I'm going to ask for your indulgence and forgiveness for this review's blatantly personal tone. If you've been reading my writing, you're used to it already when it comes to VOIVOD. This is a band that has affected my core as much as much my ears since 1987 when a longtime buddy placed the cassettes for "Rrrooaarrr" and "Killing Technology" in my hands and said, "This is you all over, dude." Goddamn, was he spot-on. I declared the group the band of the future in my college music column after seeing the group outclass its openers, SOUNDGARDEN and FAITH NO MORE. Yeah, openers. Further, I geeked like kids today over fidget spinners when Mechanic Records sent me a fat "Nothingface" care package, the band's 1989 release, as a thank you for my emphatic words. My interactions with core members Snake, Away and Blacky over the years, way up there in my personal highlights.
So yeah, consider this a heavily biased, fanboy-style write-up. I fucking love VOIVOD. If there's one band in all of metal who changed the climate in a way the scene was hardly prepared for, it's this one. Yeah, CELTIC FROST was a game changer. KREATOR, game changer. MERCYFUL FATE and HELLOWEEN, game changers. In their own way, by bridging two underground sanctions formerly at war with one another, D.R.I. and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES were game changers. IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST wrote the rule book. METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX, The Big Four, collectively compiled a sizable addendum. VOIVOD wrote it's own volume.
You either came to VOIVOD's 1988 magnum opus, "Dimension Hatröss", prepared for the mechanized, thrashing splendor augmenting the album's technocratic hellhole or you weren't. Unfortunately, "Dimension Hatröss" needed many years for a larger audience to see the gift that it was, not only to thrash and metal, but also to music as a whole. Yes, "Nothingface" became VOIVOD's Dali-esque, imperial monument to metal progression. It was an astounding work of art that likewise only fell upon the ears of a cult audience. "Dimension Hatröss", however, had the balls to say there was more than velocity in thrash to dial into.
The difference between 1984's "War And Pain" and "Dimension Hatröss" is warp-speed evolution. If you remember the first time you heard it, damnation, how can you not rejoice for that first revelatory experience of "Dimension Hatröss"? Did it not feel like metal had gone intelligentsia without the posturing? Wasn't it a realization that fringe culture could challenge academia head-on? Listen to this album, man, and look at the world today. Not much has changed, even with all the caveats VOIVOD proffered. Frightening, isn't it? Denis "Snake" Belanger, Michel "Away" Langevin, Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault and the late Denis "Piggy" D'Amour weren't merely laying out the regularity of doom through "Tribal Convictions", one of metal's greatest singular achievements.
"Killing Technology", 1987, had already proven that there was a new frontier to charge fearlessly into at hyperspeed. "Tornado" possesses one of the finest melodies set to deafening alacrity in metal history, while the title cut out whizzes even that stellar track. "Dimension Hatröss", a mother-lovin' game changer. Piggy's alarm-pealing note plucks on the intro to "Chaosmongers", picked up by Blacky's funky bass thwacks, followed by Away's jiving tempos, all are ushered into a spectacular, scale-happy squall. Flipping game changing.
Noise Records is having a reissue party, and, deservingly, VOIVOD is getting a monster dress up with deluxe editions of "Rrroooaaarrrv" "Killing Technology" and "Dimension Hatröss". Each package is crammed with a ton of bonus footage, including bootleg concert videos. In this case, the "Dimension Hatröss" three-disc deluxe edition comes stuffed with an audio live disc, featuring shows circa 1988 at Montreal's Spectrum. There's also a DVD containing the "Dimension Hatröss" demos, a slide shows and four fan-shot U.S. gigs in Detroit; Houston; Norwalk, CT and Long Beach, CA.
No matter how many times you listen to "Dimension Hatröss", there's always something to behold. A large portion of that can be attributed to Piggy's brilliance; here he spooled some of his most iconic riffs and solos. This album is where Blacky really began to glue his bass note-for-note with Piggy, even though they were already congruent on "Killing Technology". The way they follow each other like aural shadows on "Chaosmongers", "Cosmic Drama", "Technocratic Manipulators", "Psychic Vacuum" and "Macrosolutions To Megaproblems", the latter of which is astounding work, is akin to Steve Harris and his IRON MAIDEN shredders, only brisker.
"Dimension Hatröss"'s vibrancy counters its downer dystopian theme. Conceived overtop a strip club with a biker gang reputedly trafficking drugs and a battering climate, described by the band as a war zone, "Dimension Hatröss" sounds like its surroundings—only with twenty times the urgency. Earth is screwed, and God help anyone who makes it into outer space who hasn't learned some introspection, much less well-versed fundamental deliberation. No more control, leave minds alone, this is it, we're finished. Such is the foundation of "Dimension Hatröss" in a post Space Invaders, post Warren-era Vampirella world that inadvertently gave birth to The Voivod, the celestial nosferatu who watches our world and omnisciently waits for it to implode. After all, nothing can stop this psychic vacuum: it...really...exists.
Thrash was never the same after "Dimension Hatröss", and still, to this day, there's not a single band playing over 80 miles an hour that churns this much cerebral and progressive depth. "Dimension Hatröss" was not merely a release in 1988, but a happening. Granted, there's the goof-around rip on Neal Hefti's 1966 "Batman" theme to check down the album's overt seriousness. THE JAM still today nailing the best cover of "Batman", VOIVOD's playful jaunt, a bonus track appearing on Noise's original CD release, is a hilarious thumb bite at the exhaustive conception behind this strenuous body of work.
If you were there the first time, there's nothing I've said that you don't know already. If you have yet to step into this thrashed and progged cyber-cosm, I truly envy you. If you don't shudder with wonderment at the engulfing intro to "Experiment", you've already missed the point. Sidebar, while watching the DVD portion, try not to get a little misty-eyed on the "Live at Blondies" show, as the camera is largely focused on Piggy. His launch into "Experiment" is euphoric and, given his ultimate passing, heartrending.
It's evident by the amount of songs from "Dimension Hatröss"—7 out of 8, not including "Batman"—that the band played live back in the day, just how proud VOIVOD was of an album that, in 1988, should've rattled the entire metal community. If you missed this important moment in music, now's the time to rectify the omission. As Snake would chime, if you're just sitting blind, integrity you won't find.