Originally written by Matt Longo
Every Voivod album is a career-defining event — each with its own aura of life and death, tribulations and triumph, exploration and evolution. Considering my penchant for the weird, I find it odd that the ‘vod never clearly crossed my path until shortly after Piggy left this world, and the past six years have been bittersweet catch-up. Katorz just flat-out rocked and Infini was a worthy denouement; both would deserve high praise without the looming sense of utter finality, but it’s even more remarkable considering the posthumous cobbling required of D’Amour’s bandmates. Then — despite the adversity, plus the technical and emotional challenge of live reproduction — 2011 saw the release of their [best] live album Warriors of Ice, showcasing Martyr mainmain (and Piggy-channeler/heir apparent) Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain — who has mastered navigation in the Voivod multiverse, and appears well-equipped for future journeys.
Target Earth contains the most cohesive concept since Nothingface, yet unifies under similar song structures as their last three albums, though has the band’s longest songs since Killing Technology… in fact, at ~6 minutes, it’s Voivod’s lengthiest average to date. On several levels, Target Earth is a composite of several Voivod efforts — even those from the Eric Forrest era — right down to the artwork itself, which incorporates color schemes from all previous albums, according to Away. Further, the cover’s clearer definition and overall vibrancy reflects the very performances themselves. It takes the confidence of three trend-bucking decades to succeed with music that is challenging by its very nature, and when our elder statesmen strike sparks, simultaneously working with and reflecting off one another, the effect is staggering.
Everyone is in full-on ‘IMPRESS’ mode, as though they really have something to prove, though Voivod functions as a multi-faceted beast: Snake’s lash still slices with a punk edge, but he’s also never sang this well, and always adds the best timbre where needed; Away actually seems to have stepped up as bandleader, which makes sense since he is the sole consistent member; in the absence of Piggy licks for the first time, eyes and ears will likely direct to Chewy who now probably considers it his greatest honor as student to do right by the master; and Blacky is back on a new LP recording for the first time in twenty years, bringing a stronger, punchier bass presence to the proceedings — plus private collection sound samples throughout.
One such sample begins “Kusklap O’Kom” with First Nations throat singing before diving Motörheadlong into d-beat-driven destruction; the exact tribe is uncertain, but since the word is Mi’kmaq, it feels pretty appropriate. The original folkloric figure was believed to have destroyed the dinosaurs so that humans may eventually populate the planet; on Target Earth, it now feels twisted into someone contracted to eliminate humans for imminent alien invasion, not to mention the veritable rebirth of ‘voivod’ the character — who was only hinted at across the 21st-century albums, as Voivod the band chiefly executed their state of the world address while honing their biting rock chops.
True, there’s nothing like “Jack Luminous” here — but the Canucks virtually craft their own private “Xanadu” at the beginning of “Mechanical Mind”, as Away demonstrates what it means to be a percussionist and not just a drummer. Subtle touches can be just as important to Metal fans as outright pummeling, as in the opening title track when the guitars emerge with wwWAAauuu, wwWOooo, and wwWAaaa decorating the dominating bass, and a distorted digitized voice echoes Snake’s sneer.
Okay — holy balls, folks…
I know we can all be super anal when it comes to how we enjoy music. Here at Last Rites, there’s a whole forum thread about the notion of ‘heaviness’, and I’m pretty sure some forumites are extolling the virtues of vinyl right now. Let us put aside our differences and venture to assume we ALL AGREE that —regardless of preferred media — headphones are absolutely fucking critical sometimes, yeah? So take note: Target Earth is one of those cases. You will notice so much more when completely immersed.
Self-produced at Pierre Rémillard’s Wild Studios in Quebec, Target Earth must benefit heavily from a Sanford Parker mix. At least that’s my guess, since I’ve revisited the entire back catalogue in the past couple of weeks, and Voivod has never achieved this level of smoothness and clarity, while balancing both complexity and accessibility. Few groups are so fortunate to even celebrate their 30-year anniversary, let alone be revitalized on it — Voivod are respectfully deserved. Target Earth is fast becoming a favorite.