REVIEW: VOIVOD – “The Wake”
As soon as I started listening to ‘The Wake’ by Voivod, I was enthralled. They have created a multiverse of musical ideas both lyrically and sonically. ‘The Wake’ is the fourteenth studio album for the band and first full-length release with bassist Dominique Laroche (“Rocky”). Rocky and guitarist Daniel Mongrain (“Chewy”) planted the seeds for the new music which germinated under the combine forces of vocalist Denis Bélanger (“Snake”) and drummer Michel Langevin (“Away”).
‘The Wake’ tells the story of the demise of the human race at the hands of a terrible force unleashed from under the seas. The story swirls with lysergic intensity like such classics as ‘Naked Lunch’, ‘War of the Worlds’, and ‘1984’. Reality is questioned in a chaotic maelstrom shaped upon a sonic canvas that only Voivod can create. Snake’s lyrics provide a vast palate for your imagination to run wild.
What makes ‘The Wake’ a masterpiece is the beautiful cinematic weave of music throughout the album. Each song creates a scene which fade in and out of each act to move the story forward. The story begins with “Obsolete Beings”. The swirling miasma intro breaks into a looping gallop of drums and bass with chunky guitars and elegant arpeggios. Soon we hear one of many wonderful guitar solos by Chewy. He makes his guitar sing with lyrical beauty. The ethereal break near the end of the song changes up the timing as Snake croons “Is there some use for mankind?”
The military cadence of “The End of Dormancy” presents the catalyst of the story of ‘The Wake’. The bass tone is menacing as it affixes to the drums creating dramatic tension. This song showcases the brilliant mix on the album. All instruments are clear and present. The special effects of acoustic guitars sprayed into the front of the mix provides a dash of color. The final splashing gong ends the scene before “Orb Confusion”.
While the album is a concept in total, you can pull apart each song to enjoy on their own. One standout song is “Iconspiracy”. The opening of the song features chunky metallic riffs before upending the song in the middle with a sharp staccato riff accented with a string section. This phrase accelerates into a shredding guitar solo that is hammered home by the frantic pulse of drum and bass.
The final encore of “Sonic Mycelium” encapsulates all the phenomenal musical subthemes that constitute The Wake within a single song. Just as the word mycelium evokes the definition of “more than one” and imagery of a complex web of interconnected life, so does this song. This isn’t simply a re-hash of prior parts of the album, but a complete restructuring. The joy and elegance of this tune shines with the Floydian chords from “Always Moving” giving way to a majestic string ensemble. Put this album on repeat and enjoy the rest of the year listening to the genius of Voivod.
‘The Wake’ by Voivod is musical perfection of the highest order. On this record, the band has created a cinematic progressive metal masterpiece which yields a twisting tale of mankind’s demise. Few bands have spent their entire careers ingeniously creating art that is as compelling and provocative as Voivod. ‘The Wake’ stands at the top of an impressive catalog of musical endeavors that will intrigue new and old fans until we vanish beneath the seas.