Voivod - Katorz - The End Records 2006
Running Time: 45:09
In the dictionary beside the phrase "labour of love", there should simply be a picture of the cover of Voivod's newest (and fourteenth) album, Katorz. Since the early '80s, Voivod has made a career of the impossible, and this release is as much a personal triumph for the band as an artistic one. Without further ado...
"The Getaway" strides forward, foot on the monitor and full of unbridled, driving punk energy from back when both punk and metal were two middle fingers circlulating blood from the same heart, before metal went off to beauty school and punk got all Green Day on us. It's apparent early on in Katorz that Glenn Robinson's production renders him a silent fifth member, in my
mind being just as responsible for the expansiveness of Nothingface as any of the actual Voivodians. Hack-and-slash riffery is butted up against disjointed, fractured Piggy leads in "Dognation", a thick slab of groove injecting a double-shot of adrenalin to the shuffle rhythm that creeps up now and again in the song. "Mr. Clean" gives birth to a new character in the Voivod multiverse - a melting pot of cyborgs, assassins, angel rats and rascals. Blues licks fly off D'Amour's fingers, and Jasonic's bass punches through in a way it never did on 2003's self-titled release. The ever-snide vocals of Snake sound not only urgent but robust through much of the album, "After All" bristling with downtuned bass-driven fury, Belanger name- checking Iggy And The Stooges, perhaps not so inappropriately. Katorz is a much more overtly political record than anything Voivod's done, and I suppose it makes sense, considering the technically- dominated, Blade Runner-esque world they created back in the early '80s is now at our doorstep. Washes of guitars join pounding drumwork by Away, finding him apt as ever at finesse as well as ferocity behind the kit. The liquid bass slither beginning "Red My Mind" accelerates quickly into frantic doublekicks and an inverted textbook lesson in the creation of instantly memorable riffs, which Piggy was never at a loss for. "Silly Clones" kicks off with subtle acoustic fingerpicking, quickly dissipating into a shuffling drum pattern, becoming more "Video Kill The Radio Star" than anything remotely heavy, cementing the fact that Voivod can do pretty much what it wants and still come out on top of the avante-metal heap. This maybe the only song in the history of metal to inspire pogo dancing. Beginning as the most psychedelia-inspired tune on Katorz, "No Angel" shifts gears into one of the most overtly metal songs to be found here, the sung/moaned background vocals reminiscent of The Misfits, rumbling bass driving home the point amid a sea of fractured guitars, while "The X-Stream" is set to a fist-pumping rhythm, Voivod drunk on a healthy dose of Motorhead. The catchy chorus and lurching stomp groove near the end is sure to make this one a live favourite, I only hope we get the chance to see it done eventually. Winding down Katorz is "Polaroids", a shove into the frenetic hyper-reality of Nothingface, shattered chordings from Piggy stumbling all over the place, jamming notes into places they shouldn't fit, but somehow manage to, and ending a kickass, true return to form from the godfathers of sci-fi metal.
Yes, the album was formed after the loss of one of metal's most tireless advocates, and pieced together from the ideas and recordings left behind for us. In a very real way, there is no more fitting legacy for Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, and I think it does just what he intended by making Katorz just what it is; a finely tuned, well-oiled machine ready, willing, and able to carry Voivod (and their fans) through the dark times and beyond.