Monday, February 2, 2015

Voivod at the Gramercy Theatre

Denis "Snake" Belanger
Voivod formed in 1982 in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada, at a time when adventurous new bands were drawing together the formerly polar camps of hardcore punk, speed/thrash metal and progressive rock. Voivod gained a national audience with 1989's Nothingface, but then started to fall apart in the 1990s. Vocalist and founding member Denis "Snake" Bélanger left Voivod and isolated himself to battle his drug problems and eventually to start a new band, Union Made. A tire blow-out turned over the tour van and nearly killed the band. Voivod briefly disbanded in 2001 until Snake returned to the band and Jason Newstead of Metallica filled in on bass. Then in 2005, guitarist and founding member Denis “Piggy” D’Amour died suddenly of colon cancer, and Newstead left the band in 2012. Voivod presently consists of Snake, guitarist Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain, bassist Dominique "Rocky" Laroche and drummer and founding member Michel "Away" Langevin. Voivod's 11th and most recent studio album is 2013's Target Earth.

At the Gramercy Theatre opening tonight for Napalm Death, Voivod continued its 33-year legacy of making music that does not fit neatly into a category. Snake is a punk rock singer and Chewy is a speed metal guitarist. The result was lightning fast and head pounding music with a rebellious snarl. There were no nuances or subtleties in this aggressive, brash presentation. Unlike some of Voivod's more polished recordings, the band's performance was raw and obliterated all the smooth edges of the songs' original versions. It was so searing that fans were in danger of getting their heads ripped off. Introducing the band's namesake song, Snake told the fans that they had only one word to remember, and that word was "Voivod." Songs that sported intricacies, including "Psychic Vacuum", "The Unknown Knows" and "Order of the Blackguards," were among the more effective songs, all songs from the late 1980s. Refreshingly, Voivod did more than relive the past; the band made the present more explosive.

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