ALBUM REVIEW: Voivod – Synchro Anarchy

Thrash. Post-Thrash. Punk. Speed. Sci-Fi. Industrial. Proto-Industrial. Avant Garde. Space. Alternative. Progressive. Nuclear. Some quite frankly preposterously named musical genres and subgenres, but into all of which Canadian act Voivod has been unwillingly pigeon-holed over the years. Having firmly refused to be anchored to any one particular style, the band has actually become a little more settled of late, their current approach now reined all the way back to just including all of the above and a small handful of others.

Voivod may only feature two original members these days (vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger and drummer Michel “Away” Langevin) but the addition of guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain in 2008 enabled the band reset and look to the future. Having used demos recorded by late guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour for the Infini and Katorz (Nuclear Blast) records, long-time fan Mongrain was recruited, his playing style replicating Piggy’s so seamlessly that you’d be forgiven for thinking the former guitarist was somehow performing from beyond the grave.

Featuring all of your favourite recurring Voivod themes, the band’s fifteenth studio album Synchro Anarchy (Century Media) covers familiar subjects such as time, space, technology and death. Opener ‘Paranormalium’ and the turbulent title track recall records like Nothingface and The Outer Limits (Mechanic Records) while ‘Planet Eaters’ suffers from the best kind of multiple personality disorder. A classy cut reminiscent of Dimension Hatröss (Noise Records), Snake switches between sneering, singing and his unique bark as Mongrain offers up a wonderfully jazzy and off-kilter guitar solo.

‘Mind Clock’ combines heavy, atmospheric riffing with punky staccato and features one of the best hooks on the record. Bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche gets to shine on ‘Sleeves Off’ while Mongrain’s guitar takes on a Gojira style sheen. ‘Holographic Thinking’ opens like Black Sabbath‘s ‘Children of the Grave’ before transforming into something typically nebulous and more complex, much like ‘The World Today’ which includes a sensational Devin Townsend meets Steve Vai guitar solo. ‘Quest For Nothing’ and closer ‘Memory Failure’ are typically irregular and unpredictable, the final two songs drawing from both Nothingface and and Hatröss for inspiration.

Away puts in yet another showstopping performance behind the kit while Snake is allowed the room to show off every facet of his vocal talents. Rocky’s bass features heavily in the mix and sounds just like former four-stringer, Blacky, while Chewy’s fretwork thrills and baffles in equal measure. Still obstinately refusing to conform or comply, Synchro Anarchy marks another triumphant return for Voivod.

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9 / 10