Album Review: VOIVOD The Wake
Voivod had a brief taste of commercial success with 1989's Nothingface, and received MTV play for their cover of Pink Floyd's “Astronomy Domine,” but for most of their 30 plus year career, they have been more of an underground favorite. Their blend of thrash and prog has been very influential, expanding the limits of both genres.
The Wake is their first full-length with the current lineup which includes original members Denis “Snake” Belanger (vocals) and Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) along with guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, who has been in the band for ten years now. The newest addition is bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche, who joined in 2014 and appeared on 2016's Post Society EP.
Voivod albums are always musical ambitious, and this time around they decided to make a concept album. Snake describes the story line of The Wake: “In the wake of an incredible discovery that created a monstrous disaster, the whole world will live through a series of events that will force humanity to understand the new reality and the concept of not being alone in the universe. Not without a fight, not without chaos and conflicts, not without plots and conspiracy. Some will accept and some will deny the truth. Religions will fall to create new ones. But eventually, the world will reach a new level of consciousness, a new spirit, a new way to look at the sky.“
Sonically, The Wake continues the vibe of Post Society, with the prog elements front and center, while also incorporating thrash and other influences. Opener “Obsolete Beings” is upbeat and accessible with melodic singing from Snake that turns a bit edgier as the song gets heavier, then it trails out with mellow crooning and a subdued ending.
The first part of “The End Of Dormancy” is among the album's catchiest, with singalong moments, before becoming darker and more complex. “Orb Confusion” is downright danceable at times, augmented by excellent guitar work from Chewy and another subdued ending. Voivod increases the aggression on “Inconspiracy,” while the proggy goodness is maximized on “Spherical Perspective.”
“Always Moving” is an appropriate title as the 15/4 time signature tracks shifts from trippy psychedelic to quick bursts of thrash to a catchy verse to a mellow prog section before picking up the thrash to the end. The album closes with the 12 plus minute “Sonic Mycelium,” which not only wraps up the lyrical concept but also encapsulates and summarizes what the album is all about.
Progressive music by nature has forays down different paths, and while many bands take those paths down dead ends, Voivod manages to make those detours interesting and productive. Subtle use of strings and acoustic instruments helps to add color and texture. The Wake is cinematic and unpredictable, with Voivod using maps from throughout their career to bring the listener on an enjoyable ride filled with twists and turns. And if you spring for the CD Digipak, there's a second disc with the songs from Post Society along with five live tracks recorded on the 2018 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise.