Welcome, all, to a space free of judgment, where lovers of all sorts can gather and simply love. We do not kink shame at Last Rites, no sir, because kinks are just another form of expression and challenging the norms. And who in metal’s history is kinkier and more groundbreaking than Quebec’s lords of alien, progressive, thrashing, groundbreaking metal, Voivod? Who challenged the norms more than they have for decades? No one, we say.
Perhaps you noticed that today is Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you also noticed that Voivod released a new album on Friday. What a fun little bit of serendipity. We love Voivod here at Last Rites – LOVE – which left us just one option for how to celebrate both February 14th and the new record.
Welcome, friends, to Voivodentine’s Week.
All week we shall be expressing our love of all things Voivod, from their earliest roots and various evolutions up to a review of the new record, Synchro Anarchy. We begin simply and appropriately by offering our love to the band in the form of the letters below. Hopefully you will also join in with the hugs and snuggles. [ZACH DUVALL]
A LETTER FROM A WWII SOLDIER
My Dearest Voivod,
Just a note to say how very much I am missing you on this cold evening. I am on guard and find myself in the unfortunate position where my battery is drifting at a paltry 7%, so I cannot hope to hear the comforting sounds of your often melodious, frequently urgent klaxon whilst I continue my intrepid duty for this halfway decent nation of ours. The enemy has been exceedingly determined in their grave pursuit of our liberty of late, but comforting thoughts of slipping away with you Into My Hypercube on oh-so many occasions does of course Fix My Heart.
My dearest Moonbeam Rider, only you and your heartening rrrooaaarrr can truly offer the reassuring remedy for these Ripping Headaches dispensed unto me at the behest of these boundless and ruthless Chaosmöngers bent on crushing the republic with their Thrashing Rage. I have done my utmost to have Empathy for the Enemy, for who better to understand the plight of the soldier than those whomst regrettably fall within our sites, but This Is Not an Exercise and we must fight To the Death, so the fleeting life of a ruthless Helldriver is my only option.
Please know that I so very often have you in my thoughts, and only The Unknown Knows how desperately I long to feel the force of your intensity in the flesh again. Please give my Best Regards to your family, and do let our mutual friend Jack Luminous know that if he attempts to court you in my absence, he will be on the receiving end of a Tornado of devastating brutality the likes of which our world has never witnessed.
I have included a recent picture near the waterfront for you to remember me by.
With the fondest of hearts,
HI, HELLO, I LOVE YOU
For a good amount of the time I have loved Voivod, it was the kind of love you kindle and cherish from far away. You see, for me, Voivod feels like one of those quintessential Older Sibling bands. What I mean is, coming to metal in the latter half of the ‘90s (as I did), Voivod was certainly a name you heard around, but they were never so omnipresent as to be inescapable. And because I didn’t grow up with an older sibling, or a friend into college radio, or really anyone with a slightly deeper well of knowledge, I didn’t have someone to hand me a Voivod record and say, “Hey, you like this kind of stuff? Well you need to listen to this.”
In truth, it wasn’t really until I joined this intrepid crew of knuckleheads at Last Rites that I had the sort of, shall we say, incessant shit-talking polite encouragement that really led me to dive headfirst into the miraculous strangeness of Voivod. A few formative encounters in particular stand out: On a bit of a whim, I picked up the 2011 Alternative Tentacles LP reissue of the 1984 To the Death!… live demo, and the first time I sat down with that on headphones, it blew me away. The ramshackle, careening energy of these early songs was impossible to ignore, and even at this gestational phase, a song like “Nuclear War” already had some seeds that hinted at the ambition later to come.
Fast forward a ways, and a very specific time in my life found me intentionally walking several miles each way from my house to a teaching stint in grad school. It was winter leading into spring around Chicago, and I would veer between city streets and pathways closer to Lake Michigan. But importantly, I walked with an almost nonstop diet of Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss in my earbuds, and it truthfully felt like those records were rewiring my brain with every step. “Tornado” was the feral thrash I craved, but it had a sassiness and a churn to it that felt brand-new, and “Tribal Convictions” felt like it took the energy of New Model Army years before Sepultura introduced them to many metal fans and used it to spit out a track that, in retrospect, almost sounds like a fork in the eye of Metallica’s pending …And Justice for All. None of these things are accurate, of course, but they are all true.
It has now only been maybe a scant dozen years that I have loved Voivod, but it feels now more like the love that grows with years of intimacy between friends or lovers. There are still secrets we keep from each other, but the trust has blossomed. Despite how slippery their catalog is, Voivod turns out to be one of the very easiest bands to love. And for me, the greatest selling point is that I still can’t quite tell if Voivod is a normal person’s idea of weird music, or a weird person’s idea of normal music. It doesn’t matter, of course, and the secret brilliance of Voivod is their in-built drive to be progressive without being pedantic. Ever-changing, yet never changing. Sophisticated and rude. Lightspeed aggression and playful bounce. “Voivod,” and Voivod. Voivod, thank you for the love that you exude.
A LETTER FROM THE
SHY KID IN BAND CLASS
I’ve been watching you in music class for longer than I can remember. You probably haven’t noticed me because I sit in the back and keep my head down and play sousaphone. Who notices sousaphone players anyway? It’s not like we play solos. But I promise I’m always there, and always adoring.
I just want to say that, well, I think you’re just keen. Everyone else stays within the lines and plays what’s right on the page during thrash lessons, which is hip and all and I love a lot of that, but when you showed up it caused this huge stir and it just made me feel wild inside, you know? You added escapism. You added flair. I love flair. No one around here had flair before you arrived. You’re so unique and brave.
Sure, you had a lot of the same moves when you first showed up with all that speed and aggression and rawness, but even from the start you seemed a little odd. I should have known that you had different plans when I saw those adorable and creative sci-fi drawings on your notebooks. And after a while you showed just how different, and how visionary you really are. The different ways you played your instruments – guitar riffs that seemed to explore their own alien space, positively throbbing bass, and ass-moving drums that drive harder than Benny’s IROC-Z – all challenged the stuffy norms. Then there’s the rebelliousness in your voice. I don’t know how you make it match all the sophistication of your music, but you do! How do you do the things you do?
It all drove our parents CUH-RAY-ZEE. My mom and dad told me not to talk to you, and said you were a bad seed. I said you were just different and didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but they still wouldn’t let me go to your party. Eventually they came around because they saw how kind you are. The way you let Jasonic have a job when he left that big ticket gig and wanted to regain his musical integrity was magical. And then there’s the way you honored Piggy’s legacy, gifting us with as much of his music as you can before finally moving on with Chewy, who himself might be the greatest replacer of a legend in history. Also magical. All of your moves are magical.
I saw the way other bands looked at you, but I wasn’t jealous. It just made me like you more. You inspire everyone, and every forward-thinking thrasher owes so much to you. You twisted it all out of place and set us all free. I love you, Voivod, and I couldn’t hold back my feelings any longer. I know you can never be mine alone, because you belong to everyone. I could never keep you from others. Yours is a love that must be shared. An inventive, weird, wild, and beautiful love.
V + Z (+ everyone else) 4-ever
A LETTER FROM A NASHVILLE MALLRAT
Sometimes it takes a little time to fall in love.
I don’t remember the first Voivod song I heard — probably “Tribal Convictions” on Headbanger’s Ball — and I remember reading about these bizarro Quebecois fellows in the hallowed pages of Rip magazine, but I don’t remember all that much about what I read. But I can tell you exactly where and when I bought my first Voivod cassette — I was with my mom at a mall in Nashville, and the record store there had a rack of new releases up front with Angel Rat in it. After all those glowing write-ups in Rip, I figured a new Voivod was a sound investment (har har), so I plucked one of those tapes from the rack and added it to my collection. An hour or so later, I popped it in the cassette deck of my mom’s Toyota on the drive back to our hometown. And I remember thinking, “Man, this band is weird as hell.”
Of course, Voivod is weird as hell. Very few bands can claim to be truly unique, but name a band that sounds like just Voivod — I’ll wait. Oh, you can’t? Well, that’s because there are none. They’re a beast unto themselves, like nothing and no one else, all diminished chord weirdo riffing and primal beat and that flat disaffected vocal. Angel Rat wasn’t the best place to start, it turns out, but follow-up The Outer Limits righted some of Angel‘s wrongs, and working backwards from those two was a truly amazing experience, one of wide-eyed and open-eared discovery. Voivod’s catalog works in waves, the raw primal thrash to the skronky sci-fi thrash to the progressive rock to the E-Force to the post-Piggy to the Chewy era, but it’s all absolutely essential, all top-notch, all entirely unique. I won’t say that I fell in love there in that stupid Toyota, but the seeds were sown and I knew enough to know I needed more.
So, here we are now, thirty years later. Voivod has been with me ever since that mall in Nashville, and they always will be. And that’s what true love is.
A LETTER FROM AN OLD FRIEND
Hi, Vod. I just wanted to take a minute on this holiday, as obvious and trite as it is, to express my love for you. We’ve been together for so very long, but I’m not sure I’ve ever adequately conveyed to you what you mean to me. And the sentiment runs so deep I’m not sure where to even start, so I’ll start at the beginning.
We’ve laughed about how you don’t even remember the first time we met. I was an awkward kid on the fringe of everything and trying desperately to find his sense of self. You were the long haired sci-fi geek, loud and abrasive and so supremely unconcerned with cool that you radiated it. It makes sense I was drawn to you, but also no wonder we didn’t click. All I could say after we’d spent some time together was that you were pretty fucking weird. I’m sure that makes you laugh. Still, you left an impression and I recalled you with curiosity when I heard about you from time to time.
Years later, when we ran into each other again at the record store, I recognized you, but you were different. Listening to you, I could tell you’d grown, softened a little bit, but retained your affinity for weird tales and aliens, not to mention all of that acerbic wit. I’d grown some, too, and become a little more adventurous, so I felt a new kind of attraction; I wanted to get to know you. You and your art, so deep and prolific, you gave me all I could ask for and more. Not only did I come to appreciate you then, but everything you did in the years before we met. You made so much more sense after that time since our first meeting. You connected with deep and lasting ideals in me, both artistic and philosophical, you fostered real love from that curious appreciation. I knew then we’d be together for a very long time.
In recent years, you’ve become the ideal of all the fascinating aspects of you that ultimately won me over. I’m amazed at the consistency with which you’ve learned to be your best self. You’re still so incredibly cool, you’ve become the epitome of it and, as yet another instantiation of that, it seems as though you don’t even know it! Well, I know. The world knows. And I consider myself an infinitely lucky man to be in the pathway of even a single photon of your magnificent light.
Thank you for relentlessly being you.
With abiding love,
— Lone Watie
Even When The Heart Leads Astray
Vod Of My Heart,
How many years has it been since that first meeting? It feels so near, yet so far away. We’ve been on a wild journey, you and I. From the first time you plugged into my auditory receptors via Killing Technology, I should have known that your love was a special one. You opened up an entire universe, offering a new perspective into music. So many alien worlds to explore, so many ideas you offered at my fingertips–a metaphorical universe to explore handed to me on a silver platter.
Yet, I wasn’t ready for your love. I still had so much growing to do. My mind and my heart needed to open. Sure, Dimension Hatröss came easy, as did your prior works of War And Pain and the marvelous Rrröööaaarr. Yet, as you tried to show me the vast expanse of your love on Nothing Face, I felt we began to drift apart. Looking back, I can see with fresh eyes the way you were trying to open me up to new experiences, but I just wasn’t ready. Every so often, I’d return to my hope chest, desperately trying to relive the memories we shared on those first four.
Then, one fateful day, I reached out again with an open heart. There you were, from the first track on The Outer Limits, ready to “Fix My Heart.” Something about that record tickled my rock’n’roll soul with your familiar yet alien fingers. Perhaps it was right place, right time–regardless, that record revealed your intentions in my eyes. You always so vehemently blazed your own trail, and I was intimidated. Together we made new memories as I caught up on now-favorites like Katorz. I learned to find newfound appreciation in Angel Rat and Nothing Face. What had I been thinking? Yet there you were, ready to show me new sensations and share a bit of your heart and mind at every step of the way.
Sadly, we began to drift away again. There was no reason for the divide: Once again my heart began to stray, digging through the vast expanse of music the universe has to offer. Perhaps it’s time we caught up, and judging from my first few listens of Synchro Anarchy, my heart is again ready. I feel worthy of your love again. Thank you for always being there, your dedication to the craft and commitment to being nothing short of Voivod at every step of the way is your purest and most admirable characteristic. Let’s get re-aquinted again, shall we?
Even when my heart is led astray, it is always with you,
– Rrryyyääännn Tysinger