Out Now

(BMG)

 

It’s 30 years since Killing Technology suggested Canadian metallers Voivod might be more than a brave novelty act hampered by niche appeal. The band’s third album – and the second of three long players recorded for the legendary Noise label – continued to push genre boundaries to the limit, at the same time leaning on a more polished production.

Three decades down the line it still sounds more innovative than Metallica and more thought provoking than Queensryche, pacier than Europe’s speed metal kings and edgy enough to appeal to hardcore punks. Voivod’s versatility has always been their creative strength…and the band’s commercial weakness.

If raw debut War And Pain had prompted Noise to take a punt on four oddballs from Quebec then 1986 release Rrröööaaarrr might have caused Voivod’s new bosses the odd sleepless night. Opener Korgüll The Exterminator is an aggressive melting pot of supercharged metal but sounds tame by comparison to the provocative follow-up Fuck Off And Die.

In hindsight both label and band deserve enormous praise for pursuing the common goal of art for art’s sake. Neither entered an exciting partnership chasing millions but even with Noise’s reputation for breaking extreme bands Rrröööaaarrr is a remarkably bold record. And this all-encompassing reissue celebrates a landmark album in style.

Disc two’s audio is devoted to a 14-song set recorded at Montreal’s No Speed Limit Weekend and it’s here that Voivod’s fusion of breakneck pace and focused power shines through. Young and keen, their aim is simple – live fast and play faster.

The band’s first filmed US show – a New York City set from May 1986 – is a genuine highlight on disc three but earlier footage from the band’s hometown of Jonquière is even more revealing. Metal’s evolution was taking place there and then.

That Voivod could imagine a record on Killing Technology’s scale just three years after those formative high school shows is almost unbelievable. Tornado and Too Scared to Scream are on a par with anything thrash metal’s Big Four were rolling out in the late 80s but Canada’s space cadets were already spreading their wings far beyond established genres and tapping into the future. It was a future that eschewed multi-million sales and enormodome tours but it guaranteed artistic integrity and fan satisfaction.

Live sets from as far afield as Montreal, Brussels, Paris and Toronto make up discs two and three of another exhaustive reissue and confirm the view that Voivod’s live shows almost always left their very best studio work in the shade. Had the band banked Iron Maiden’s millions then it’s easy to imagine an investment in some of the most outrageous and extravagant stage shows the world’s arenas would ever witness.

Voivod have always been a band happy to let the imagination run wild – often at the expense of any long-term plan. Dimension Hatröss, the third of their Noise albums, could have played safe and reaped the rewards: instead its mash-up of metal’s myriad styles makes for an often confusing and frequently frustrating journey into the unknown. Perhaps opener Experiment says it best as the Canadians trump their previous attempts to defy convention with a frankly bizarre narration of the exploits of Eddie equivalent Korgüll.

Adrenaline-fuelled video footage of the band’s 1988 fall/winter North American tour is typically frantic and it’s clear Voivod were, at this point, on the cusp of something much bigger and potentially better.

And they were. 1989’s Nothingface – with its Pink Floyd cover and major label release – might have propelled the quartet into metal’s big leagues, however briefly, but the raw appeal of the Noise era had already been left behind. Ahead of this summer’s European and UK tour this hat-trick of definitive reissues could hardly have been better timed. Consider your homework set.