A day with VOIVOD – Aalborg Metal Festival

Thomas is finally back from the United States and thus ready for day two of Aalborg Metal Festival. He travelled not far from areas dear to H.P. Lovecraft. We take som fresh air near the Studenterhuset venue before the first show. Suddenly, behind us, Mister Michel ‘Away’ Langevin is going out to see what Aalborg looks like. Alert!

No problem with him: Michel is a nice person, calm and cool, but so enthusiastic to live this Voivod second life. We take pictures (not selfies!).

I ask him if he would mind if I join him a bit on his walk, showing him a picture with Piggy, Eric Forrest, him and your humble servant, taken just after the show in Paris at the Arapaho 27th November 1995, during the ‘Negatron’ tour. Time goes fast and it is not just a cliché, but the passion for music never goes down. Having the same mothertongue makes an easy contact even easier.

We talk about Piggy, of course, a brother to him, an immortal musician to me. We talk about the fantastic work done by Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain and Dominique ‘Rocky’ Laroche and their crucial part in Voivod’s return. And we talk about the future, with many good news. After the Deathcrusher tour, Voivod will return to the studio to record an EP we should get at the beginning of 2016, just before the first part of their U.S. tour with Vektor in February. A new record should also be released in 2016, 2017 at the latest.

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A few minutes later, I am so happy to also meet Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger for a picture and a promise is given: Voivod is back for good. I know that mon cousin du Québec is a man of his word.

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During the Spiders show I meet Daniel Mongrain. Chewy is an experienced guitarist, who played with many bands and artists. He was a member of Martyr, Gorguts, Capharnaum and works as a music teacher, but above all he is a fan of metal and many other kinds of music; and he is of course a Voivod die-hard fan, who knows Piggy’s parts and style like the back of his hand, who loves, feels and understands Voivod’s compositions and musical world.

Fun fact, we discovered Voivod in 1987 the same way, by watching the ‘Ravenous Medicine’ video and acquiring ‘Killing Technology’. Daniel decided to play guitar from this time. When I saw this mad video after midnight on French TV, I remember asking myself: ‘Who the hell are these guys?’. The rest is history, like this unforgettable show on the 10th July 1993 at Élysée Montmartre in Paris during ‘The Outer Limits’ tour.

Talking about ‘The Outer Limits’, as a never satisfied fan, I notice that no song from this (also) masterpiece has been played during the Deathcrusher tour. Chewy had actually a dream come true in a reformation show, when he played live for the first time the whole ‘Jack Luminous’.

Daniel met Jean-Yves ‘Blacky’ Thériault in 2002. They played together, became friends. Blacky introduced Dan to Away and Snake, they held an audition in 2008 and he joined the band. Their first show was at Montreal – Heavy MTL festival on the 22nd June 2008. Another show in Montreal, this time in december 2009, was recorded and released as ‘Warriors of Ice’ CD in 2011. Then, show after show, festival after festival, touring around the world, they decided to take the next step: starting the compositions of a brand new album, with Blacky and Chewy putting first some riffs together. ‘Target Earth’ was released on the 22nd of January 2013: a new era.

The challenge was to find the best balance between the legacy of the band and the fact that Dan had to be himself: it would have been absurd to try to be the clone of a unique musician like Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour. He had no problem to fit with the original trio, as he was already friend with Blacky and so welcomed by Away and Snake; and Voivod has always been his favorite band. So the excitement gained the upper hand over the stress he could feel in the beginning.

Chewy

Are you ready for Voivod live?
We get in our faces ‘Ripping Headaches’
from ‘Rrröööaaarrr’, then ‘Tribal Convictions’ from ‘Dimension Hatröss’ perfect for headbanging.
Kluskap O’Kom comes from ‘Target Earth’, but it is already a hymn for the band.
‘Dimension Hatröss’ is back with ‘Chaosmöngers’: irresistible!
And now comes ‘The Prow’ from ‘Angel Rat’, an album which did not receive a reception as good as expected when it was released in 1991. It became cult later and it is fully deserved: it is a masterpiece of alternative/progressive/psychedelic rock. Some idiots just could not stand it was different from the previous discography, even if its predecessors ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and ‘Nothingface’ were as progressive as they were fantastic.
Back to the roots and wildness: have a nice ‘Overreaction’ from ‘Killing Technology’.
‘Forever Mountain’ is the new song from the vinyl split single (with Napalm Death – ‘Phonetics for the Stupefied’). It could have matched on ‘Target Earth’, or on ‘Nothingface’ as well: out of time, pure Voivod, I love it.
When I listen to ‘Target Earth’ which IS a Voivod record, when I am seeing now Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain playing past and present Voivod songs on stage, I am definitely sure he was and is the right choice – or I should say the only choice – for Voivod to make the impossible possible: having a guitarist in Voivod who is not Piggy. I am not forgetting the top choice of Dominique ‘Rocky’ Laroche who had the overwhelming responsability to replace Blacky at short notice, when he decided to leave the band for personal reasons.

What kind of drummer is Away? Thrash metal? Progressive rock? Jazz? I have been listening to Voivod for soon 30 years: I just know that Michel Langevin’s groove is unique, as his artwork. He is the backbone of Voivod, always been in the band. It is a full pleasure to listen to him and watch him live right now.

Melodic or dissonant as Voivod guitar chords can be: that is my humble description of Snake’s thrash-punk-progressive-one-of-a-kind voice. He has presence, charisma and sense of humour. The show is full of intensity and fun, with four talented musicians happy as young kids to play together, and a thrilled crowd.

Voivod’s anthem ‘Voivod’ from ‘War and Pain’, naturally dedicated to Piggy, is closing a terrific 45-minute gig, a bit short for me after twenty years. But I appreciated each of these essential 2700 seconds. The party is not over: Napalm Death, Obituary and Carcass! What a glorious day!

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