Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Voivod - Synchro Anarchy (2022)

The Wake was, at least to me, another of Voivod's myriad masterworks which celebrated everything that had come before it, everything that this anomalous Canadian band had built into its DNA through the decades, and then pushed those parameters even further, fattening the envelope with some fresh ideas like a touch of orchestration or some riffs and arrangements which have naturally bled into the band's process with the integration of Chewy's great talents. That's a daunting act to follow, but to its credit, Synchro Anarchy strives really damn hard to do just that, and while it might not succeed 100% of the time in its task, it's an absolute scorcher that belongs on the shelves of anyone into inspired, original metal music, or maybe even music in general?!

Granted, this is my favorite band ever, and I'm biased, but until there are as many copies of Voivod as Michael Jackson out there in the world, I will not rest. This is the hill I want to die on! After hearing the first couple singles off of Synchro Anarchy, I was definitely feeling a heavy Dimension Hatröss vibe, as if the weirdness and grooving thrash of that particular record had been energized and updated for yet another decade. To an extent, that's true, as displayed through the weird dissonance of the chord sequences, thick cement-like bass grooves and almost drugged, introspective vocals, but once you've listened through this one a bunch and discovered its bigger picture, the album has a lot more going on, and like its predecessor, offers a few new spins on the considerable lexicon of the Canadians' progressive sci-fi metal tropes. At points I was hearing a little more of Chewy's death metal heritage splash into the writing, like a few of the brief tremolo picked runs in the opener "Paranormailum" before lurching into those warped jilted, extraterrestrial guitars.

A track like the titular "Synchro Anarchy" teases you with some of the old Piggy trademark chords, but splays them out in new rhythmic patterns beneath Snake's mesmerizing, punk-inflected hymns to retro and post-futurism. There are loads of details which are obvious from the get-go, but after increased listens through I started to enjoy them...increasingly, especially some of the warmer and more proggy flights of notation from Chewy. The other new-ish member, Rocky, also floods this album with what might be the fattest and most impactful bass-tone they've ever had, once again honoring his predecessor Blacky in full with lines that are odd, alien, funky and fresh when you run them up against about 99% of what other low-enders are performing in metal bands. He literally drives tracks like "Planet Eaters" out of the stratosphere, and the rest of the band has to find something tasty to distract us away from how amazing he is. To be fair, they do, and it all gels together so smoothly despite the obvious level of aggression, for Synchro Anarchy feels slightly more tense and hungry than Target Earth or The Wake.

It also doesn't hurt that the veterans, Snake and Away are at the top of their game with their own respective instruments and writing, and the production on this is totally killer. While I'm not always the biggest sucker for levels of polish like this, for what a band like Voivod is pulling off, it's so critical to get those volumes clear and potent and right in your face, because this is not a band that requires an atmospheric sheen to enhance it...the wondrous, frightening musical spaces they create are AUTOMATICALLY transports to otherworldly metal music parallels. And yet there are plenty of atmospheric effects added here anyways! There is not a note on the album that sounds mixed out of place, and Francis Perron absolutely nailed it. Away's artwork is as always a delight of that freaky pulp futurism we've seen before from the, as with the Post Society EP, and I really enjoyed letting each concept sink in while I stared at the accompanying imagery. The band's visual concepts ignite my nerdy imagination just as they did when I was a kid and first encountered the band.

What's more, there is not a single dud on the entire album. As strong as the first three tunes are, the album gets even BETTER as it goes along, and while highlights are not easy to pick out, tracks like the weird, pumping "Sleeves Off", churning "Holographic Thinking", and catchy-as-hell "Memory Failure" were initial standouts. Of course I was being hasty, because with each successive spin I've continued to appreciate the entire album even more, and it's one of those efforts where you could pull out single tracks for a quick, effective thrill, or just bask in the 48 minutes of genius. There are certainly moments that feel like visitations to the past, but plenty enough here to confirm that this Machine Is Far From Lost, the band's constant creativity is well-intact, they can honor their own history while forging ever further into the sparkling black depths of space metal. I hope I've got enough oxygen to follow along for as many light years as I can.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.75/10]

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