"Target Earth"

(Century Media)

01. Target Earth
02. Kluskap O'Kom
03. Empathy for the Enemy
04. Mechanical Mind
05. Warchaic
06. Resistance
07. Kaleidos
08. Corps Etranger
09. Artefact
10. Defiance

RATING: 8/10

Four years have passed since VOIVOD's last album, "Infini", and seven since the tragic demise of guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, but the Canadian progressive metal institution clearly has no plans of calling it a career.

No strangers to adversity, of course, the band has endured numerous lineup changes over the years (though, admittedly, none as traumatizing as Piggy's demise), so while it clearly took them a little longer to regroup and move ahead via 2013's eagerly anticipated "Target Earth", one can say, in retrospect, that another VOIVOD album was as inevitable as an inbound, civilization-wiping mega-asteroid.

That's right. You heard it here first: killer asteroids. Now where were we? Oh yes?

For this, VOIVOD's thirteenth studio album, ever present drummer Michel "Away" Langevin and long reinstated vocalist Denis "Snake" Belanger managed the coup of dragging founding bassist, Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault out of retirement (replacing the headline grabbing, but creatively ineffectual Jason Newsted), making it three-out-of-four original VOIVOD-ers - the better to facilitate new guitarist Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain's unenviable task of filling Piggy's space boots. To his credit, Mongrain blends right in, and so too does "Target Earth" blend in with numerous portions of VOIVOD's itinerant musical past, arguably making it the band's first truly "regressive" - not "progressive" - album, and, as such, likely good news for the band's oldest fans.

Well, not the oldest, since virtually none of its songs recall even traces of the wanton savagery that defined VOIVOD's first three, avant-thrash efforts (maybe the biting riffs of "Corps Etranger", the tribal drums of "Warchaic"); but rather their subsequent 'golden period,' beginning with 1988's "Dimension Hatross", culminating with the universally acclaimed "Nothingface" and universally debated "Angel Rat" (a brilliant, if divisive, musical adventure), and fading with '93's fatigued, uneven "The Outer Limits".

As a result, the more linear portions of the title track and "Resistance" might momentarily recall "Angel Rat", but the vast majority of these cuts - including world-beating standouts "Empathy for the Enemy" and "Mechanical Mind" - drink directly from the stimulating "Nothingface" wellspring: weaving deeper textures and unexpected riff and tempo changes into their notably expanded lengths (yes, most songs here notably average six or seven minutes).

As always, this particular course of songwriting action won't please all VOIVOD fans - how could it? - but for an album facing such high stakes in the wake of the band's often turbulent and more recently tragic history, the only verdict one can render weighs heavily in the Canuck quartet's favor. With so many decades-old metal bands beating dead horses out there, instead of retiring with dignity, it's truly refreshing to see VOIVOD forging onwards with dignity and creativity largely intact, whether progressing or regressing in progressive fashion.


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