Truth be told, Target Earth was a make or break studio album for prog metal veterans Voivod. The band's last studio offering, 2009's INFINI, was assembled from the hard drive guitar parts of deceased guitarist (and chief songwriter) Denis "Piggy" D'Amour's. The live Warriors of Ice was the first to showcase new guitarist Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain; he did a fantastic job learning and playing Piggy's very difficult, angular parts. Writing and recording a new album that would live up to Voivod's reputation for innovation would seem to be a daunting task; but if it was, you'd never know it from hearing Target Earth. This is extreme, gnarly, experimental Voivod at their level best; the music is difficult, dramatic, and intense. The "blower bass" of Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault introduces the title track that opens the set. His trademark, the top distortion, is answered by Mongrain's chugging guitar riffs, Michel "Away" Langevin's double-kickdrum attack, and Denis "Snake" Belanger's snarling yet sung vocal. This track affirms from the gate that the band's progressive strangeness displayed in the classic Dimension Hatröss/Nothingface era remains an intrinsic element in their band chemistry and musical strategy. (There are even some razor-wire jazz chords tossed in the bridge.) But Voivod haven't given up thrash in their arsenal. "Kluscap Okom" gives listeners that in spades; it's all assault. "Mechanical Mind" is the set's complete mindblower. Packed into seven-and-a-half minutes are so many riffs, time changes, harmonic inversions, and sheer dynamic weirdness, it's a mind melt to realize that there's a furious thrash attack to match the knotty prog. "Keidos," with its punk rock intro, is a showcase for Belanger's mid-range growl and vamps from Mongrain. When Voivod slows things down as they do on "Empathy for the Enemy," the result is still completely engaging due to its odd tonalities and harmonics. The "Artefact" opens atmospherically before Langevin starts first double-timing, then triple-timing the band. The track shifts mode, time signature, key, and cadence no less than four times. Older fans can breathe a sigh of relief: Target Earth is not only better than we had any right to expect, it's relentlessly creative, inspired, and manic.
Target Earth Review
by Thom Jurek