Perhaps more so than usual, we’ve got Voivod on our brains these days, what with the recent reissues of three of the band’s classic early-era albums. Much like when we went back and revisited the top five most outrageous Watchtower moments of all time, we thought the time was right to go back through the band’s catalogue and pinpoint five precise moments where Voivod blew our minds. And be sure to click over to the points in question in the YouTube videos for reminders of these great moments in metal history.
1. 0:36 to 0:43 of “Voivod”
It’s always charming when a band names a song after themselves, and in Voivod’s case, it worked particularly well as an opening statement of intent here on their debut album, 1984’s crusty, antagonistic War and Pain. Hearing vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger belt out the word “Voivod!” at the beginning of the song gets me blood pumping every time, and the outrageous energy the band has while raging through this decidedly sloppy recording rules. This sounds nothing like the Voivod of albums to come, but baby Voivod was a wonderful little bastard indeed. Love the rattling-chain intro, too. This legitimately scared me when I was seven years old, and for good reason.
2. 1:01 to 1:06 of “Ravenous Medicine”
1987’s Killing Technology was a huge step ahead for the band, after their charming, alien, beyond-noise duo of albums one and two; considering their second was even more chaotic than their first, it was a surprise to see the band start to take things in the opposite direction here. But they did, and the journey to being the greatest Canuck extreme-prog-sci-fi-thrash band of all time begun; it’s a fantastic album, but it’s not until song five of seven where the band drops one of their first “this is Voivod” moments (okay, fine: there are these moments before, but this is the best one). When Snake informs us that we’re “going to the science hospital” at the one-minute mark, it’s a chilling, and crystal-clear, revelation. Plus, the band had the guts to go for an explicit animal-rights message in the video, which rules.
3. 0:53 of “Tribal Convictions”
And then there was Dimension Hatröss, and then there was “Tribal Convictions.” The band’s 1988 album took Killing Technology’s futuristic prog-thrash and made it that much more listenable, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the incredible “Tribal Convictions,” placed almost right up front as the album’s second song. I can point to a very specific one second of that song where an announcement was made that this band is pushing things in new directions, and it’s that weird-ass noise that punctuates the Neurosis-informing drum intro; you know the noise, I know the noise, and it’s time to get it out in the open that that noise was a significant part of a Voivodian shift that meant a lot to all of us.
4. 1:12 to 1:48 of “The Unknown Knows”
Dimension Hatröss made it very clear that Voivod was changing and their world-altering prog-metal was going to places that no one had been to before. Nothingface was when they arrived at the destination: by toning down the clanging-trash thrash and really focusing on the art of songwriting, the band took listeners to the world of Voivod, the world of the Voivod, the world that had been promised. When 1:12 of opener “The Unknown Knows” hit, we were all staring at our winding cassette reels in disbelief. The band had arrived, and we had arrived with them, and nothing would ever be the same. The first chunk of the times in question in this song follow a doomy, ominous intro by laying down a decidedly upbeat yet labyrinthical riff and a killer Snake vocal pattern that just gets more killer in its last two lines; then, the second chunk is the incredible chorus, melodic, soaring, like an adventure waiting to happen. Jaws dropped. Nothingface had started.
5. The entirety of “Jack Luminous”
It’s not so much that “Jack Luminous” was a great song—we’re all hard pressed to really remember any of it when cornered and demanded to hum a bar or two; it’s that after Voivod had reached their commercial peak they released an album as weird (and ruling, and totally justifiable, which we’ll be doing very soon) as Angel Rat and then followed that up with an album like The Outer Limits, which featured this 18-minute song as its side two opener (!). To this day, we talk about this move with a reverence and respect; we tell wives who don’t care about the time Voivod had the stones to do this; we think about it as we drift, peacefully, off to sleep.