Nobody should be surprised that Voivod’s fourteenth full-length The Wake is this excellent. After all, 2013’s Target Earth and 2016’s Post Society EP proved that the Quebec prog legends could produce fresh material that lived up to classics like Dimension Hatröss and Nothingface. Truth be told, The Wake offers much of that same quirky tech thrash, but the stakes were raised somewhere between releases. If its immediate predecessors were tentative first steps toward a new beginning, then this is where the band truly flings itself from the nest.
With original bassist Blacky gone (again) and a fellow named Rocky in his place, it’s seemingly all up to guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain to engineer that signature Voivod sound. Fortunately, he assumes command fantastically with a slew of deceptively catchy riffs, choppy rhythms, clean atmospherics, and disorienting solos all delivered in bright, high-pitched dissonance. The bass could stand to be a bit higher in the mix, but it provides many of the same tricks.
Of course, the two original members don’t slouch either. Away’s blend of punk, metal, and jazz drumming is as reliable as ever, but vocalist Snake is the album’s other main MVP. In addition to not being as overwhelmed by the guitars, his lines are among the most developed and emotive of his career. He still isn’t the most technically impressive singer out there, and his robotic sneer remains omnipresent, but his performance could hardly be called one dimensional. Those not sold on him before will still consider him an acquired taste, but longtime fans are sure to appreciate the enhancement.
But even with the energized band chemistry, the orchestral inclusions are what truly make The Wake stand out from every other Voivod album. They truly add to the songs’ various moods as the high speeds of “Iconspiracy” get more intense, the plodding march on “Always Moving” adds more dissonance, and the twelve minute “Sonic Mycelium” encompasses the album’s various themes with extra grandiosity. Considering Voivod has always had more Stravinsky tinges than your average metal group, it’s surprising that a move like this wasn’t made sooner.
Thinking of The Wake as Voivod’s best album runs the risk of hyperbole, but it is easily one of the band’s grandest achievements. It strikes the perfect balance of emulating their classic style while still offering fresh elements, and the band dynamic is tight despite only featuring two original members. This is an album that should be appreciated by any listener whether they’ve never listened to Voivod before, lost track of them in the 90s, or have been there every step of the way. Truly a model example for both old and new bands to follow.
“The End of Dormancy”