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Voivod live review - The Underworld, London

Voivod bring the noise to the capital

Despite having created some truly extraordinary records over the past 32 years, life has never been easy for Voivod. Across the course of 13 studio albums, the French-Canadians have consistently refused to take the simple path, as you’d expect of a unit that cites its heroes as Stravinsky, Bartók, Einstürzende Neubauten, GBH, Venom and Killing Joke on one hand, and Yes, Genesis, Hawkwind, Crimson, Rush and Van der Graaf Generator on the other.

For Voivod, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, including a 1998 bus crash that saw bassist Eric Forrest break his back in three places. Worse still, the death of co-founder Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour in 2005 left Voivod’s future hanging by a thread, the band reviving the late guitarist’s riffs to fuel two further albums (the following year’s Katorz and Infini in 2009), but when former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted ended his six-year stay, they might well have been forgiven for throwing in the towel.

Thankfully, that worst-case scenario didn’t come to pass. A further album (2013’s Target Earth) and this year’s five-song EP Post Society suggest that Voivod really are here for the long run, revelling in their reputation as one of the greatest underground hard rock acts of all time.

Tonight they’re ignominiously sandwiched between Entombed AD, a spin-off of Swedish metalheads Entombed, and a gaggle of support acts that revel in such regrettable monikers as Lord Dying and Morbid Evils, and they’re allocated a mere hour’s worth of stage time. But the 10-song set still manages to cover most of the band’s distinguished career, dwelling largely upon their most experimental years.

“Let’s go back to 1987!” hollers Denis Bélanger, the frontman better known as Snake, while he introduces Overreaction, a track from Killing Technology, the album that first saw the band begin to integrate prog and space rock sounds into their gnarly, punk-infused thrash metal.

One of two tracks aired from the current EP, Fall begins in a more considered fashion before spinning on its axis courtesy of a surging, scalding lead solo played by Piggy’s successor Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain. It’s easily as good as anything they’ve released till now. And when the riff to Psychic Vacuum, from 1988’s Dimension Hatröss, kicks in, it feels like a dentist’s drill is being applied between the listener’s eyes. A rip-roaring Voivod, the band’s signature tune from their very first album, War And Pain, merely seals the deal.

It’s something of a minor miracle that a band as unlucky and underappreciated yet undeniably unique as Voivod continue to defy the odds – and for that we should be immensely grateful.