Voivod – Synchro Anarchy
Century Media Records
Release Date: 11/02/22
Running Time: 47:00
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
They’ve got a history of over 40 years, 14 previous studio albums and have a deserved reputation as innovative Progressive Thrash musicians whose style has never been static. Linked as part of the Canadian ‘big 4’ alongside Annihilator, Sacrifice and Razor, I still struggle as to why Voivod have never really floated my boat. I’ve never really gelled although I am fully aware and appreciative of their status and quality. Taking this album to review therefore pushed me into uncomfortable and risky territory; the risk of upsetting the legions of the band’s devoted fan base as well as approaching a band with such a history with only limited knowledge of their rich and illustrious past. So, the caveat to start with is that I’m taking this without much in the way of past baggage and presenting a review based in the main on the strength of ‘Synchro Anarchy’ and not the band’s entire catalogue.
It’s helpful to drop back an album or two so I did some due diligence and caught up with 2018’s ‘The Wake’, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would. With the same line-up appearing on ‘Synchro Anarchy’, apparently for the first time since 2009’s ‘Infini’ there is at least a consistency within the band. Not that they need it. Few bands are as highly regarded by those that “know”. Ostensibly, like both Rush and Devin Townsend, both Canadian (obviously), you either ‘get’ Voivod or you don’t. So, I’m going to buck the trend and say that whilst ‘Synchro Anarchy’ is certainly an enjoyable and listenable album, I’m neither disappearing into raptures nor screaming in anguish for it to be turned off.
Fans will be familiar with the first three tracks on the album, Voivod having released them as singles in advance of the full album release. The album opens with the twisted contortions of ‘Paranormalium,’ a dynamic and crushingly heavy track that links the concluding guitar melody on ‘Sonic Mycelium’, the final song on ‘The Wake’. The band are clear that they wanted to connect both releases, “as 2 parallel worlds can connect through distorted space-time, black holes, vibrations, spirituality or anything else.” The melody returns several times during the track, whilst the vibrant and chugging bass lines propel the song forward. The angular, complicated time signatures and jagged riffing combined with Snake’s distinctive vocal delivery make it a dynamic album opener.
It’s a similar pattern on the title track that follows. It pulses and winds its way along, curling in and out, carving a sonic soundscape which is intricately delivered. And whilst Voivod aren’t afraid to use the same patterns, there is enough variation to create distinct and individually carved records. ‘Planet Eaters’ has an underlying groove which provides it with a unique feel, thanks to the seismic, irregular riff and pointed design.
If you want to listen to a track that builds both tension and tempo then focus on ‘Mind Clocks’ which ramps up both as the six minutes plus progresses. By the end, it’s at hyper speed in pace before shaving a little off the speed. It’s intricate, complex, and clever, with the interplay between the musicians behind Snake’s distinctive vocals impressive.
Whilst Voivod’s style and patterns are distinctive, they are still able to mix it up. The groove and semi-Thrash of ‘Sleeve Off’ with its industrial pounding contrasts with much on the album. The Sabbath riff that starts ‘Holographic Thinking’ gives way to a lighter yet still heavy track which weaves its spell, jinking and diving along. And throughout there is no doubt why the band are so revered. The musicianship is exemplary, the tracks beautifully constructed – no bolting together anything here. The final song is no different, ‘Memory Failure’ being a fabulous fusion of sounds, rhythms, and sonic elements.
‘Synchro Anarchy’ will make the top ten lists for many this year. Voivod remain as unique and individual as they have ever been. It’s an album I could listen to repeatedly without a problem. And that is as high praise as I can give it. They may not fully float my boat but I’m no longer sinking. Maybe it is time to give that back catalogue another go after all.
02. Synchro Anarchy
03. Planet Eaters
04. Mind Clock
05. Sleeves Off
06. Holographic Thinking
07. The World Today
08. Quest For Nothing
09. Memory Failure
Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger – Vocals
Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain – Guitar
Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche – Bass
Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – Drums
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.