Voivod – Angel Rat

   1991 Mechanic/MCA

If you’re a fan of Voivod, you probably want to shoot me for this, as most hardcore Voivod fans despised the band’s transformation from arguably the first true extreme metal band into a band that took their beloved psychedelic influences (i.e. their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine“) and melded them with their heavy and progressive tendencies to create a sound that was, in my opinion, definitively their own.

These guys were always way ahead of whatever was happening at any given time.  They were extreme metal back in the early 80’s when hair metal was in fashion and Metallica were just starting to make a major noise.  Their sound on early albums like ‘War and Pain’ and ‘Rrroooaaarrr,’ however was much more dissonant and extreme than anything else at the time. 

They were always Floyd fans, though, and even covered another obscure Pink Floyd song (“The Nile Song”) on their album ‘The Outer Limits.’  The influx of those influences, particularly melodic vocals, began on 1988’s ‘Dimension Hatross’ and reached a peak of accessibility on this album, ‘Angel Rat.’

You can’t really call this a metal album at all.  The guitars are definitely heavy and the sound is energetic and pleasantly cold and mysterious, but I always felt that this album should have been the one to make them stars in the modern rock movement.  Their evolution into this maddeningly original sounding “alternative” beast was natural, made sense from album to album, and it seemed to coincide perfectly with the musical climate of the early 90’s.   Hardcore Voivod fans screamed sell-out; however, there’s nothing sell-out about it.   There are no candy-coated commercialisms here…just more melodic hooks than ever before.  Truth is, Voivod’s version of more accessible music is always going to have a cool, esoteric wierdness about it…especially with master guitarist Denis D’amour’s (RIP) uncanny ability to melt careening, dissonant and jazzy chords into something tuneful.

Check out “The Prow” on YouTube, or the video for “Clouds In My House” for a really nice taster of what you’ll find on this fantastic disc.  Opener “Panorama” is one of my favorites here, as well as the aforementioned tunes, “Golem” and “Outcast.”  The whole thing just flows from track to track, hooks and cryptic melodies painting a picture of a strange world to match the cool album graphics courtesy of drummer Michael Langevin…a world devoid of humanity, but desperately seeking its spirit.

The true defining force of the band’s sound, though, is in D’amour’s guitar work.  There’s no one else like him…his work was never too flashy and always colorful.  When it came time to rip a solo, he could shred with the best of them, but his real brilliance was in never overplaying and ALWAYS adding shades of amazing color to every song he touched.  This album contains some of his best textures and really is a bargain at any price.   I bought my copy for $15.99 back in the day and I still think it was a steal.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5