new track, "Order Of The Blackguards" which wouldn't
appear in a recorded form until early 1987. The crowd of
1500 gave the band a good reaction to their on-set "pyro-technic blast" and combat gear. Unfortunately, 'Voivod's
relationship with 'Metal Blade' deteriorated over an incident (ah..the oft told story of bands not getting $$ for records
being sold), which resulted as an inspiration for the
classic "Fuck Off & Die!) track that would be on album two.
They decided to record this next album that would be called
'RRROOOAAARRR...!!!' The concept of this album is that
after five to seven nuclear wars, the 'Voivod' becomes a
"new-age biomechanical war machine" who trades his primitive
weapons for a more sophisticated arsenal. He's the "grand
master of purification...Korgull The Exterminator". The
The story of 'Korgull': he goes around the top of a large,
deep hole where lots of people are held prisoners. Each
time they try to get out, it exterminates them. Slowly, the
people die of paranoia. The title of the album, 'RRROOOARRR...!!!' comes from the sound this 'Voivod' makes when in
motion. The evolutionary concept extends to the bands' own
progression in playing. From a reprint of a Danish metal
'zine-'Blackthorn #4/1986', 'Blacky' expands on this: "We
think our songwriting has improved and we are better
performers than we were on our first album. We worked a lot
to improve our musicianship..." This record was a purely
aggressive "war campaign" soundwise: The drums "rumble and
tumble" into almost "nanosecond-overdrive"/guitars dominate
this "infectious landscape"/the "blower bass" sound is
missing on this effort because 'Blacky's amp was "nicked",
so they had to go with another one. On vocals, 'Snake'
totally goes awry with the "near metaphysical/nihilistic
blood-lust" on this one! It sounds like they were trying to
smash the speed barrier with entries like 'Fuck Off & Die!,
'Thrashing Rage', 'Ripping Headaches' and the "all destruction ahead crash" of 'To The
Death!! I totally loved this
despite the fact that it's not the best-sounding
album they ever did. Being an angry teenager in high
school during the "speed-metal crisis" years-mid 80's
had it's advantages, I guess. On this record, the band's
intro consisted of a "far away" then close-up "death
jungle beat" (on the 1st lp, it was "rustling chains and
ghostly guitar"). Michel's cover art this time featured
the 'Voivod' as a "ruthless, multi-tiered tank of attack
with sophisticated weaponry at the ready". The logo
design became more intricate as well. In an online
interview-March 1999 with jean-Yves, he described the
songwriting process between him and D'Amour during those days: "D'Amour was the most technically proficient as
far as playing, so we developed a strategy of recording
guitar/bass tracks, edit it on recorders/refine and
redevelop everything." Langevin did the artwork/concepts
on all the albums and worked on lyrical ideas with
Belanger. The album was recorded at 'L'Autre' studios
in Montreal from October-November 1985. They were signed
to 'Noise' Records and did a high school tour of seven
towns in the QC province to rehearse their live -
appearance. They played at the "World War III Festival"
with 'Celtic Frost', 'Possessed', 'Nasty Savage' & 'Destruction'. There were other Quebec bands who existed
during the mid 80's "metal riot": 'Aggression' & 'Outrage
In Toronto, there was 'Sacrifice', 'Slaughter' (not the
shitty U.S "glam-scam" band!), 'Exciter' & 'Anvil'. In Vancouver, BC you had 'Sacred Blade'. 'Voivod' relocated
to Montreal permanently and their 1986 U.S./Canada tour
with fellow 'Noise'-makers: 'Celtic Frost' & 'Running Wild' (they had a pirate concept?!?) started on 5/17/86
at L'Amours in New York. In the fall, they went to Europe with 'Possessed' & 'Deathrow'. Their 1st U.K. gig was
at the 'Camden Electric Ballroom' in London on 11/24/86.
They were playing some tracks from the upcoming album
that would represent another evolutionary scenario of
the 'Voivod', which was recorded in the oppressive
(pre-democratic, although that form of government is
repressive in a subtle way) climate of Berlin, Germany.
The 'No Speed Limit' live demo at 'Le Spectrum', Montreal
on 10/12/86(the 2nd night) is put out through the 'Iron Gang' fan club.
'Voivod' records the third album, 'Killing Technology'
in West-Berlin, Germany from Oct-Nov'86. This country
was separated into East (Communist side) & West (democratic
side). The "Cold War" repressive atmosphere of the
political reality seems to have added a whole new
dimension to the band's sound while recording at 'MusicLab' with Harris Johns. Production-wise,
'Killing Technology' (in my own opinion) is the best recorded album
so far & the instruments become even more individualist!
'Piggy's "bluesy-hardspace/rock chops" and effects are searing, vivid & barbaric! They sound quite clear without
being "slick". Michel ('Away') sounds like a true "thunder
machine" on this with "beyond the 4/4" double and triple
beats drumming, which gets quite thick on songs like: 'Overreaction',
'Tornado', and 'Ravenous Medicine'.
'Blacky's' bass playing evolves into a "shadowy", lumbering
hardware "fallen power line" schematic, and 'Snake's
unique French-accented "nasally mutant-mech youth undulation
/"schizo-patient" screams are even more pronounced. The
continuing saga of 'Away's fictional "nuclear-boy" starts
with the 'Voivod' becoming a "half-cyborg/half-human misfit"
who destroyed 'Morgoth' & while inside it's spaceship, he
integrated with the 'Star Wars' defense system which will
target Earth. This was a heady mix of science fact and
fiction because the Reagan administration were quite serious
in their demands for a laser weapons guidance system
originating in space?!? The album also reflected the
inevitable social catastrophe that develops when high
technology improves too quickly to be assimilated into modern society. 'Away' further elaborated on the band's fascination
with technology, in an excerpt from 'XXX#19(Mike Gitter's int.'87)-
"We are all very much into high-tech things such
as space and artificial intelligence and what we choose to
talk about is the very dark underside of everything like
that." The occurence of natural disasters such as weather
disturbances in 'Tornado'-a total "flying debris" of
"culominimbus-metal", if there was such a genre! Michel is
also fascinated by schizophrenia in the 'Ravenous Medicine'
track-one that expresses outrage at animal experimentation/ schizo-people
(in a totally nonpreachy way). The lyrics
definitely evolved as well due not only to 'Away' and 'Snake
writing style, but also the fact that they reside in Canada.
They're French-speakers who live in a primarily Anglo-speaking
country that receives an influx of American, French, Canadian
and English influences (the 'big three' major U.S. networks, CBC, Le
Canal, Channel Four, BBC/ITV). Although, quite early in
their career being told that "if you're not from California
or L.A, forget it!", coming from Canada gives them an unusual perspective. If
'Voivod' came from the U.S.,UK or Germany,
it just wouldn't work. The last track 'Cockroaches'
represents the insect invasion "after the human war, it's the return of the death swarm" that will dominate after the
planet is vaporized. The concept actually came from the
bandmates living together for awhile. They did a video for
'Ravenous Medicine' which was banned by the 'MTV-idiots' due
to it being "too stark" (in other words, since it wasn't about the cliche "sex, drugs, rnr", and it was intelligent., so
those "closed mind" fuckers who run the programming didn't
get it!). They toured the U.S. with 'Kreator' and later on
it followed into Eurpoe. The full-on aggression of the live
shows quickly gained critical attention due to their on-stage
"battle rage": The convulsive, tortured "bass machinations"
of 'Blacky' meets head on with the throttling "speed of
light" thrash-"techplosions" ala 'Piggy'. They were called
"The Two-Headed Beast" by their management. 'Snake' had his
"shell-shocked" warrior/soldier weaving brief interludes of
the world of 'Voivod'. 'Away' plunges into his self-contained
full-textured percussive "tank movements". They opened up
for 'Exodus' on one '87 tour date. It's quite clear that 'Voivod' was years ahead of where the metal network would
eventually go although they made "prog-mutation"
influences of punk, classical metal, pure rock-n-
roll synergy, and real-alternative "gloom and
dancing doom" into their own. Even though the
'Killing Technology' album had just been released in '87,
Michel already had a next course of attack for the 'Voivod'
,as taken from a "Metal Mania'87 interrogation session-
"He has to go elsewhere, to space because everything on
Earth will be deceased around him. I'm already thinking
about the fourth album, which could take place in the
outer dimension." On some European tour dates, a new song
'Tribal Convictions' from the next album, which wasn't
even recorded is played. Their 'Spectrum 87' & 'Brussels,
Belgium 11.28.87' live demos are released thru the 'Iron
Gang' fan club. Now, it's time to record yet again in
If I may backtrack a bit, the intro to 'Killing Technology'
sounds like the reactivation of an onboard missile defense
system, complete with a droning, robotic order-"We are
connected!" 'Voivod' records it's fourth album, 'Dimension
Hatross' at 'Musiclabs' in West Berlin, Germany from December
4th,1987 to January 4th,1988. Harris Johns returns to
producing duties along with the band, who also assisted in
the mixing. The concept continues with the 'Voivod' in it's
own space laboratory seeking to explore the outer dimension.
From the liner notes on the album that read: "Inside a giant
particle accelerator, a beam of protons travelling at near
the speed of light meets a beam of antiprotons moving
equally fast in the opposite direction. The protons and
mirror-image antiprotons annihilate each other, creating the
fiery chaos of a parallel microgalaxy. Experiment one
complete, the 'Voivod' goes into that new dimension, meeting
different civilisations and psychic entities, extracting
knowledge and energy in the eight programs of this project called:
Dimension Hatross". This multi-level space epic was
'Voivod's most complex to date, with not only a story
centering on the next transmutation of the character but a
reintroduction to a new frontier of the unknown that's
inhabited by a new cast of "others": 'Experiment'-testing the
four basic forces, the 'Voivod' prepares for dematerial-ization into a new psychic "entity" to enter 'Hatross'/
'Tribal Convictions'-It comes from the sky into contact with
primitive beings who mistake 'Voivod' for a God. It asks
"Who Is God? Who Is Dog?"/'Chaosmongers'-"high-tech assassin
of the future who try to dismantle the crumbling social
order/'Technocratic Manipulators'-the 'Voivod' is part of a
total "hypno-Orwellian" telescreen reality/'Macrosolutions
To Megaproblems'-the turmoil grows and the depression takes
over/'Brain Scan'-the "invisible men" discover the 'Voivod's
presence and try to capture it/'Psychic Vacuum'-The 'Voivod'
goes to war with the energy beings and extract their
enormous power and psychic abilities. This is the "beginning
of the end", which comes together with the inevitable
"self-created molecular diaspora" ("with my psychic power,
imploring the quasar...") of the last track, ' Cosmic Drama'.
The 'Voivod' decides to destroy this dimension, and escape from that place. Not only was the story/concepts that
was created by Michel Langevin (it took three years to
complete) a bold step for 'Voivod', it was part of a
new type of science-fiction called "cyberpunk" (although
this "buzzword" is in and of itself annoying, the truth is,'Voivod' helped to usher in this genre way before it
was commonplace). Around the same time, William Gibson's
sci-fi novel 'Neuromancer' came out. It too, explored the
idea of "microcivilizations" albeit in a more "comic-book
hero" pretense. The album cover features the character as
a "half-alien machine that resembling a towering generator,
stands in front of an eerie afterglow of a bluish-red/
purple fog. The band logo is a little less technical, and
musically this was the "supernova" of 'Voivod' albums!
They were much further along than what was coming out in
1988, which consisted of "warmed-over thrash basics" for
most bands in the metal area. 'Metallica' was losing their
"ignition" and most of the punk music had either quelled
their rude/youthful energy or assimilated into the boring
arena of "maturity". However, 'Slayer' was still burning
up the "sulphur" with their "speed-metal malevolence".
There was more experimental moodiness, which coupled with
classic heaviness turned into what I personally like to
call-"Galactic state of mind-metal". The band incorporates so many different areas of music, along with science fiction
and fact/philosophy into a "vortex" of something eerily
original. The "intro" on this album is like the bombardment
of "cosmic x-rays" from a giant machine..first the slow,
irradiated humming into a full blast! The structures end
"time-warp" signatures became even more theoretically
sound formulas. 'Piggy's guitar "riffquakes" and -.
"interstellar tremolitions" (effects) take on more of a
"space echo" (especially in the beginning moments of 'Experiment',the end of same track and the middle part of
'Macrosolutions to...). 'Blacky's "bass shadow" playing gain character and dimension while
'Away' bangs furious "multiple
meteor-beats" and 'Snake' utilizes some truly "nonhuman, cold
space-entity"/"flying lord" vocal responses, along with his
"mad scientist Voivod-isms" to express the moods of the
other "anti-citizens" in 'Dimension Hatross'. Finally, the
lyrics focused on 'Voivod's discovery, fear and alienation of
this unstable "microuniverse" that created more misery
and oppression. The record was released in June for the
U.S. During a routine before-tour medical check up, Denis
D'Amour was given a diagnosis of cancer. Apparently, he had
a small tumor that was growing closely between his brain
and optic nerve. To add even further grave implications to
this, the doctors warned that if an operation was needed,
'Piggy' would never be able to play guitar again. Of course,
this medical drama already freaked out the band who ironic-
ally enough wrote sci-fi oriented songs like 'Ravenous Medicine' and 'Brain Scan'. The band cancelled plans for a
summer U.S. tour while 'Piggy' stayed at a Montreal
University for two weeks. Luckily, they never had to operate
on 'Piggy', but he has to take hormonal pills for the rest
of his life because of this. Strangely enough, this tumor
was growing for five to eight years in his body and it
could only be detected by an x-ray because the
symptoms were so subtle, much like a "head cold" ('Metal
Mania'-'Voivod': Future Shock...-Mike Gitter/1989). This
is also somewhat of a modern medical marvel as well, which
increased the weird aura of 'Voivod'. A video for 'Tribal
Convictions' that combined intense live clips/computer
animation received increased rotation on 'MTV (which basical
means they played it more than once). A second video, 'Psychi Vacuum'
(featuring a little more concept animation and a
sneak peek at the next 'Voivod' face, along with 'Snake'
having creature putty on his face, walking "zombie-like" out
of a "womb-like" opening with fog surrounding the set) also
got airplay. They toured the States in Nov/Dec with support act,
'Violence '(who were decent, mind you but they could
never distract you from wanting to say, "fuck it, I wanna see
the headliner!) They landed in Houston during a cold
December 10th on a gloomy Samedi/Saturday night & I pretty
much sat out during 'Violence's set. After their performance
I heard the echoey rumblings of what sounds like a 'Guild Heighliner'
(this is a 'Dune' reference, so bear with me 'cuz
I'm a sci-fi freak!), but it's actually the "Space-Bass"
intro, then "swarming purple lights and white fog" (which
by any other band would come across as "total geek-rock
star cheese", but it works for 'Voivod'!). Four shadowy
figures come onto the stage & now, the "high-tech" bass into
for 'Overreaction' sends the crowd into an instant "slamming
orbit!" On this voyage, they incorporate a 'medley' of
'War And Pain' stuff. They conclude with a spooky cover
of "Dead Kennedys'-'Holiday In Cambodia' (they were going to
record this for the album, but 'Laaz Rockit' did it already)
and 'Batman' theme (which is a bonus track on the cd version.
On December 20th-21st, they brought 'Cro-Mags' along to
the 'Spectrum' (as a support guest) for a double-nighter.
The second night was recorded as the 'A Flawless Structure'
demo to reflect the band's synchronous, "machine-like" (but
with emotion) live playing. They also did a N.Y show on
12/23/88, again with 'Cro-Mags' at the 'Ritz'. At this time,
I heard a bootleg demo of what would be songs off the
upcoming saga 'Nothingface'. This concept was partially
mentioned by 'Blacky' in a 1988 interview (author and zine
unknown) in which "musically, it's along the same lines as 'Hatross', but with more "feeling"...The 'Voivod' will go
it's own brain..."
The next and most introspective step of the long-running
'Voivod' concept finds the character going boldly into
where it's never been (and won't ever be the same since)
before:it's inner mind/the brain. It becomes a voyage into
the different psychological dimensions. Actually, there are
several stories that incorporate themes of paranoia personality "split"/schizophrenia and depression, maintained with
a science fiction edge. Michel's primary influences were
French philosophers, along with 'Don Juan' author Carlos
Castenda. In this chapter, the 'Voivod' destroys it's
original personality because he thought it was too "weak".
He creates other personas and plastic identities, but they
feel false. He tries to find the original but it's gone.
He wanders around, feeling that his body is being sucked
out by giant machinery, thus he becomes the 'Nothingface'.
Although Langevin had a basic explanation behind the songs
from 'Nothingface' in a full-page ad (courtesy of their
new label 'Mechanic'/MCA) in some metal magazines, he
goes into further detail in an excerpt from a Feb/March
1990 int for ('B Side'/Charle Koci)- "The first song is
'The Unknown Knows'...there's this little Indian waiting
for the "flying lords", which is a legend I created for
U.F.O's. The song is about questions we ask to ourselves;
questions without answers. The song 'Nothingface' is about
a creature I created...he wonders if his original personality
ever existed. He feels that it may have been shut out by
the outside world, the world you have to live in which
interferes with your inside world. The little guy who
doesn't have any arms, legs, eyes, & mouth. He'd like to be
part of the outside world but he can't for some reason.
The story is about him meeting people who are, in fact
himself and who are trying to convince him to make his arms
and legs grow, along with his eyes, ears and mouth." The
band's early days in Jonquiere, living in the vicinity of
the aluminum factory figured heavily into the overall
concept of the album, as taken from this additional excerpt:
"The aluminum deposit in the smog and grain causes
'Alzheimer's disease, so I'm really worried because my
family and friends are living there and the chance of
getting 'Alzheimer's disease is really high. So I wrote
this concept about these giant factories that look like
spiders. They crawl on the planet and dig for aluminum and
when there's no more aluminum, they fly off to another
planet, like starships ("Missing Sequences'). 'Pre-Ignition'
on 'Nothingface' is the story of the robots working inside
these giant factories...it's about the people losing their
legends and their culture because of 'Alzheimer's". 'Voivod'
recorded the album at 'Victor' studio in Montreal and
mixed it at 'Power Play',New York in late 1989. Glen
Robinson produced the album & this "digital coldness"
reflected not only the feeling, but Michel's computerized
artwork on the cover depicts an odd montage of distorted
faces superimposed as background. Michel's face is on a
creature with no arms, sitting by a prison cell. The
'Nothingface' image rests in the middle, with smooth valves
attached and a couple of personas seem to flow outward.
Lyrically, it's the most abstract, obtuse and introverted
collaboration yet between the Langevin/Belanger writing
team. They also sought the help of a friend, Kiisti Matsuo
to help them with the 'Nonsense Project'. Some of the lines
read like the complex mantras of turmoil, fatalism and
technological mysticism and erratic mania-compression.
From the beginning intro that sounds like the 'Voivod'
resting within after his previous voyage, with an "electron
shell buzz" then a wailing sonar that says, "I'm far from
the shore". Then the digital reality sets in, and you are
immediately drawn in as an adventurous listener to the
profoundly pessemistic view of the world of 'Voivod':An
ever-evolving "vampirific-nucleic" creature that knows
no 'GOd', yet he's not in total control of his Universe
Musically, this album is by far the most brilliant
effort that accurately reflected the way real music
was supposed to be for the 1990's. Not only is there
feeling among the four "sonic-manipulators" who previously
went by their 'Black City' monikers: ('Away') Michel
Langevin's theoretical drum patterns reflect the cold
surface "unreality" of the 'Nothingface' world/('Piggy')
Denis D'Amour goes into "parts unknown" with his
melancholic-mechanic, and "near-melodic quantum-riffs" and
echoes/('Blacky')Jean-Yves Theriault on "bio-bass pulse"
whose style is even more distinctive & last but not least,
('Snake') Denis Belanger who navigates between the vocal
parameters of this psychological odyssey:from an otherworld
of yelping drones to half-evolved "nothing-child" to
rebellious "robot-consciousness" raspiness, and finally as
the "submerging-shadowself" in the last track 'Sub-Effect'. 'Voivod' also snuck in a bit of a homage to the
'Outer Limits' musical composer Dominic Frontiere with the
beginning riffs to the first song. This arrangement could
be found as an instrumental soundtrack from a number of
episodes. 'Voivod' signed a worldwide recording contract
with 'Mechanic'/MCA. The new album yielded a lot of critical
acclaim, especially from a 'Village Voice' (N.Y weekly news)
music critic who would be in Montreal to see their
performance on 'SolidRok-Musique Plus' (a French Canadian
cable show). There was supposed to be a video for 'The
Unknown Knows' but it got scrapped, instead they did one
for their interpretation of the 'Pink Floyd' cover tune
'Astronomy Domine'. This not only satisfied the label
geeks who always do a stipulation for newly signed acts
for covers, but it became sort of a "hit" for 'Voivod' due
to regular airplay(this was largely attributed to the fact
that there a lot of the 'Z-Rock' radio stations in the U.S
regularly spinning heavier tunes like 'Exodus', 'Slayer',
'Danzig'-when he was worth listening to & others. Since
those "halcyon" days, "alternashit" took over!). This song
just happened to fit naturally within 'Voivod's "space-noir
reputation" because as kids they were totally into the
song, although 'Piggy' prefers the live version from 'Ummagumma' that his older brother turned him onto when
he was ten years old. The "acid-casualty" aspect of the
original song's lyricist Syd Barrett seemed to mirror the
fictional concept of the 'Voivod'. It seemed that after
struggling in the music industry (which included getting
real jobs on occasion such as painting telephone boothes
and working in a library) for years, 'Voivod' would
finally get the much deserved recognition. Back in Canada,
there are two music industries (English and French) that are
subsidized by the government. Although the band members are
Quebecois, they were looked down upon by other Francophile
groups because they sung in English, but their uniqueness
left them out of the English industry as well. 'Voivod'
did two shows with 'Testament' headlining on 12/16/89 at
the 'Warfield Theatre' in San Francisco (which I have a tape
of) & 12/17/89 at the 'Santa Monica Civic Center' in
Santa Monica. This turned out kinda bad because of
a lot of ignorant, closed-mind thrash-metallers who
booed them. However, a month later they headlined a major
U.S. tour with 'Soundgarden' and 'Faith No More'. For
some reason, the Houston show I went to didn't have 'FNM'
on the bill, but some low-level "prog-soggy rock" act
called 'The Big F'(yeah, it stood for "Fucking dull!").
The sad irony is that, a couple of months later, 'FNM'
and 'Soundgarden' had 'Top 40' albums-a sure sign that the
American market for heavy music pretty much 'Suck Your
Bone!'(a bad pun that couldn't be resisted!). In Canada,
the 'Nothingface' album was nominated for both 'Juno' and
'Felix' awards (if your knowledge of Canadian culture is
severly limited to 'Molson' beer ads & promos of the
'Argonauts', then it's the Northern version of the 'Grammys'
Also, 'Voivod' did a brief Canadian tour with their musical
heroes "Rush', which led them to a wide, arena-bound
audience. This adventure had only just begun...
...Uhhh, the "systems-override" in this "undershelter" is
beginning to reactivate to "weapons status alert-on", so I
must log-out now. By no means is this the end of the 'Voivod
Chronicles, but a conclusion to the overview on the early
days of the Canadian "chaosmongers". I really enjoyed the
challenge of trying to do a proper retrospective from the
viewpoint of a longtime listener, and I hope other 'Voivod'
fans enjoy these results as well. If you don't like it,
well I'll refer you to the 2nd track off the 'RRROOOAAARRR...album (the real fans will know this one!). I'm also a major
collector of this band's merchandise: stickers/buttons/shirts/
audio-video concerts/posters/patches...anything! I trade &
sell, so send me your lists c/o this publication. Serious
'Vod-heads' only, no flakes/poseurs!
(1).'Hot Metal Mag'#lO(1989)-Australian magazine
(2)."Mechanic' Records biography sheet
(3)."Psychic Predictions From Morgoth"-'Voivod' article/int
'B Side'(Feb-March 1990/Charle Koci)
(4)."Parlez-Vous Science Fiction?"-Beth Nussbaum,'Metal
Mania' 86/87 issue
(6) . 'Blackthorn'#4(zine from Denmark)
(7).Main 'Voivod' websites-www.voivod.com and http:shmooze.
net/voivod and related sites.
(8)."Voivod:Future Shock!And The Best Of Metal Rock!"-Mike
(9).'X-D Press' zine#666(last issue-Aout/August '98/'Iron
Gang Fan Club')
(10).Interview with Jean-Yves Theriault('Blacky')-Avril/Apri:
4th,1999-Greg Godin(translated by Patrick Denis)
VOIVOD Facts and Obscurities
(1).The project known as 'Voivod' began on November 1982
with Michel Langevin, Denis D' Amour and Jean-Yves
Theriault. Denis Belanger joined in January 1983.
(2).'Away' started drumming around 1980-81 because he
was fascinated by it as an instrument while going to
(3).'Snake' got his moniker from actually impersonating a
reptile in a school contest and won a prize.
(4).Denis D'Amour found Jean-Yves in a club at a DJ booth
spinning tunes. Jean-Yves joined 'Voivod', but he
didn't play bass. Denis taught Jean-Yves how to play
(5).Michel's obsession with machines, mechanics and
technology began as a result of a near-fatal car
accident while being chased by a bully.
(6).'Voivod' did a mini-tour of seven towns (high schools)
around the Quebec province shortly after the recording
of the 'RRROOOAAARRR! !!...' album.
(7).The inspiration for 'Fuck Off & Die!' (from 'RRROOOAAARRR
!!!...) came from a dispute with 'Metal Blade' Records.
(8).'Voivod' was scheduled to play at the 'Christmas On Earth' festival in Leeds,UK(1987), but were unable to
since British customs authorities confiscated their
equipment. They watched other bands on stage.
(9).'Away' played drums for the U.S. hardcore band
'Ludichrist'/ when they did a show in Montreal (circa '86 )
(10).The title for 'Overreaction' (from the 1987 album,
'Killing Technology') was formerly 'Uncontrolled Reaction'.
(11).Besides doing cover songs by 'Raven', 'Judas Priest',
'Budgie', 'Steeler','Motorhead', 'Slayer', 'Pink Floyd'
and 'Venom', they also did 'Search And Destroy' by the
'Stooges'. They were supposed to record this track for
the 'Pump Up The Volume' film soundtrack but that deal
(12).Allegedly, Ed Stasium or Aldo Nova (remember him?!?) was
supposed to produce the next album after 'Nothingface'
(13).'Voivod' hails from Jonquiere, Quebec-home of the larges
aluminum manufacturing plant in North America, with the
surrounding "yellow fog/red lake". This site was the
inspiration for 'Pre-Ignition' and 'Missing Sequences'
(concept tracks from the 'Nothingface' album-1989).
(14).The "intro" that 'Voivod' used on some shows from the
'RRROOOAAARRR!!!... tour (1986), is from 'The Thing'
(John Carpenter's 1982 awesome remake) film soundtrack.
(15).A rumor I heard (but didn't believe) from a friend in
Montreal-when 'Voivod' were in New York during the
mixdown of 'Nothingface', 'Blacky' disappeared for two
days and came back with a medical scar due to one of
his kidneys being removed (was it an "alien abduction"?)
(16).In the early days of 'Voivod', they did mostly covers
of 'Sex Pistols' and 'Black Sabbath'.
(17). 'Voivod' had never made a studio version of 'Anomalies'
which appears only on the 'Spectrum 87-Live demo'
There's also 30 min of experimental music that
(18).Belanger, D'Amour,Theriault and Langevin's parents
gave them $500 each to record 'War And Pain'.
(19).'Voivod's first U.S.show was at the 'Ritz' in New
York on April 5th,1985.
(20).The name 'Voivod' was used to describe an ancient
bloodthirsty European tribe called 'Voivods' that drank
their own people's blood and consumed their flesh. It
was in Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'.
(21).There was a limited promo track released shortly to
promote the 'Nothingface' album, called 'Questionface'
that consisted of tape loop manipulations & samples
from the August 1989 'Legs McNeil' interview/'Dimension
(22).'Away's quote after 'Piggy's stay at a medical facility
to treat his tumor: "Flesh and bones are cheap! We
should be nothing but psychic entities...things that
think but don't exist."
(23).'Nothingface' was nominated for both 'Juno' and 'Felix'
(24).Another one of 'Away's' quotes: "Instead of "sex, drugs & rock-n-roll", why not "chess, books & rock-n-roll?"
(25).Before Jean-Yves became a permanent bassist in 'Voivod'
Jean Fortin briefly played, then went on to form a
band of his own,' Deaf Dealer'.
(26).Michel majored in nuclear physics at university, but had to drop out because 'Voivod' was taking more and more time from his studies.
(27).'Away' had an exhibit of his drawings held in a burnt