It's difficult to believe that it's been five long years since Voivod released their last studio album, 2013's solid Target Earth. That record put to rest rumours that the Montreal outfit was about to give up the ghost after three decades and some startling losses: Fomr the death of founding guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour in 2005 to the departure of original bassist Jean-Yves Theriault in 2014 to pursue his own project, Coeur Atomique. The quality taste the band gave us on the five track Post Society EP of 2016 whet the appetite for this date. (It and a handful of live cuts are included on a bonus disk.)
Musically, Voivod carries on their tradition of genre bleeding metal, albeit with a more progressive bent this time out. They also reveal the influence modern classical music--a la Stravinsky and Shostakovich--has had on their work. There's no need for worry however, the particularly angular, intense meld of cosmic thrash metal and punk they pioneered is still abundant. The newer members, guitarist Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain and bassist Dominique "Rocky" Laroche take great pains to retain the band's iconic sound., but make no bones about introducing new variations as they explore new terrain. In turn, veteran vocalist/lyricist Denis "Snake" Belanger and drummer Michel "Away" Langevin have been given an adrenaline injection and step up their game accordingly. The Wake is, like Voivod's classic 80s-era titles, a concept offering. The basic tenet weaves together sci-fi scenarios with cultural politics and delusions as the narrative reveals "an incredible discovery... [creates] a monstrous disaster" in an evolutionary scenario where people question their place in the universe as the world attains a new level of consciousness. The Wake is as intellecutally brainy as it is musically adventurous. Opener and first single "Obsolete Beings" illustrates Voivod's evolution: They embrace thrash and psychedelia alongside dissonant riffs and syncopated drum and basslines to transgress genre boundaries. "The End Of Dormancy" commences with a Phobos-era stylized, militaristic marital dirge that peels away its surface to reveal a screaming technical guitar solo, syncoprated riffs, chants and even spoken word. "Orb Confusion" uses strange jazz chording but is actually driven by the rhythm section whose punk rock motivation adds twisted perversity to its architecture. The set closer "Sonic Mycelium" is the album's longest cut at over 12 minutes. It begins as a slow, purposeful dirge, but explodes just a minute or so in with jazz-inflected guitars, crisscrossing hard swigning drums and measured intensity that is pushing at the walls and trying to break free. As it evolves, progressive thrash and post-punk psychedelia butt heads amid massive, thrumming bass grooves. Acoustic guitars and chamber strings join the band at nine minutes, before the string quartet claims the tune in a nightmarish nadir. Voivod has survived tragedy and adversity to emerge as a unified and imaginative collective whononetheless refuse to disregard the role of the individual in the process. The Wake signals a new chapter for Voivod; they stand (again) at the blade edge of creative imagination and visionary execution in the world of extreme music.