Sunday, February 7, 2016

Voivod at the Gramercy Theatre

Denis "Snake" Bélanger
In 1981 Jonquière, Quebec, Canada, guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour asked Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault to play bass in his fledgling band. Before long, Blacky brought a friend from high school, Michel "Away" Langevin, to play drums. Blacky and Away needed time to develop their skills, so the band took a one-year hiatus. The band became Voivod in 1982 and recruited vocalist Denis "Snake" Bélanger in 1983. Over the years, Voivod changed musical styles several times, starting as a speed metal band, then leaning alternately between progressive metal and thrash metal. The band gained mainstream success in 1989 with its fifth studio album, Nothingface. After 13 albums, Voivod will release an EP, Post Society, on February 26, 2016. After many personnel changes, including the death of Piggy and several band breakups and reunions, Voivod currently consists of Snake, Away, guitarist Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain and bassist Dominique Laroche.

Forget the Super Bowl. Voivod headlined tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, tearing like a powersaw through a 13-song set that spanned three decades of metal, including three songs from the forthcoming EP. The set opened with "Ripping Headaches," and throughout the performance similarly emphasized the band's 1980s catalogue. "Tribal Convictions" launched the evening’s first mosh pit. Most of the set hinged on speed and thrash, and despite the passing of Piggy, Voivod continued to push out dissonant guitar chords. Highlights included the band's signature song, "Voivod," and the set closer and Pink Floyd cover, "Astronomy Domine," from the Nothingface days. Snake did not pretend to be much of a vocalist; on the fast songs, his talky singing was flat, off-key and delivered with as much of a cynical sneer as Johnny Rotten, and on the faster songs he sounded like a disciple of the late Lemmy Kilmister. Snake wore a Motorhead t-shirt, perhaps remembering the recent passing of Kilmister; ironically, Voivod presently is the closest sounding band to Motorhead.

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