Album Review: Voivod – Morgöth Tales
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh
I’m definitely starting to feel my age, judging by the number of metal bands that are celebrating 40-year anniversaries in 2023, Megadeth, Testament, and Canadian sci-fi prog/thrash innovators Voïvod to name but a few. To commemorate this landmark event, Voïvod are releasing an album of re-recordings from past releases, very similar to last year’s Sodom release '40 Years at War - The Greatest Hell of Sodom' compilation.
Formed back in 1981, in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada, by guitarist Piggy (Denis D’Amour) and bassist Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault) and soon joined by drummer Away (Michel Langevin) and then later, vocalist Snake (Denis Bélanger) and after releasing several demos they were picked up by Brian Slagel, who signed them up to Metal Blade Records in 1984.
‘Morgöth Tales’, the name derived from an early 1984 demo ‘Morgöth Invasion’ is a re-recording of older songs, nine of which are from the years which involved Piggy (who sadly passed away in 2005 from complications of colon cancer), and one new song, the title track. Starting with ‘Condemned to the Gallows’, originally on the ‘Anachronism’ demo and also released on the ‘Metal Massacre V’ compilation, the early recordings of this track were raw to say the least, bass heavy with spikey guitars, the re-recording allows the full power of the thick riffs and bluesy licks to shine through, and Snake gives an honest, rough interpretation of his younger self.
Great start, and things continue in that vein with ‘Thrashing Rage’ from 'Rrröööaaarrr', all militaristic percussion, pulsing bass, and choppy guitar. In fact, these new versions of these early songs are brilliantly executed, as the production values back then were primitive at best, but I feel the next three that follow; the title-track from 'Killing Technology', ‘Macrosolutions to Megaproblems’ from 'Dimension Hatröss' and ‘Pre-Ignition’ from my personal favourite 'Nothingface', are slightly less effective, as they come from almost untouchable releases which were near faultless to begin with, saying that these are very well executed and still hugely enjoyable.
The 'Angel Rat' and 'The Outer Limits' albums, saw the band lose most of their thrash influences for a more prog-rock approach, both ‘Nuage Fractal’ and ‘Fix My Heart’ are good choices and the beefed-up modern sound breathes new life into these milder more experimental tracks. Two of the more interesting titles to get the re-recording treatment are the ones from a less commercially successful period of the band, with songs from albums featuring bassist/vocalist E-Force (Eric Forrest), who was with the band from 1994-2001, and bassist Jasonic (none other than Jason Newstead) 2001 -2008. ‘Rise’ from the 'Phobos' album and also ‘Rebel Robot’ from the eponymous 'Voïvod', and both songs have those guys as guests on each track respectively, which is a nice touch. ‘Rise’ is a slower, doomier affair, with a disjointed arrangement, and is a real highlight, with Snake and E-Force sharing vocal duties. ‘Rebel Robot’ is another standout with its staccato beat and relentless, ambitious riffing, and probably not unexpectedly featuring plenty of bass guitar. Finishing the album is the title-track ‘Morgöth Tales’, an experimental song, with a fractured arrangement with angular riffs and a busy bassine, interspersed with more spacey, progressive parts, and faster thrashy sections, the lyrics contain earlier song titles, and overall, it’s a great homage to all eras of the group’s past.
How you receive this anniversary release, will be partly whether you’re a fan of re-recordings or not, but this chronological re-working of tracks, some deeper cuts than others, gives them a fresh slant, especially the likes of ‘Rise’ and ‘Rebel Robot’, that, plus a brand-new track makes this retrospective collection, good value. The band certainly sound like they enjoyed this revisit to the back catalogue, and the journey wonderfully displays the progression the band made over those years. OK, so maybe a few more deeper cuts, or some changes to the arrangements or alternative takes could have been considered, but on the whole this is both a good introduction for those less familiar with the band's output and also for existing fans as a complementary release to the main discography. I certainly had a blast listening to these revisited classics with fresh ears. And let's hope there are many more years to come.