Music from beyond the grave, quite literally.
Katorz is the 11th Voivod studio album. Their legacy is a much-loved one that perhaps hasn't had the attention it's deserved. I can remember Voivod first breaking into the metal scene and were heralded as progressive and 'off the wall' metal. I must admit that on the whole the band and their music left me a little cold, but I could appreciate what they were trying to do. Their latest album is a sorrow if joyful occasion. Sorrow because of the passing away of guitar player and main songwriter Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour in August 2005 after contracting colon cancer. But also joy because the rest of band has, quite rightly completed all of his ideas and riffs he had written prior to his death. The end result is not strictly a tribute to the late guitar player, but perhaps more of an unwitting self penned tribute.
There's quite a metal edge to this new Voivod release. 'The Getaway' is a superb number. It's as catchy and infectious as it is nasty. 'Dognation' and 'Mr Clean' both deal metal punches so far from current trends that it's almost refreshing. But then again Voivod have never followed any trends or bandwagons.
The album is in two halves however. The first half is catchy and memorable, whereas the latter half of Katorz doesn't contain the same standard of song writing. 'Silly Clones' becomes irritating after a while, and 'No Angel' is neither here nor there, containing a truly awful 'nah nah nah' section. 'The X-Stream' however, is a first class rocker and picks the album up just when it was losing focus and direction.
'Polaroids' ends this metal fare nicely, and it's easy to say that this release will please Voivod fans both young and old. Whether or not this album will gain the attention of the kids is anyone's guess. Snake's vocals rasp melody instead of today's shout-a-thons, and there's variation in the song writing, so probably not. The production is raw yet slick and controlled. The guitars are cutting without being down-tuned, but I think they could've benefited with a little more bottom end to them. I still have to admit that Voivod's music still leaves me a little cold. There's very little on Katorz that has changed my mind. This suggests to me that if you like Voivod then you'll like this. If you don't like Voivod then you'll at least appreciate this piece of work, for you certainly won't dislike it.
It's easy to get over sentimental especially when reviewing material doused in tragedy, reviewers are made to feel they have to use their space as an epitaph for the respective artist, and perhaps glorify their achievements a little more than they would in a straight forward review. Thankfully Katorz doesn't allow this reviewer to wallow in such hero worship, for the simple reason that this long player is a pretty solid affair. It's not going to catapult Voivod into the big leagues, nor will it end up as people's favourite album of the year. What Voivod have produced is a fitting album for a great guitar player, and a release that will help keep the Voivod legacy going strong until the next album. My only worry is what will happen to the band once all of 'Piggy's' ideas are exhausted. Only time will tell.