Company: Century Media
It's going to be hard for any band to make a more inspiring comeback this year than Canadian cult heroes Voivod already have this early in the year. With longtime guitarist Denis D'Amour (aka "Piggy") having passed away following a battle with cancer, it would have been understandable if the band elected not to even put out another album, let alone mustering up one of this quality.
The band had managed to continue on (at least in a gigging capacity) after D'Amour's passing in 2005, adding another curiously monikered member in the form of new guitarist "Chewy" (real name: Daniel Mongrain). The real test for the new lineup (which is otherwise all original members) would be its ability to produce new material that lived up to their brilliantly freakish past triumphs. And although I am fairly new to the band's music, what I hear on Target Earth has me joining the majority of those who have weighed in on the subject online in praising the album as a Back in Black-like bounce back from tragedy.
AC/DC, however, this ain't. Like much of Voivod's most celebrated work, Target Earth finds the band in brainy, staunchly non-conformist form. Clever, often dissonant guitar riffs and smart, socially conscious lyrics fly over the jerky, complex, but rock solid foundation laid down by returning original bassist Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault) and drummer Away (Michel Langevin). Vocally, I'd say that if anything, Dénis "Snake" Belanger's delivery is more harshly eccentric than ever, maintaining his usually quirks, but adding a shouty quality that I feel he has rarely displayed since the band's thrashy beginnings. I have to say, however, that Chewy (gotta love those names!) deserves recognition for managing to do pretty much exactly what had to be done to follow in Piggy's footsteps. His riffing on the album adheres very much to the style that Piggy made an integral part of the Voivod sound, but his solos break from that style somewhat to showcase a thoughtful playing approach all his own. (See his lead break on the album's first single, "Mechanical Mind," for a shining example.)
Not much has been done to modernize the band's sound, and upon listening to tracks like "Warchaic" and the leadoff title tune, it becomes clear that none is needed. This is an album that manages to bring much of what fans love about Voivod into the present day, the band's ahead-of-its-time core sound arriving intact in a world that actually may be more ready for it now. (My suggestion for a second single: the catchy, up-tempo "Resistance.") My only complaint would be the somewhat clanky rhythm guitar sound (a Strat?), which to my ears becomes somewhat grating after a while- especially when combined with all those eccentric, somewhat dissonant riffs. Oh, and like some other reviewers, I'm not entirely sold on that cover either. The music, however? Definitely.