For their 10th album, Voivod have made no concessions. Again. If ever there was a band that have seemingly been overlooked by the CD buying public, then it seems to be Voivod. When thrash was at it's height, they were putting out albums of complexity and imagination, such as Dimension Hatross and Killing Technology, which left the competition in the shade. Then, when thrash seemed to mature and explore, so did Voivod with their stunning mid career selection of Nothingface through to The Outer Limits. Soundgarden and Faith No More supported them on a tour of North America, but still they seemed to get missed. And then they returned to a more heavy, brutal sound with 95's Negatron, including CR-ROM multimedia section before everyone else got in on the trick. And still they were ignored, despite bands such as Fear Factory rising to the fore. So will things change with Phobos. Well, probably not. It's a sad fact of life that the best often get missed.
Phobos is a lesson in brutal music, but transcending the genres once more, with samples linking tracks. In fact, to these ears it's probably the harshest music they've yet created, and the best in this stage of their career. And even better is that there appears to be some nods in the direction of the Outer Limits cd. Space rock I think it was called then. Cybermetal it seems to be now. Ah, everyone always needs a label.
Rise starts things off, after the short instrumental of Catalepsy I, with a classy riff, before launching into something which is seemingly metal, industrial and grindish at the same time. You also notice that Eric is beginning to establish his own vocal style and identity, albeit a lot of the time through heavy distortion. God, the name Marilyn Manson even occurs sometimes listening to the vocals on the album. Mercury has a more regular riff which soon gives way to the trademark Voivod guitar sound. It also, like the entire album, sees Eric establishing a little more his own vocal style in Voivod. Still not as quirky as Snake used to be, but then again, this is a different Voivod, and should be respected as such.
Phobos itself and Bacteria are the pinnicle of the album. Phobos starts out with a spaced out riff, which takes me back to the Outer Limits album, and is the most memorable riff on the album. The middle section is immense., while Bacteria has so many parts and things going on in it. The vocals are reminiscent once more of Marilyn Manson. It'a amazing to think that this is just a 3 piece
Temps morts is a gentle! instrumental featuring Michel on the accordian. A sombre piece, it breaks the album perfectly into 2 halves, and unlike many similar instrumentals, seems to be a sensible choice.
The Tower is a more straightforward sounding song with some nice drum work courtesy of Michel before the song tones down completely for the middle section. Again features treated vocals. Quantum sees the return of the old chug style riff. Probably the most straightforward tune on the album. Neutrino features a slow, familiar atmospheric intro and build up, before picking up the pace later in the song. Forlorn is probably the catchiest song on the album, featuring a kornesque riff, complete with squeaky bits, you know what I mean, treated vocals and Sepulturaesque chorus. The album then finishes off with Catalepsy II.
That's not quite it however, as there are 2 other songs, though not tieing in with the concept. The first is M-Body, co written with Jason Newsted of Metallica. What to say. Looking from 2 angles, it's a good song, but doesn't outshine the rest of the album, which shows really how good Voivod themselves are. On the other hand, it's heavier than anything Metallica have done recently, and is an indication maybe, of how things would or could sound if Jason was given the chance in Metallica. Having said that, it's probably not fair to judge on 1 song. The final track is 21st Century Schizoid Man, a cover. I don't really know the original, so I can't compare, but it sounds ok. Not outstanding, but not bad.
So that's the album. Overall it's a great Voivod album. There are bits I don't like. The snare drum isn't as crisp as it could be and the vocals are sometimes too buried in the mix. Indeed the mix is probably the one distracting bit at times. It's not the Voivod of the middle period, it's the new Voivod, and as such is testament to their ability, creativity and longevity. Course it won't sell as it should, because some will remember their thrash roots and consider them too long in the tooth. Also, the lyrics are not of the style that everyone has to do these days in order to be relevent. But that doesn't matter really, as this band are still leaders and originators in their field. Do yourselves a favour and get in on one of the best kept secrets. It may take a few listens, but it's worth it. And even better in some respects, is that you have all that back catalogue to then be able to go and collect.