Album Review: Voivod - The End of Dormancy
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh
Voivod are a band that surely need no introduction, the Canadian prog-thrash giants have been around since even I was in short trousers, OK, not quite. For the younger reader, the uneducated, and for those who have been living in a cupboard for the last 35 odd years, Voivod are a truly unique band, that incorporate many styles into their eclectic sound, including (and this list is in no way exhaustive) punk, thrash, jazz, prog rock, speed metal, avant-garde and much more.
The band has changed remarkably since their primitive debut album ‘War & Pain’ and it’s only slightly more refined follow-up ‘Rrröööaaarrr’, whilst still retaining their unique style. The band evolved and matured tremendously over the next three albums, ‘Killing Technology’, ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and arguably their most famous album ‘Nothingface’, before heading in a more ‘alt/prog-rock’ direction with ‘Angel Rat’ and the ‘The Outer Limits’. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think that the band would split with the tragic death of guitarist and founding member Denis D'Amour (Piggy), his unique style and songwriting being the bedrock of the band’s sound. They bravely soldiered on however and continued using riffs Piggy had left on his laptop, together with instructions on how the band should use them. It should also be noted that the band was also home for a few years for ex-Metallica (and ex Flotsam & Jetsam) bassist Jason Newsted. But it wasn’t until the band recruited, originally as just a touring member, new guitarist Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain, a jazz and pop music teacher, and long-time Voivod fan, that the band were rejuvenated and confident to release completely new material. This ended up being the absolutely astounding ‘Target Earth’, which largely went back to the sound of their most successful period, the aforementioned ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and Nothingface’. Where ‘Target Earth’ steadied and pointed the ship back in the right direction, latest album ‘The Wake’ saw the band add and expand to their already multifaceted sound in an even more ambitious direction.
And this is where we pick up the story again, ‘The End of Dormancy’ was originally the second track on ‘The Wake’ and where the album derives it’s name, and was already a standout track, being almost 8 minutes long and containing many different parts from the sweeping, sombre, space-jazz opening riff, the chaotic turnaround into the death-march middle section, before morphing into, a muted thrash segment and the solemn almost ballad-like three-quarter portion, before galloping to the dramatic end. Now when the band was asked if they would perform at the 2019 Montreal Jazz festival, the band thought they could do something special for the occasion. Chewy wrote and added a brass a section, using trumpets, trombones and saxophone. That live version was then replicated in the studio, into the opening track for this EP, ‘The End of Dormancy (Metal Section)’, the use of these instruments adds a completely new tension and drama to an already formidable song. I personally must admit, I’m not usually a fan of brass instruments, but in this context, I think it works fantastically well. Rounding out the track listing, is the original live version from the Montreal festival, and a live version of ‘The Unknown Knows’ from ‘Nothingface’, unfortunately without a brass accompaniment, as the band didn’t have time to write more than one brass arrangement.
Whether you feel this is an essential purchase or not, is probably dependant on how big a fan you are of the band, at only three tracks, and two of those different versions of the same track, it’s probably not the best value for money. What I would say is though, I do implore you listen to this rather special version at least once, even if it’s just checking out the accompanying video, as it is very poignant. Enjoy.