On the 1989 release of Nothingface Voïvod gave four live-in-the-studio performances for Montreal cable TV show Solidrok. The songs were interspersed with band interviews in their native French-Canadian. Grâce à the YouTube era it’s footage that is well known to every Voïvod fan.
On the 8th and 9th of May 2021 they filmed performances of the entire album plus interview snippets with the current line-up. It’s all eerily familiar.
Voïvod has not played together since the first Hypercube Session ten months ago. After three days of intense rehearsal at RadicArt Studio, Québec, they were ready to capture the moment, including tracks that would only now receive their live premiere, 32 years on.
The camera’s gaze rests on Rocky’s bass emblazoned with Away’s album artwork as the ominous power chord opening of The Unknown Knows kicks off the stream. The bass punches and growls its way through Francis Perron’s exceptional mix which leaves plenty of space and clarity for Piggy’s ingeniously twisted guitar voicings played by Chewy.
Snake’s voice is undulled by the years, possibly benefiting from not being currently mid-tour. Introducing Astronomy Domine he reveals his initial doubts over his layered harmonies for the Pink Floyd cover. The accompanying video would go on to change the trajectory of their career via a headline tour with Faith No More and Soundgarden in their wake. Chewy and Rocky provide backing vocals to recreate those alien-sounding harmonic intervals.
Director Catherine Deslauriers projects Away’s art onto white tulle drapes surrounding the band to add atmosphere. The absence of an audience off which to feed forces each player to react instead against his own inner demons. Facial expressions betray each one’s battle with the complexities and demands of such challenging music. They rise above, of course. Not a foot is put wrong but the possibility that it might at any moment fall apart is palpable.
This is most evident in the fractured and fractalised riffing of X-Ray Mirror where it feels as though Chewy, Rocky, and Away are traversing a high wire. They land immaculately, miraculously perhaps since only the drummer appeared on the original recording.
Rocky reveals that he first saw Voïvod on the Nothingface tour when he was 15 at an all-ages show that Chewy had serendipitously also attended at the tender age of 13. The acolytes’ scholarly dedication to this idiosyncratic music is evident.
Nothingface is thrash metal as seen through the kaleidoscope of 70s prog, hardcore punk and 20th century classical music. Pre-Ignition features an excerpt from Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring reframed in a unique sci-fi prog metal setting. This 1989 song inspired by a 1913 ballet played live in 2021 still sounds like the future.
It’s this sonic experimentation that kept Voïvod from reaching the heights of their erstwhile tourmates but also what inspires such ardent devotion from their legion of fans to this day.
The groundbreaking Dimension Hatröss album gets the Hypercube Session treatment on 27th June. We’ll be connected.