VOIVOD – “Morgöth Tales”
Ltd. CD Jewelcase in O-Card, LP, Digital Album
Street Date: July 21st, 2023
January 7, 1983: Voïvod is officially birthed.
After a couple years of seeking the right chemistry, establishing direction, and, in some cases, learning how to play their instruments, the four basic forces – Away, Snake, Piggy and Blacky – officially fire up the engines of their roaring post-apocalypse machine.
January 7, 2023: Voïvod begin tracking an album in RadicArt Recording Studio.
It’s their 16th studio endeavor, and one of a rather different sort, even for them. The project revisits songs from a wide variety of Voïvod eras, recorded by the current core four: Away, Snake, Chewy and Rocky. The album, Morgöth Tales, also features a new song of the same name, recorded especially for this occasion.
Spanning 40 years and 15 studio albums, five official lineups, countless tours, creative shifts, changing tides, road accidents and unspeakable tragedies, this entity, born in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada, has persevered and gathered hordes of dedicated followers for one of the most fascinating rides in metal’s storied and ever-growing history.
Knowing a big anniversary was looming, Voïvod initially began considering a compilation that would span every album and every era of their existence. But the idea quickly shifted to something rather more productive: they would re-record songs from their many phases, with a focus on more obscure tracks. Nothing obvious, nothing they have featured heavily in their live history. It would be a way for the celebrated current lineup to throw their own celebration of the band’s rich history.
By December ’22, the band had decided on nine tracks -- everything from the seminal early albums to Angel Rat, Phobos and 2003’s underrated self-titled album found representation. The most surprising choice, perhaps, is “Condemned to the Gallows”, a song that hadn’t been played live since the primordial era and never appeared on an album. It was, of course, the song that introduced the world outside Canada to Voïvod, via Metal Blade compilation Metal Massacre V.
Even for a nascent, naïve young Voïvod, “Condemned to the Gallows” is a well-written song, proving the band were mature and confident in their direction, even in the earliest stage. But it’s also the only song that nakedly reveals one of their main influences, according to drummer and founding member, Michel “Away” Langevin: “Revisiting this song, it’s really where I realized that we had a very strong influence from British metal. I can recognize Tank, Raven, Motörhead, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden in what I’m trying to do on drums. In some parts I can tell that I was trying to copy Clive Burr. So, in a way, it’s our New Wave of British Heavy Metal song.”
There were some surprises for the band, as when they dusted off ancient Rrröööaaarrr number, “Thrashing Rage”. Langevin: “Something that I came to realize while we were recording ‘Thrashing Rage’ for this anniversary album, is that even though it’s really thrash metal, there were already some prog elements, in terms of structures and time signatures and all that. It’s just that the way it was delivered was really punk and thrash metal. So even on the first album, War and Pain, there were some prog elements in there, hidden in the punk-metal. I came to realize that, all the way, we were always some sort of prog metal band.”
This merger-and-clash of punk, thrash and prog becomes ever more apparent in the new 2023 versions of “Killing Technology”, “Macrosolutions to Megaproblems” and “Pre-Ignition”. These songs originally appeared on Killing Technology, Dimension Hatröss and Nothingface, respectively. Somewhat paradoxically, this period represents the band at its most commercially successful and complicated. With the high ability level of guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain and Dominic “Rocky” Laroche, these are handled capably by the new lineup, the songs given a unified sheen under the keen production eye of producer/engineer Francis Perron. They are, however, no easier to perform today, no matter how much ability exists in the band’s current lineup. As Langevin notes, “These are very hard songs to play. The parts are coming at you quick, so I really have to focus and think about what’s coming up next, otherwise I’m going to miss the curve and everybody’s going to follow me into the black hole.”
A comparative rarity, “Nuage Fractal”, is something Voïvod has never played live, from an album that remains mysterious and contentious. Angel Rat has been represented by the current lineup, in the live sitting, with constant set favorite “The Prow,” but for Morgöth Tales, the band chose to pick a song that is not only the most Nothingface-esque composition on Angel Rat, but also seems tailor-made for the current Mark V lineup of the band.
In 1991, after Angel Rat was in the can, the four basic forces became smashed atoms: bassist Blacky exited, kicking off a series of lineup alterations. Voïvod being Voïvod, they rebounded strongly in 1993 with The Outer Limits, represented here by a shiny new version of “Fix My Heart”, something the band have been playing live in recent years.
The songs chosen from 1997’s Phobos and 2003’s Voïvod are real treats for the diehard Voïvodian. And with these choices, the band aimed to honor veterans of past lineups for their invaluable service. So it is that Eric Forrest returns to vocalize Phobos opener “Rise”, a behemoth of a track from an equally oppressive album. It sounds fresh in the hands of the current lineup, with a brighter production than the sludge/haze aesthetic of Phobos. So, too, does “Rebel Robot” sound like a natural in the hands of Chewy, blasting Piggy’s kinetic riffs 20 years into the present. With Jason Newsted returning to lay down the propulsive bass lines, it brings that song and, hopefully, the entire Voïvod album to an expanded, new-generation fan base that may not have given the album proper due the first time around.
And then there’s new song and album title namesake, “Morgöth Tales”, a track written especially for this album. While reflecting the direction taken by 2022’s Synchro Anarchy album, it also does something rare for Voïvod: it intentionally looks behind them, grabbing elements from previous eras, in the spirit of this particular celebration of longevity and creative evolution.
This all bodes well for the Voïvod set list scheme circa 2023, as the band plans to air many of these refurbished tunes amidst a refreshed 40th anniversary set list. With some European dates already announced, and more to follow, both in Europe and their North American homeland, this celebration will be a particularly jubilant one for band and fans alike.
The marking of four decades as a unique and utterly creative metal institution finds Voïvod riding a crest of adulation. They survived the fickle whims of music trends that didn’t always welcome them; they survived a road accident that almost killed bassist/vocalist Eric Forrest; they even narrowly survived total collapse, with the unthinkable, premature death of guitarist, founding member, and spiritual center, Denis “Piggy” D’amour. But here they are, claiming their stake on this ravaged planet. The entity is as strong and stable as it’s been since the band was founded 40 years ago. Recent artistic triumphs of The Wake and Synchro Anarchy have proven this. And just like they always have, once the Morgöth Tales have been told, they will turn the corner into 2024 concentrating only on the future…
VOIVOD - “Morgöth Tales” (48:56)
1. Condemned To The Gallows (2023 Version) (04:33)
2. Thrashing Rage (2023 Version) (04:15)
3. Killing Technology (2023 Version) (06:31)
4. Macrosolutions To Megaproblems (2023 Version) (05:19)
5. Pre-Ignition (2023 Version) (05:07)
6. Nuage Fractal (2023 Version) (03:41)
7. Fix My Heart (2023 Version) (04:36)
8. Rise (2023 Version, feat. Eric Forrest) (05:00)
9. Rebel Robot (2023 Version, feat. Jason Newsted) (04:50)
10. Morgöth Tales (04:57)
Note: The CD and Digital Album formats come with a Public Image Ltd. cover as bonus track: 11. Home (04:38). Total album playing time then is 53:34 minutes.
Denis “Snake” Belanger – Vocals
Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain – Guitar
Dominic “Rocky” Laroche – Bass
Michel “Away” Langevin – Drums
VOIVOD Select Discography:
The studio works:
War and Pain, 1984
Killing Technology, 1987
Dimension Hatröss, 1988
Angel Rat, 1991
The Outer Limits, 1993
Kronik (compilation), 1998
Target Earth, 2013
Post Society (EP), 2016
The Wake, 2018
Synchro Anarchy, 2022
Morgöth Tales, 2023
The live works:
Voïvod Lives, 2000
Tatsumaki: Voïvod in Japan (DVD), 2009
Live at Roadburn 2011 (released 2012)
Warriors of Ice, 2011
Lost Machine – Live, 2020