REVIEW: Voivod – Katorz (2006)

Part 1 of a 2 part series

KATORZ_0001VOIVOD – Katorz (2006 The End records)

When Piggy (Denis D’Amour) passed away of colon cancer in 2005, I thought it spelled the end of VoiVod. It was such a sudden, unforeseen tragedy.  He was only diagnosed that year; the cancer had spread so rapidly that any operation was deemed impossible.  However, Piggy loved VoiVod and he loved music. Knowing his end was near, he recorded hours of new music with his guitar onto a computer. Before passing he instructed the band on how to access the music he’d left them, and they realized the VoiVod dream was not dead. Away (Michel Langevin), Snake (Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted) painstakingly went through his final recordings and realized there was an album there. (In fact there were two albums there, but that’s another story.)

Katorz (“fourteen”, their 14th release) was assembled from these parts. It is a loving tribute to the man who defined the VoiVod sound, and it is a gift to us, the fans. As Canadians, we should be very proud of VoiVod. They never made it big like Rush, although Rush certainly took them under their collective wings on the Presto tour. Their sound is anything but commercial — it’s a stunning, disorienting array of unusual droning chords, complex themes and precision drumming. The band have also inserted some of Piggy’s beautiful final acoustic passages in between songs as transistions, all of which are haunting statements about his impending death. Piggy was not known for his acoustic work, until now, which makes it that much more powerful. (The band has suggested in the past that there may be an entire Piggy acoustic album to come.)

KATORZ_0003Through all the hardship, VoiVod have only perfected their art of songwriting. The songs on Katorz are among the best of the VoiVod back catalogue. They have come far from their thrash metal n’ studs roots. From the band that once did a thrash version of the “Batman” theme, their music is still heavy. The complexity that they gradually began integrating in the mid-80’s is tied together with more melody and groove. Certainly, you can find few drummers as talented as Away, and his drumming here is astounding. Away jumps from time change to time change effortlessly.

The always nasal whine of Snake will not appeal to all, but it is part of the VoiVod sound and identity, and his lyrics are as jittery and potent as ever. To me it’s like Megadeth. I can’t handle a lot of Mustaine’s singing in a day, but in small doses it’s quite palatable.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Katorz is that you cannot tell that anything is wrong with Piggy or the band.  His playing is as unique as ever, pushing the boundaries as he always has.  Check out the noise solo on “Mr. Clean” and you’ll see that Piggy was stretching out to the very end.  Song-wise, Katorz is seamless.  It sounds as if the band wrote and recorded it together, as they always have.  There is a certain coldness to Katorz, but that’s VoiVod.

Katorz is thinking-man’s metal. It is over-caffeinated, constantly pushing the extremes (X-Streams?) and restless. More importantly, it is a tribute to one of the great guitarists that made Canada proud. Piggy was great not because of his speed or dexterity, but because of his sonic uniqueness. Piggy’s sound was like no other, droning and headache-inducing, just like VoiVod’s music. Our country is a sadder place without him.

Highlights:
The whole album, but especially “The Getaway”, “Odds & Frauds” and “The X-Stream”.

A beautiful noisy mess. 4.5/5 stars.

18 comments

  1. Okay, here’s a story for you…
    I know VoiVod…not really for their music, but because of the hot guy with the long locks who would shave one side of his head. He was hot back around 1990! I had a cut out from a freebie magazine of VoiVod…it was hanging in my bedroom…only because of that guy. lol
    And I didn’t listen to VoiVod, because Sam’s and A&A charged a eff ton for their stuff and I couldn’t afford it (and I could catch the Power Hour…)

    Like

    1. Haha! That was Blackie the original bassist! He’s back in the band now. I don’t know if he still has that hair or not though! I’ll be mentioning him a bit more tomorrow

      Like

    1. I wanna tackle some more. I want to review Phobos, the second album they did with singer/bassist E-Force (Eric Forrest). It was a lot more grindy, a lot more death metal. But it’s grown on me a lot too. It’s fucking heavy!

      This one kills.

      Like

  2. Hmmm, I saw Voi Vod back twice back in the 80s and they always struck me as a band who were good because they were so bad. I’m going to have to hear more of their material it seems.

    Like

    1. Yeah I wouldn’t consider them bad…but you’re the guy who saw them live not me. These guys are some of the best players in metal. Best place to start would be ’89’s Nothingface or ’91’s Angel Rat.

      Like

      1. That was the impression I had back then. However, a lot of thrash bands when they start out sound like they’ve only been playing their instruments for 6 months and then get better with the album. I did enjoy them for the reason I gave though. Besides, they were the first band I stage dived to.

        Like

        1. Yeah and I was never too much into their really early stuff, the very thrashy stuff. When they started getting more technical, on the Killing Technology and Nothingface albums, that was what got me interested. And then Angel Rat and The Outer Limits were really out there in terms of sound, very progressive rock.

          Like

      1. Ok.

        It’s what happens. When I want to check out a new band, I usually go with their latest release first, and then trek backwards. It’s why I ended up getting “Target Earth”.

        Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s