With a formidable EP out last year and a trio of Noise-era albums remastered and reissued in April, Voivod are back on metal fans’ pan-dimensional radar. HRH Mag’s Rich Holmes caught up with Quebec’s finest on the Newcastle leg of their UK headline tour…

 

Voivod were once a rare sight on UK shores but the Canadians seem intent on making up for lost time, hitting these isles in 2015 as part of the Deathcrusher tour, descending on us again last year with Entombed A.D. and now, in 2017, treating the nation to a string of headline shows.

By the looks of things, they’re enjoying this renewed bond with their British fans. It helps that the band are playing venues like Newcastle’s Riverside:  intimate enough for the crowd to feel all the warmth and bonhomie jovial singer Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger brings to the stage, it’s also large enough to do this legendary act justice.

And legendary they most certainly are, even if they have never matched the commercial success of some of their contemporaries. Voivod’s early output warped thrash, speed metal and punk, re-constituted rock’s DNA, and showed what it was possible to achieve with extreme music. Bar one or two miss-steps, they’ve continued to journey through the outer limits… even after revered guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour passed away in 2005.

Target Earth, released in 2013, was the first record in their lengthy career not to feature any of Piggy’s writing, and saw the quartet confidently stride forward, while last year’s Post Society EP – the impetus for this tour – was a striking piece of highly evolved metal. Newcastle greeted its title track like an old friend, to the apparent delight of Snake and co., and fellow newcomer We Are Connected, which saw Dan Mongrain slicing through its twanging, angular riffs, gave the Riverside much to chew on.

However, Voivod were so ahead of their time  in the 80s that their older material feels just as relevant as anything they’ve conjured up this millennium. It’s testimony to the vision of the band, for instance, that despite being 30 years old, set opener Killing Technology still sounded like it had arrived from a future Earth overrun with cyborgs, and that Order Of The Blackguards was as fierce, as urgent, as anything 2017’s young whippersnappers could cook up.

Drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – as ever – was the driving force, skilfully steering his kit through the twists and turns of tracks like Ravenous Medicine. But Snake  is a vital part of the band’s make-up too, especially come show time: adorned in a GBH t-shirt, grinning profusely, treating the venue like his own front room, the vocalist deftly married a sense of fun to his bandmates’ apocalyptic assault. A longhaired punk rocker fronting an avant-garde, jazz-influenced prog metal band? Snake fits that role, hand in glove.

And that’s the thing about these Quebecois troubadours: genres collide, chords mutate, rhythms chop, change and double back on themselves, but in Voivod’s world – and at gigs as life-affirming as this – it all makes perfect sense.

Images courtesy of Gordon Armstrong