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Voivod - Voivod
I really let this one sink in, although I didn't really have to, Voivod being a record that is the most immediate, warmly recorded, lovingly riffed of any Voivod package. Likely, this took the ears, production acumen and production facilities of new bassist Jasonic, a long-time fan and importantly, an objective set of ears and perhaps most importantly, a bassist, bass being what is lacking in about five ways on almost all the past Voivod albums. The result is a majestic, mainstream version of Voivod, fronted, of course, by returning vocalist Snake who snarls punk rock-like stark and personal observations in charmingly broken English. Voivod now has punch, along with songs, making for a less underground, less intellectual record, but one that whispers confidence, one that glides gracefully from innovative yet restrained track to track. Favourites come mid-record, both Rebel Robot and The Multiverse (the long-standing working title for the record) showcasing obtuse rhythms from drummer and ersatz leader of the band Michel Langevin, who, now having arrived, is no longer called Away. And indeed, with a wink, Voivod leave the freakier material for the end of the album - it is there to be had, but it is so well appointed and executed, you don't experience the rainbow of fatigues characteristic of digesting the old stuff. On that note, one point off of perfect, due to the concept of being flooded with satisfaction, leaving not much extra satisfaction to be had over the coming months and years. Bonus: this packaging rules... digi, lots of Michel's art, lyrics, embossing, stylish band photos... all told, many, many reasons for the bold move of self-titling.
Soilwork - Figure Number Five
Unleashing a follow-up to the Devin Townsend-produced Natural Born Chaos staggeringly quickly (less than a year has elapsed), Soilwork are potentially and proverbially stepping in it. That album was, of course, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles' record of the year, and it, in and of itself, had purists up in arms at the band's unabashed melodic passages. Record number five, Figure Number Five (also an oblique societal reference to the concept of the "fifth wheel") treads the same spongy, bouncy, thrash pop-tastic floorboards as its predecessor, with Bjorn switching between a good, er, five personas with ease. The riffs as well are a blast, particularly those buttressing Brickwalker (one proposed title for the album) and The Mindmaker. But the songs that will raise eyebrows the most will be thrash lullaby Departure Plan and Distortion Sleep, a track with my favourite Soilwork chorus of all time, amongst a cast of many very strong ones. The title track swing the scythe the other way, Bjorn ratching out in fine Swedish thrash fashion before death metalling the chorus. I'm totally hooked again, already playing this damn thing more than any record from the last eight weeks. And it's caused me to pull out the previous two again as well, so the Soilwork mojo is working its magic, although according to guitarist Peter Wichers, the faithful are saying that there are too many keyboards and not enough riffs! Man, to my mind, it's only a shade less heavy, maybe a little looser, basically as damn cool.
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