Progenitors of progressive thrash metal and an ever-evolving musical chameleon, Voivod have endured almost four decades, lineup changes, tragedies and an ever-shifting social, political and musical climate, forever delivering envelope-pushing progressive metal. After the better part of 35 years of relentless touring, writing and recording, it’s clear to us that drummer and mainstay original member ‘Away’ (real name Michel Lagevin) and his crew are just as ecstatic as ever.
‘It feels amazing to still be playing,’ Away remarks with joyful delightedness. ‘We just finished an incredible European tour, and we’re already excited for the Japanese and Australian tours after we take a well-earnt holiday.’ We’re not to begrudge the band of their rest, who are infamous for performing up to hundreds of shows per year for successive stretches.
With the premise of returning to Australia for the first time since 2000, Away is rapt at the opportunity to final make way to a continent he’s found quite the entertaining place. ‘Last time we were over there, we played three cities, and every show we were taken to after-parties at clubs and made so many new friends, met old friends – many of those people we met again overseas at shows and festivals! We’re excited to have a great time again.’ One of said friends was Youngy (Matt Young), and he was certainly chuckling a bit about the live show and antics of King Parrot when the two bands had toured together.
‘That (2000) tour, we were a trio,’ he reminisces, ‘so with a full line-up once more, we’re looking at playing a more extensive live set that spans across our discography.’ This is fantastic news considering the band now have fourteen studio albums under their belt, spreading across a range of subgenres, concepts and decades few could hope to reach during their tenure.
‘We will be covering 80’s and early 90’s material, as well as obviously newer stuff like ‘The Wake’ and the ‘Post Society’ EP’, he notes. Realistically, he also adds that ‘some eras and material will unfortunately need to be skipped, as we just have too many songs!’
First world problems, right guys?
Not really. If anything, Away sounds as fresh as a bug-eyed youngster embarking on their major touring jaunt. ‘This is the fifth incarnation of the band, so as the only member who has been constant I’ve been used to adapting’, he remarks. ‘Besides, the way the older material morphs into the new, we can play punkier stuff from say, ‘Angel Rat’, alongside newer songs and fans have commented there is almost no noticeable change’.
The now-solidified but also quite recent lineup changes haven’t faltered their live game, either. ‘Even playing so many shows with new members Chewy (Daniel Mongrain, guitar) and Rocky (Dominic Laroche, bass) since 2008 and 2014, there is one hundred percent chemistry and fluidity in our live shows, practice and writing.’ Not an easy feat when you’re constantly expanding on an existing template of challenging, technical progressive thrash writing.
The loyalty and fervour of Voivod fans is a central element to the bands’ continued studio and live successes too, it seems: ‘We’ve been so lucky and grateful to have such loyal fans who rock up to all our shows, have bought our countless albums and continue supporting us.’ He’s a genuinely grateful and respectful man of his bandmates and fans alike.
And what of ‘The Wake’, their latest opus which has been received with massive critical acclaim? With a more progressive slant this time around, Away notes that the addition of Chewy and Rocky ‘shook things up a bit, with their background in jazz and fusion – but in a good way.’
‘Subgenres and influences isn’t really something we need to think about, to be honest’, he explains. ‘Everything comes out as a natural part of the song-writing process and everyone impacts on the final album.’ And what an album – layering complexity and free-form progressive elements into their tight prog-thrash template, ‘The Wake’ is more exploratory than ever whilst retaining that iconic, unmistakeable Voivod-ian sound.
Even the lyrics have kept to the bands’ thematic appreciation of futurism, dystopia and science fiction, although Away notes Snake (Denis Bélanger, vocals) has taken a lyrical slant of concern towards environmentalism. ‘Snake was entranced by the state of this planet,’ he notes, ‘and wrote a conceptual album that begins with an underwater disaster and the social and religious fallout of that. But then towards the middle it becomes introspective, and even moves intergalactic towards the end – he covered a lot of topics in his long story.’ Indeed, this narrative approach fits the ethereal nature of the album’s meander and flow, musically and lyrically.
Ironically, these soothsayers of technological dystopia actually had a lot of help from cloud services, laptops and the like on tour, where a lot of the album writing occurred. ‘We were recording and uploading to Dropbox literally backstage and in the tour bus for this album, especially bass and vocal parts. It was great to be able to portably write, record and play at the same time, it helps keep things fresh.’
Thirty-five years in, and the band are eager as ever. ‘We want to continue to push ourselves technically, lyrically and musically, and for as long as we have loyal fans we are going to continue to do so.’
You can obtain a copy of ‘The Wake’ right here.
Voivod are touring Australia for the first time ever, as part of their 35-year anniversary, in 2019!
Wednesday January 23rd – Brisbane The Crowbar
Thursday January 24th – Canberra The Basement
Friday January 25th – Sydney The Crowbar
Saturday January 26th – Melbourne Max Watts
Presale: Tuesday 13th November 10am- Tuesday 13th November 11:59pm
General Sale: Wednesday 14th November 10am
Tickets: DRW Entertainment