There’s a lot that can be said about Voivod. The quintessential Quebecois prog-thrashers have been innovating heavy music for over three decades so it’s no surprise that deluxe re-issues of their classic Noise Records era albums (Rrröööaaarrr, Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss) have arrived.
The re-issues are deluxe in every sense of the word – they come primarily as a 2CD/1DVD set (they are also available as a 12” LP) where the first CD features the remastered original albums, the second CD features previously unreleased shows from Montreal’s Spectrum venue in 1986, ‘87 and ‘88 respectively, and the DVDs feature a plethora of material from each album’s respective year (including demos, live performances, photo slideshows and more). Simply for the sheer amount of material on offer alone, makes these deluxe re-issues of Voivod’s groundbreaking music immense value for money.
The first of the three re-issues, originally released in 1986, is the rawer and more primitive sounding of the trio. Naturally following on from Voivod’s apocalyptic self-titled debut, Rrröööaaarrr is drenched in the band’s punk and NWOBHM influences while developing the band’s unique sound further.
Opening track “Korgüll the Exterminator” is a perfect example of the band coming into their own with its differing sections of pounding thrash and signature use of discordant chords. The punky use of these chords comes across in the aptly titled “Ripping Headaches” and “Thrashing Rage” and flashes of the band’s Venom and Motörhead influences light up like a distant explosion in songs like “Slaughter in a Grave”, “Build Your Weapons” and “To the Death!”.
Rrröööaaarrr is the last reminder of Voivod’s rough-sounding beginnings before moving onto increasingly progressive and game-changing pastures with their following releases. It’s impossible not to bang your head and thrash to the band’s infectious dystopian punk-metal noise on this album. Essential for all those Iron Gang members out there.
Released in 1987, Killing Technology ups the progressive ante that’s hinted at in its predecessor. From the opening beeps and robotic declaration of “We are connected!” of the title track to the closing scream of “Cockroaches”, the album is a cast-iron classic that’s widely considered one of Voivod’s best
Killing Technology keeps the punky thrash ideas at its core, but features the band’s signature discordant ideas used more heavily all over the fretboard with more varying time signatures and structural ideas making for a truly unique listen. The use of open low E-string pedal tones and power chord ideas that are the bread and butter of thrash, particularly in the genre’s mid-late 80’s heyday, are sparse on Killing Technology making the album stand out.
A song like “Forgotten in Space” is a perfect showcase of Voivod’s development into more progressive and experimental territory whereas tracks like “Tornado” and “Order of the Blackguards” tip their hats to the band’s past with riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on Rrröööaaarrr. If one song from the album could truly sum up Killing Technology it would have to be “Ravenous Medicine” (which the band made their first video for) which features all of the ideas expressed on the album condensed into one catchy number.
Production-wise, Killing Technology has a little more polish than that of its predecessor. It’s less raw and a little cleaner, however it still has a little space dust dirtying up the disc to communicate the aggression Voivod had from the beginning only a few years prior. Overall, Killing Technology exhibits a maturing Voivod that’s continually growing and developing their sound yet remaining true to their roots. The music is always unique and never boring – it’s easy to see why the album is a fan favourite. Killing Technology is not just essential Voivod, it’s essential heavy metal.
The last of the three Noise-era Voivod albums showcases the band in full prog-thrash mode. For starters, 1988’s Dimension Hatröss is a concept album which only a few metal bands had attempted at the time.
Voivod arguably always had concepts in their songs surrounding the band’s titular character but none had been more streamlined than in Dimension Hatröss. In short, the Voivod travels to the album’s titular other world and becomes embroiled in the conflict between the indigenous people of the world and their authoritarian government. It infiltrates the government to investigate and gets captured. It is then subjected to their “Brain Scan” torture where it learns to control the psychic power used on it which then overpowers it and destroys Dimension Hatröss while it escapes.
Musically, the album is Voivod at their most mature at this point. The songs are more technical in nature than the previous albums, yet retain the band’s signature sound. The music perfectly captures the development of the story through expert construction of riffs, bursts of controlled chaos in the overall music and guitar solos in the right places, and the increasing diversity and musicality of the vocals (greatly developed from the primitive shouts and screams of the band’s earlier work).
A prime example of this is in the second song (and most well-known due to its music video) “Tribal Convictions” which captures the Voivod’s arrival in Dimension Hatröss and the meeting with the indigenous people. The use of vocal effects highlights the thoughts of both parties in the story while the music builds intensity throughout the duration of the song. Similar ideas are expressed on tracks like “Brain Scan”. There’s plenty of intricate guitar work to be found in songs like “Macrosolutions to Megaproblems” and “Psychic Vacuum” yet the album retains plenty of thrashing moments, particularly in a song like “Chaosmöngers”.
Like with Killing Technology, a multitude of things could be said about Dimension Hatröss. The two albums are classics and stand out on their own in the whole heavy metal spectrum. Arguably both could be considered Voivod’s best work and are essentials of the band. They continue to inspire to this day and the band continue to carve out more unique releases following these classics. After over 30 years of amazing music, fans still continually look back to the Noise era (Rrröööaaarrr included) as Voivod’s best – once you listen to them, you’ll know why these three albums are arguably the most loved.
In conclusion, the deluxe reissues of Voivod’s Noise-era releases Rrröööaaarrr, Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss are well worth checking out for new fans and old fans alike. The remastered sound and masses of additional material that comes with each album is a treat.
However, for those new fans in need of a crash course in the band, and aren’t quite ready to dive head first into Voivod’s sci-fi prog thrash mania can always check out the recently released compilation Build Your Weapons: The Very Best of Noise Years 1986-1988 which features an impressive selection of tracks from all three of the aforementioned records that spans the vast majority of the tracks on each album.
No matter which way you choose to get your fix of this legendary band, Voivod’s music is guaranteed to give you “Ripping Headaches” (in a good way!) and get you into a”Thrashing Rage”.
All three albums are out today