Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 11 February 2022

Reviews: Voivod, Napalm Death, SÖNUS, Needless (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver, David Karpel & Lee Burnell)

Voivod - Synchro Anarchy (Century Media Records) [Paul Scoble]

Voivod have been in existence since 1981. The Jonquière, Quebec based band was founded by original Guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour, and released their first album, War And Pain in 1984. In the forty one years they have been together Voivod have released a further 13 albums, with Synchro Anarchy bringing the number up to fifteen. Over the years Voivod have had different lineups with members leaving and in two cases re-joining, and also with very sad passing of band founder, Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour in 2005. The lineup that recorded this album has remained constant since 2014 with Michel ‘Away’ Langevin on Drums, Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger on Vocals, Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain on Guitars and Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche on Bass. 

Voivod were originally part of the first wave of thrash, they were contemporaries with Metallica, Slayer, Flotsam And Jetsam and Annihilator. Although Voivod were seen as a Thrash band, they were always different, Piggy liked using Jazz chords, Away loved using beats that were a little odd compared to the ones used by their genre fellows, the elephant in the room was that Voivod were different, they were fast, but not really thrash. As it turned out, Voivod had invented progressive metal, and all the progressive metal bands that have followed in their wake owe them a debt of gratitude. 

These days they play a very tight, avant guard style of progressive metal. This is the lineup that recorded The Wake, Voivod’s last album that was very well received by press and fans alike. I reviewed that album and was blown away at how good it was, it sounded like Voivod but at the same time was fresh, vibrant and absolutely cutting edge, not what you would expect from an act that, at the time, were nearing forty years as a band. 

Synchro Anarchy has a similar sound to The Wake, the production and tone of the instruments is comparable, which is a very good thing as The Wake sounded superb. However, this is definitely not The Wake part 2, Synchro Anarchy is it’s own beast, it takes what was so good Voivod’s last album, build on it, and pushes things further. Structurally the album is very interesting, the individual parts are simple and direct, one guitar, bass, vocals and drums, however the structure of the songs is complex as there are many parts, which on some of the tracks are very different from each other. The songs feel as if they are constantly changing, repeatedly moving from spikey staccato riffs to smooth, jazz infused sections, and then to an amazing guitar solo, or thundering bass line, the songs feel constantly in flux. 

This could sound like a mess of too many ideas, but Voivod handle it as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, effortlessly moving between disparate sections. This constant flux happens all over the album, but I found title track Synchro Anarchy to be the most impressive, particularly as the song opens with a riff that is based on strumming upstrokes, giving the riff a distinctive Ska quality, not what I would expect from progressive metal, but this is Voivod, and if there is one band that can pull off progressive ska metal, it’s Voivod. 

I love the way the guitar and bass rarely play the same thing, there's no mirroring going on on this album. The guitar riffs are complex, as are the bass lines, it feels as if the guitar riffs and the bass lines bounce around furiously, and occasionally into each other, it should feel chaotic, but the musical brownian motion always seem to work. At their best this effect feels as if the music is swirling around you, feeling chaotic, but the listener can sense an underlying order, which is so powerful. 

A lot of the guitar and bass work is like this, but on Sleeves Off it reaches its zenith, amazing guitar riffs and churning bass lines make this such a great song. Sleeves Off also features another great aspect of this album, smooth, Jazz infused riffs that have a tempo that is beautifully full of energy whilst still having feeling mellow and relaxed, Away has excelled himself with some of the beats on this album. This smooth feel is on a lot of the tracks, but is probably best demonstrated by the track The World Today

I can’t review a Voivod album without mentioning Snake’s incredibly distinctive snarl. Snake’s Vocals are great throughout the album. He uses his voice in many different ways, and in places his vocals are layered; the layering is used on the sections that I have mentioned before that have a smoother feel, the layering accentuates the smoothness of his singing and makes those sections feel like they are wrapped in silk. Snake tends to fit his voice to the song and lyrics, so his voice always works with the song, in some places where the music is a bit more extreme, his performance is bordering on deranged, which is just fantastic. 

The track Quest For Nothing features a nice amount of derangement. Synchro Anarchy is a fantastic Album. It is probably a bit more of a difficult listen that The Wake, and will take a little longer to really appreciate it. On first listen this album is close to being overwhelming, there is so much going on, the album feels as if it is in constant flux, but if you give a little time it will reveal itself to you as a work of incredible creativity, that is filled with amazing riffs, bass lines and beats, all held together by fantastic vocals. After 15 albums and over 40 years, Voivod are still as important, vital, groundbreaking and deeply enjoyable as they were 4 decades ago. 9/10

Napalm Death - Resentment Is Always Seismic: A Final Throw Of Throes (Century Media Records) [Richard Oliver]

Napalm Death are a band that need no introduction if you are a fan of extreme music. Legends is a term that doesn’t quite do the band justice and the influence and impact they have had on underground music. Despite having been going since 1981, the past few years have seen Napalm Death release some of their finest work from 2015’s ferocious Apex Predator - Easy Meat to 2020’s experimental and jaw-dropping Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism. Having recorded an abundance of material in the Throes sessions the band have put together a bunch of these leftovers in the form of new E.P. Resentment Is Always Seismic - A Final Throw Of Throes. Much like the material on the parent album from where this material stems, it sees Napalm Death in equally caustic and experimental form. 

The E.P. is made up of five original songs, two cover versions and a remix. The new songs range from the absolutely furious By Proxy and Slaver Through A Repeat Performance to the sluggish and brooding Resentment Always Simmers which has plenty of influence from acts such as Killing Joke and Swans. Industrial band SLAB! and hardcore punk legends Bad Brains both have their songs being given the Napalm Death treatment and shows the varying influences that the band have on their sound. 

The last song sees Shane Embury bring his dark ambient Dark Sky Burial project into the Napalm Death fold with a remix that is bursting at the seams with dark and oppressive atmosphere. This E.P. really is testament to the absolute roll that Napalm Death are on these days in that it feels like a fully rounded mini album rather than an E.P. of leftovers. This feels like more of a companion piece to Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism rather than the odds and ends which were left on the cutting room floor. If you loved the last Napalm Death album then this E.P. is essential listening and like any good E.P. it leaves you wanting more. 8/10

SÖNUS - Usurper Of The Universe (Forbidden Place Records) [David Karpel]

While David Wachsman and company have an obvious affinity for Black Sabbath and Monster Magnet, SÖNUS ekes out their own space in that wide galaxy spanning heavy music by including some Stooges cynicism and Hawkwind space oddities. The result is a collection of epic songs that progress like a smoke induced narrative worthy of a film project like Heavy Metal or The Spine of Night. Straightforward lyrics get right to the core of each song’s tale, making them easy to sing along with and so damn infectious. Moving from the personal to the cosmic, the songs on Usurper Of The Universe story a sick-of-it-all perspective morphing into a large scale fantasy of total destruction before the narrator fades into the light of the sun.

The opener, Nuclear God, introduces us to all of these themes and promises no guile from the first bass lines taking the listener into a wall of doomy flower misted grooves through the right side of the mind and a hopeless prayer for destruction. The power of Wachsman's voice, gruff and soulful, gives this–and every–song an earnestness that pulls the proverbial tongue right out of the proverbial cheek. Blow this world all to hell. The planet, the entire cosmos, they’re sick of us anyway. By the end of the song, without an ounce of sarcasm, we’re agreeably singing along with the riff addicted universe pointedly telling us over and again: "Fuck you"

Drummer Eduardo Salazar lets loose on Pay Me Your Mind, the angry punk infused tune that slams like it's blasting out of a grease-stained garage in Detroit with a 72 scarlet red Buick Skylark catching the last rays of a dying sun as it pulls out of the driveway. While Nuclear God moves at a steady plod, Pay Me Your Mind revs up to a pummeling tempo and gives Salazar room to flavor the space with fills and dramatics that lend urgency to the sardonic narrative.

The title song transitions to include the more prog elements, expanding the narrative to include the Usurper Of The Universe, the braggadocio of his own glory and power. The last three songs, The Golden Path, the lovely instrumental Amaranthine, and the concluding rocker and D&D referencing Tanelorn, continue to groove into the arena of the epic. While The Golden Path and Amaranthine are appropriately the longest efforts here, clocking in at almost 8 minutes each, the other four songs run 4 and a half to five minutes long but feel a lot longer–and that’s a good thing.

Usurper Of The Universe combines Sabbathian riffage, a double middle finger punk rock ethos, and bombastic psychedelic proto-prog, all packed into about 35 minutes. David Wachsman–rock guru (an actual anthropologist), multi-instrumentalist creative behind SÖNUS, and avowed 2-tab minimum, psychonaut worshiper of all things Dave Wyndorf–creates a colorful sci-fi graphic novel fantasy soundtrack of nihilism and demonic bong hits providing bombastic visions of the end of all that we know. 8/10

Needless - The Cosmic Cauldron (Uprising Records) [Lee Burnell]

Progressive extreme metal quintet Needless return with their second album, The Cosmic Cauldron- and if you put a gun to my head and asked me to describe this album in one word, the honest answer is “underwhelming”. This is my first experience of the Hungarian heavy hitters but after reading about who they’ve played with, including bands such as Flotsam And Jetsam and Nervosa, I was expecting big things from this album. Unfortunately, it falls flat. Granted, it’s heavy but the material is just uninspired. 

The album is full of songs that don’t quite hit the mark but offer glimpses of their potential. Warvoid A.D. and Mournful Heavens are the standout songs by offering two different sides of brutality with the former coming straight out of the blocks with fury and the latter slowing the pace and letting the guitaring of Fogl Botond and Tamas Barany coupled with the drumming of Botond Kasper deliver a heaping of bone shattering metal but try something more melodic with Planet Oblivion

The Cosmic Cauldron does offer something for fans of extreme, thrash and melodic metal and I’m sure this album will be a hit in some circles but for me, it falls flat and doesn’t impress. Needless are technically proficient, aI am keen to see what Needless do going forward but this album won’t live long in the memory. 4/10

No comments:

Post a Comment