Wednesday, January 13, 2010

As the Palaces Burned: Voivod - Phobos

On September 24, 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind. Nine years later, a reunited Iron Maiden played Madison Square Garden. The time in between was one of metal's bleaker periods, where the genre's mainstream face all but disappeared and it retreated not just underground, but underwater. To celebrate the rare gems of this dark time - and remember our fortune now that metal has ceased to be such a dirty word - we're launching As the Palaces Burned, a weekly series published every Wednesday that will cover metal albums of note released between 1991 and 2000.

Today’s entry is Voivod’s brilliant 1997 album Phobos.

In 1994, after Snake and Blacky had both left Voivod, they were both replaced by one man, Eric Forrest. By playing bass and singing, he briefly led Voivod into the storied pantheon of Canadian power trios. Their first album with this lineup, 1995’s Negatron, was a complete bust. The band opted for a traditional death metal sound which probably seemed like a solid commercial decision at the time, but fell completely flat, alienating those fans who chose to stick with this lineup.

Here is an example of the blah that was Negatron:

But after a few years off, Voivod came back with a vengeance, and in 1997 this lineup released Phobos. Not only did they get their groove back, it is one of the consistently strongest albums in their catalog. And it came in completely under the radar. Negatron built up so much bad will among the remaining Voivod loyalists that no one bothered to listen to this album the first time around. I bought it for the King Crimson cover when it came out (“21st Century Schizoid Man,” it was hard to hear music in 1997 you didn’t pay for) and wound up owning a masterpiece.

Everything about this album showcases what made Voivod great. The abstract sci-fi lyrics, snarling punk vocals updated with a bit of a death metal grunt, progressive time signatures, and that unmistakably Piggy riffing. Oh the riffs, they are killer on this album. Think Killing Technology, but updated for the death metal kids.

Although that first reunion record with Snake, 2003’s self titled Voivod was great, I don’t think that album touched the creative energy or tripped out intensity of Phobos. What a shame it went completely under the radar.

Title Track Phobos:

The Tower:

No comments: