Day 14 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for the album you’ve wither waited the longest to receive, or the longest to be released. I’ve got two albums that I ordered back in November that were supposed to be released and six months later I’m still waiting (though one is due to get here next week). And the longest I’ve waited for something that was already shipped I wrote about last year. So how about an album that took 31 years to get a North American release? I may have already featured it a few weeks ago during my Record Store Day excursion, but it’s always a good time to talk about Voivod, and their beguiling release Angel Rat.
Angel Rat wasn’t my first exposure to Voivod (that was Dimension Hatröss, during a shopping excursion as kids where we each bought cassettes of bands we had never heard of but liked the cover: I grabbed Lȧȧz Rockit’s Annihilation Principle), it was the first Voivod I ever purchased on CD when it was first released. Listening back to it now the charges of Voivod going mainstream are kind of ridiculous. The music may be more streamlined, but there is certainly no mistaking this band for anyone other than Voivod. Even the single-worthy hooks of a song like “Clouds in My House” are chock full of the dissonant riffing that was always a signature of the band. Snake’s vocals are the clearest they’ve ever been, but his vocal melodies are still very much in that twisted progressive vein that was just as pronounced on albums as early as Killing Technology.
“Panorama” is a great opening rocker, and “The Prow” has a chorus that I’ve never gotten out of my mind since first hearing it. When it transitions to the progressive, lurching bridge with the keyboards it’s just a monster of a track. The production and recording by Terry Brown is fantastic: I may be imagining it but there are certain moments where I can detect touches of Rush in the album, and I’ll credit that to Brown’s contributions to the sound of the record. Just the sound of Piggy’s solo on “Best Regards” alone warrants giving Brown a shout out for how good the record is.
Reading through Greg Prat’s defense of the album for Decibel he talks about how underrated the lyrics for Angel Rat are, and moving from the frantic rock of “Twin Dummy” to the more somber title track taking the time to listen and absorb the words, I’m particularly taking with the fraught poetry of “Angel Rat” and how the music matches the disconcerting play of words, like “A gruesome rain, a seraph wailing / Flapping madly, shaking on the wing” – how can you hear this and still think Voivod were selling out on this record?
Side 2 of Angel Rat kicks off with “Golem” and after a disorienting blues rock riffs kicks the song off it travels immediately into otherworldly rock riffing that reminds you this is the same band who never met a diminished 5th they didn’t like. And damn that middle section goes to another galaxy. “The Outcast” keeps the album on a tight rock course for its second half, and things don’t let up through the prog attack of “Nuage Fractal” with its odd slide guitar juxtaposed against some great tight riffs. “Freedoom” really plays into the psychedelic aspects the band was exploring, and for a moment I could almost believe this was a Red Hot Chili Peppers song until the band explodes in some far reaching rock. “None of the Above” return to the more driving rock sound indicative of Angel Rat, but as I’ve come to understand listening to this album over the course of the last few weeks, that sound is so wholly a part of of Voivod you can’t really take this as an outlier.
It’s whole cloth Voivod doing what they’ve always done – moving outwards and encompassing everything in their unique sound.