VOIVOD: To the Death 84: CD

May 09, 2012

I got a call from a homie of mine back in 1984, insisting that I pick up the debut album by some new group with an odd-ass name, Voivod. Now, both of us were not much into most metal (especially since we were in the midst of an era when the word was synonymous with bands like Quiet Riot, Ratt, and Def Leppard), but based on his ravings that it was the best thing he’d heard since Void, I dutifully went out and picked up a copy of the album in question, War and Pain. Damn if he wasn’t right about it being something special. Clearly part of the then-nascent speed metal crop of bands (contrary to what all the after-the-fact accounts will have you believe, there was no thrash/black/death/grind/blahblahblah sub-strata early on, it was all speed metal) that were still so new that they actually all sounded different from one another, Voivod sounded even then clearly uninterested in being anywhere near the vicinity of the rest of the pack. The vinyl mastering of the album was loud and bass heavy to the point of rattling houses at low volume, the tunes were fast, furious, LOOOOOOONG, and blessed with vocals that were as screechy as they were wholly unintelligible. Underneath all that glorious, fucked up noise, though, was a technically proficient band that were working complex song structures to the benefit of what would later turn out to be the opening salvo of a concept/mythos that would play out over multiple albums and decades and zigzag between speed metal, prog rock, and points in between. The CD under discussion here contains the band’s second demo, recorded in a garage/practice space via a cassette player and two mics. Given the primitive conditions (compared to what’s available in this era of ProTools-generated demos) under which it was recorded, the sound is fuggin’ choice and fully blastable for those who don’t mind things a little rough around the edges. Most of the tunes that would later grace their first album are here, along with tracks that would later make it onto various later albums and compilations, as well as a few Venom and Mercyful Fate covers, to boot. It may seem a bit quaint to new ears after years of Slayer and grunting black metal bands, but if loud and outside the realm of same-ol’ same-ol’ metal suits you just fine, this is definitely worth the damage to your hearing.

 –jimmy (Alternative Tentacles)

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