Voivod’s Stars Align Again on “Synchro Anarchy” (Review)
The long, storied history of Voivod can be best explained by the distinct eras they were broken down into: the early thrash, prog thrash, straight-up prog metal, the Newsted years, and finally a career revival. When asking a casual fan of the band about their favorites, you will likely hear all about Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, and perhaps even Killing Technology (a personal dark horse) or Angel Rat. Whatever the era or album that most resonates with you, Voivod has always possessed a unique sound. Using this to their advantage, the current Chewy Mongrain era (Target Earth and The Wake) has been some of their most consistently strong material since their run through the late 1980s and early 1990s. It should come as no surprise that there are high expectations for Synchro Anarchy which are warranted but absolutely achieved.
Voivod’s signature angular riffing sounds are fully intact on Synchro Anarchy complete with their otherworldly sci-fi aesthetic popping in and out on opener “Paranormalium”. Going from the pounding of Away’s drums to feeling as though you have been left to die in the middle of a cosmic void only to be joined by to be rescued briefly by Chewy and Rocky’s riffs; that’s a lot of transitioning. Speaking of Rocky, who is on his 2nd album with the band since joining on 2018’s The Wake, replacing seminal bassist Blacky—he has a solid presence here. You can nary take a step in any direction without that absolutely fat bass following you everywhere, and the title track and “Planet Eaters” are some of his best work with the band to date.
Fans who just listened to Nothingface will be hard-pressed to notice much of a difference here, as Voivod have continued to retain their overall strong foundation while branching out even further on each subsequent release. Snake’s vocal style has always been an acquired taste, lacking the punch and gruffness of his original thrash contemporaries and instead opting for a more 'madman shouting in the distance' feeling—but then again, what do Voivod do that fits any mold? In keeping with tradition, drummer Away has provided the album artwork in the same style as 2016’s Post Society EP, more simplistic than his earlier works yet complying with the band’s modus operandi.
Emulating Piggy’s already unique guitar playing is a tall task for anyone stepping into a band, but with 10 years to his credit since joining with Target Earth, Chewy has not only done that but added his own flair to this run. His work on “Sleeves Off” comes off as one of the catchiest songs of his and the band’s existence; playing a bit closer to the band’s work on albums like Angel Rat, though not completely eschewing thrash as they did in the early 1990s. The entire band’s performance on “Sleeves Off” reminds me a lot of Killing Technology’s “Ravenous Medicine” in overall execution and changing of tempos without much of a warning. Chewy’s solos on this track alone might be his greatest single-track contribution to Synchro Anarchy; using the effects pedal for maximum effect before returning to where the track started. “The World Today” is introduced by more of the distant riffing that evokes Dimension Hatross and the band’s salad days, showing that the years since 1988 have robbed them of absolutely nothing.
Voivod are where they are today having endured the loss of band members who have either passed away or left over the course of time leaving Snake and Away as the sole remaining founding members, who still provide the music a certain familiarity. The additions of Chewy and Rocky have been nothing short of superb; if Voivod didn’t think that they could do it anymore, I assure you that they wouldn’t. Voivod has barely lost a step on Synchro Anarchy; this is the sound of a pioneering band continuing to sound fresh all these many years into their career and maintaining their place among the best Canadian metal bands to have ever existed.
Synchro Anarchy released February 11th via Century Media.