For metalheads everywhere, the era of moshing has become a fever dream of the past. Far gone are the days in which fellow music enthusiasts could rock back and forth without a hyper awareness of strange bodily fluids. In its place, live streams have offered a more intimate affair that has more or less destroyed the enthusiasm of crowd surfers and head bangers alike. But every so often a Canadian band rises from the ashes, forcing even those of us confined within the four walls of our bedrooms to bounce along to a heavy metal rhythm. On May 30th, that rising phoenix was Voïvod: decade-long leaders of the progressive music scene.
Their live stream and first-ever entire performance of Nothingface began with the same authentic message that has drawn listeners in for nearly 40 years: “This performance is a celebration of the Nothingface album (1989) but also a way to connect with you all to thank you for supporting Voïvod through the years. We are missing you all and can’t wait to meet again!”
After three days of rehearsing and tricky media configuration, the band initiated the show with fervor. Lead vocalist, Denis “Snake” Bélanger, led his band into track one smoothly. As the lyrical poetry of “The Unknown Knows” relayed its existential message to fans, drummer Michel “Away” Langevin wasted no time in building the melody of the piece. Without skipping a beat, the band grooved its way into “Nothingface,” the album’s namesake. While the nostalgic graphics changed to warm colors, guitarist, Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, upheld the reputation of thrash metal guitar solos.
Before leading into the album’s third hit, “Astronomy Domine,” screens quickly shifted to an interview of Snake, who relayed to fans the journey of producing the sensational cover. During his two-minute monologue, Snake expressed his initial uncertainties in covering a Pink Floyd song: “I was not really convinced about doing a cover in the beginning… doing something like a Pink Floyd song was kind of scary, and I was really uncomfortable. Especially when it was time to work on the harmonies.”
Snake credits Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, the band’s previous guitarist who tragically passed away in 2005, with the initial idea to feature “Astronomy Domine” on the album. Despite the technical difficulties in reproducing a classic space rock hit, the cover was a huge success—with more than a million streams on multiple platforms. When it came time to perform the song, Voïvod left no question as to why “Astronomy Domine” remains a cult classic to this day.
After performing yet another mesmerizing song, “Missing Sequence,” it came time to hear from bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche, who joined the band after Piggy’s passing. While swiveling around in his chair, Rocky explained how he was a fan before joining Voïvod and has remained so ever since. Rocky showed fans a promotional poster of Nothingface he took after a Voïvod show, pointing to where he had Snake sign it years later. His admiration for the band has not only strengthened his style and technique but has also convinced him that dreams are achievable.
Proceeding the interview, the band ran through the remainder of the album. In “X-Ray Mirror” and “Inner Combustion,” the instruments became a living organism—producing a rhythm that expressed the inexpressible, full of life from start to finish. In “Pre-Ignition,” neither Rocky, Snake, Chewy or Away had their eyes open. Their expertise led the way, allowing the connection they shared with their music to hold the limelight. “Into My Hypercube” came next, and with it, a display of the stylings Voïvod has pulled from jazz and classical music. Inspired by composer Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” the band learned to never shy away from vaulting melodies and dissonant chords while creating a masterpiece.
In finishing with “Sub-Effect,” the relevance of Voïvod had become evident. Their distinct ability to shape with each era’s stylings has allowed their music to remain great throughout time. In staying true to the complex sounds of the Nothingface album, Voïvod has proven they’re here to stay and continually find new ways to surprise all their varying listeners.
The Unknown Knows
Into My Hypercube