Monday, January 17, 2011

[Monday Music] -- VOIVOD/Angel Rat

Angel Rat is album number six from French-Canadian band, Voivod. Those of you familiar with Voivod probably know their musical origins. Their first two albums (War and Pain, and the appropriately named RRROOOAAARRR (complete with umlauts over the "O"s)) are absolutely brutal thrash/death metal from folks whose first language is not English.  With song titles like "Iron Gang" and "Ripping Headaches", you kind of knew that what you were about to listen to would be actually kind of painful, if not well-executed, thrash.

Right around platter number three (Killing Technology), Voivod started heading a different direction. Stuff was still thrashy, but the band began expanding its palette of sound with a few progressive touches. Song temps started to slow down to manageable levels, which allowed some of the band's songs to breathe and utilize quiet as part of sound. By disc number five (the VERY EXCELLENT Nothingface), Voivod came off like a metalized King Crimson or Can. Heck, Nothingface even had a cover of "Astronomy Domine" from psychedelic-era Pink Floyd.

By the time that landmark disk hit, the ubiquitously named band members ("Piggy", "Blacky", "Snake", and "Away") had each become very accomplished musicians and songwriters. Their English had gotten better and they were confidently exploring new musical terrain with each release.

Angel Rat was poised to be Voivod's mass breakthrough. Produced by noted Rush knob-twiddler Terry Brown and armed with their most bracing batch of songs, Voivod confidently dropped one of the best albums of 1991 only to have it go plop under the wave of noise that was known as Grunge.

So what makes Angel Rat the little album that tried really hard but didn't? Just about everything. Clear production, jazz-influenced guitar structures (!), well-accomplished time changes that don't sound forced, and lyrics that take you from inward reflection all the way to outer space. All of this is accomplished within a framework of metal-influenced music that is a treat to listen to.

From "Clouds in My House"

Zoning In A Hall of Glass
Plasma Flowing From A Cask
Piercing Overtones
Mainline Into My Backpack

It's Full of Clouds In My House

A Grey Hive... Humming White Souls...

Frenzy Reviving The Room
Energized By Many Flumes
Drip-Drop, On My Head
Wakes Me From A Thousand Moons

Circle Dance Around A Cave
All Movement Brings A Message
Larvae, In Their Holes
Waiting For A Summer Daze

Pretty trippy, huh? They follow this gem of of a head trip with insistent rocker the Prow, with its relentless pace drives the listener along the journey with the song's protagonists, just to bust out with a echo-laden, fast note guitar solo, giving pause only for the last stanza of lyrics, before turning into a noodling lead that never tries to leave the song, instead staying part of a cohesive whole.

Later, the lilting title track provides one of the most evocative opening and closing lines I've ever heard in a rock song

"The Idiot Walks Along A Canvas..."

This lyrical image brackets a parable of self-confidence (or lack thereof) couched in terms of an unnamed Icarus-like figure daring to fly or plummet with equal aplomb.

"Rat or Angel? Does One Really Know?"

It's all heady, challenging stuff, and it's a shame that this record was effectively ignored upon its release. I urge you to give Angel Rat a fair listen. It may take you a few spins to find your way in, but you'll be justly rewarded once you do.

GopherDave Grade: 8.1/10

Track Listing

01. Shortwave Intro
02. Panorama
03. Clouds In My House
04. the Prow
05. Best Regards
06. Twin Dummy
07. Angel Rat
08. Golem
09. the Outcast
10. Nuage Fractal
11. Freedoom
12. None of the Above

Lyrics Copyright (C) 1991 by Voivod. Published by Willesden Music, Inc. BMI. Used without permission, but with no affront meant to the band Voivod or Willesden Music, Inc. BMI.


  1. Cool. I got to see Voivod in 2003 at Ozzfest. Granted I doubt it was the same line up as this album, but they were still pretty good.

  2. It would have been three-quarters of it.

    The only change would have been replacing "Blacky" on bass with "Jasonic" a.k.a. Jason Newstead.

    And the later albums they did with Newstead are pretty good as well.

    -- GD

  3. Yeah, Newstead was the reason I was there. Not the reason I was at the second stage watching Voivod, the ENTIRE reason I bought a ticket to Ozzfest.