Watch the full interview with AWAY above
Very few bands survive for four decades. Even fewer are those that continue to reach new creative heights, long after legendary status has been achieved. Voïvod were never like other bands: even as the thrash metal scene exploded in the early ‘80s, the Jonquière, Québec crew stood apart, both as unique visionaries and as proud subverters of the metallic norm.
From early prog thrash classics like Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss through to the psychedelic explorations of The Outer Limits, Voïvod have been standard-bearers for individuality and creative freedom for nearly 40 years.
Always defiantly out of step with prevailing trends but widely respected as true mavericks, Voïvod even weathered the untimely death of talismanic guitarist and songwriter Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour in 2005. Buoyed by the support of their huge global following, surviving original members Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals), Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault embarked on a new and challenging chapter in the Voïvod story, releasing the much-hailed Target Earth in 2013, with guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain proving himself to be a smart and dextrous successor to D’Amour.
By 2014, bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche had replaced Thériault, and a new incarnation of this indestructible band crossed their compositional beams to forge yet more mind-bending, psychedelic post-thrash wizardry. Not surprisingly, Voïvod hit the road to reaffirm their status as one of metal’s most unique and powerful live acts.
“At first we went on tour for almost two years, pretty intensively, with great bands and line-ups,” recalls Chewy. “We went all over the globe, to Australia, Japan and Europe many times, and twice across North America. It was great! We had also a few surprising invitations, like playing the Montreal Jazz Fest. We also won a Juno award for ‘Metal/Hard Music Album’ of 2019. We came back home in late December 2019, and then everything stopped for obvious reasons.”
Confined to their quarters for those long months of lockdown, Canada’s finest simply did what they do best: create. The result is Synchro Anarchy, Voïvod’s 15th studio album and, as fans have come to expect, yet another unparalleled eruption of wildly imaginative heaviness. Shaped by the weirdest of circumstances, the new songs were born from an intense period of collaboration.
“I’m waiting for the promo copies to get to me and I can’t wait to have it in my hands,” drummer Michel “Away” Langevin tells me over Zoom. “But it’s always kind of stressful because we worked very hard on this one. We wanted it to be as good if not better than The Wake. So we gave it our all. And it was hard after the session to take a step back to judge what we had done really, but the first three singles had a great reaction. So the stress is down a bit, but I really can’t wait to see what people are going to think about this.”
“It was a challenge because we couldn’t jam together very much, but we all welcomed the circumstances as a new creative element,” says Chewy. “Lots of demos and files were shared and it was all worked to the point where it really sounded like the four of us playing in the same room. We could get together and try the ideas out just before the recording process to make all the small adjustments. In the end, it was almost like a race against the clock. It was pretty intense, but we welcomed the challenge!”
Despite the pressures of working amid a global pandemic, Synchro Anarchy sounds like the work of truly liberated artists. Following the career peak of The Wake was always going to be tricky, but the Canadians have smashed the follow-up out of the park, delivering one of the most idiosyncratic and adventurous expressions of their unique, genre-bending sound yet. Fans old and new can expect something truly mind-blowing this time around.
“I think it’s pure Voïvod!” says Chewy. “I think it’s a dark record with glimpses of light. It’s intricate and deep. There’s complexity. There are new explorations on many levels. Of course, there are many references to space, to the advance of technology versus our fragile planet, to mental illness, anxiety, rebellion, fatality, time and space mysteries. Synchronicity and chaos! Lots of food for thought, I suppose. And the tones are fantastic. Francis (Perron, producer) worked his magic at RadicArt Studio. He has been part of the Voïvod sound since our Post Society EP.”
“We have a futuristic style combined with the older trash metal punk trash that Snake and I can bring in,” Away says. “I think the fact that The Wake was so well received gave us the indication that we were heading down the right path. So we’re trying to explore as many avenues as possible.”
Still one of the most fervently creative bands on the planet, Voïvod have created another kaleidoscopic sonic monster. The perfect antidote to just about everything, Synchro Anarchy will light up 2022 with crazed, lysergic glee. Meanwhile, its creators are planning their next around-the-world campaign, armed with some of the finest music they have ever written.
“We can’t wait to put out the album and go on tour, as soon as it’s possible and safe!” concludes Chewy. “Many things are on the way for Voïvod, we have a documentary and a book, and we may do some more online performances… we’ll see! But there are a lot of options. We all miss the touring and meeting our friends and fans around the world. That’s what it’s all about: creating, travelling, connecting with people.”
Drummer Michel “Away” Langevin remains as positive about the future of Voivod as ever. “We have a pretty extensive catalogue right now, and it’s always great to have new releases and after like 39 years, it’s the same excitement every time.”
2022 will hopefully also see the release of a brand new documentary about the band, titled We Are Connected.
“It’s actually something we started a while back with Sam Dunn. But Sam got super busy so Felipe Belalcazar contacted me, sent me his DVD of the documentary Death By Metal and I loved it. And so we supplied him with tons of archives. He did a lot of interviews and we did crowdfunding that went way beyond our expectations. We are lucky that we have such a loyal following. So there are still a few interviews to be done, not that many, with Jason Newsted, Snake and I. The travelling part has been a bit difficult lately because of the new confinement and all that but we’re still aiming to release it this year, for sure.”
Synchro Anarchy is released on Century Media Records on 11 February 2022
Photo credit – Catherine DeslauriersShare this :