Voivod_AngelRat_1Released just a few months after Metallica‘s self-titled record, Angel Rat finds Voivod among the earliest adopters of the slower, stripped-down approach that most thrash bands took in the 1990s. The album could almost qualify for our ’90s Metal Weirdness column, except for the fact that Voivod have always been weird (and would get even weirder as the decade continued). Unlike most of their peers at the time, though, Voivod wholeheartedly embraced their prog rock roots, enlisting legendary Rush producer Terry Brown to helm the Angel Rat sessions.

Opening cut “Panorama” exemplifies the new approach, built upon riffs that are decidedly more rock ‘n roll, yet with the band’s unique brand of dissonance still intact. This leads into “Clouds In My House,” which was the single/video from the album. “Clouds” is one of the better results of Voivod‘s new direction, with spacey chord progressions married to frontman Snake’s psychedelic, abstract lyrics. It’s hardly “metal,” but it works damn well.

Guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour may have been liberated from the contorted riffage of Nothingface and Dimension Hatross, but his playing is as adventurous as ever, diving headfirst into jazzy chord voicings and using effects pedals to create unique atmospheres. Bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault is prominently featured throughout, with several songs having bass intros or solo spots. It’s also worth noting that, with Brown at the mixing board, Blacky’s tone sounds remarkably like Geddy Lee at times. In fact, the Voivod/Brown pairing may have been a better idea on paper than in reality, as some of the production choices have not aged well.

The rock riffs continue with “The Prow,” which has almost a 60’s surf vibe to it, mostly due to Away’s drum beats. The deceptively simple “Freedoom” is one of Voivod‘s more progressive compositions, beginning with a tranquil, major-key introduction before subtly heading into darker territories. Denis “Snake” Belanger (vocals) is at his most philosophical here, and his repeated bellow of “I won’t last forever” is both heart-wrenching and prophetic. Also worth noting is that Angel Rat is that Voivod abandoned their trademark sci-fi lyrics on this record, instead taking influence from various folk tales and legends.

Granted, not every song is a winner here. On a record with a bunch of similarly mid-paced songs, “Twin Dummy” is probably the weakest one, with an especially grating bridge section. “Nuage Fractal” tips the hat to Dead Kennedys‘ “Holiday In Cambodia,” but doesn’t have much else going for it. The harmonica parts on “The Outcast” are horrifically dated and cheesy, leaving a black mark on an otherwise decent song. And while it’s hardly bad, closer “None Of The Above” brings Voivod‘s classic era to an underwhelming end. Like many albums of the time, Angel Rat makes a strong case for writing 8 songs instead of 12.

Angel RatAngel Rat not only failed to connect with the larger audience MCA Records was probably hoping for, but also managed to alienate many of the band’s existing fans, who cried “sellout” in the absence of Nothingface-style heaviness. Blacky would exit the band prior to the record’s release, and after the slightly harder-edged The Outer Limits (1993), Snake would depart as well. Voivod would spend the rest of the decade in freefall, exploring some interesting but ultimately unsatisfying directions during bassist/vocalist Eric Forrest’s tenure. Unfortunately, Piggy would succumb to cancer in 2005, but both Snake and Blacky eventually returned to restore Voivod‘s former glory somewhat.

Angel Rat‘s legacy is comparable to that of Motorhead‘s lost classic Another Perfect Day, in that it took people years to realize how good it really was. As Voivod‘s fans gradually realized that melody and songcraft are not necessarily bad things, many have reconsidered their stance, and some even hold this album up alongside the Killing Technology/Hatross/Nothingface trinity. “The Prow” and “Panorama” are still in Voivod‘s live setlist as of 2016, and if the band’s recent Chicago show is any indication, people are happy to hear them. Released during a brief period where underground metal bands suddenly found themselves flirting with mainstream exposure, Angel Rat manages to be both progressive and accessible.


  • I never realized this song sounded like The Cult until just now.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yeah interesting but I can’t hear it, I can kinda see it in the video. I’d not seen this before kinda makes me happy sad

    • Dr_Fisting

      I don’t hear it.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great choice for a YMiO.
    Celtic Frost got crucified for trying something this. I’ve always loved Angel Rat, even though I don’t think it’s as good as Nothingface or Hatross. But because they were one of the few metal bands at the time that didn’t shit themselves because of grunge. RIP Piggy a true metal master.

    • Wilhelm

      Celtic Frost got crucified for turning into glam rock and watering down their music during the height of bands like Poison and White Lion, Voivod streamlined their approach but tapped into their more progressive and other non metal influences, hardly comparable.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I think it is, and in fact Voivod were criticised at the time for watering down their sound. If anything Angel Rat is less proggy than Killing/Hatross/and Nothingface. Blacky even quit the band over disagreements about his perceived sense of the commercial direction of this album.
        The similarity is that both bands took big side steps at time that they both risked irrelevance by not progressing … Frost hit a bus and Voivod just stayed voivod.

        • Wilhelm

          I get what you’re saying but it seemed like Voivod changed with the musical landscape where as CF were forced to make decisions not in their best interests (poofed hair, bad lyrics) What might have disappointed Voivod fans, shocked the shit out of CF fans (and the entire metal scene).

  • André Snyde Lopes

    And this is the album where their vocals stopped being ridiculous!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I liked Al Kikuras’s line in his post Society review about Snake not having a good voice but being a great singer… So true!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Yeah, he was… expressive (…?) in their earlier albums but on this one someone must’ve told him to stop dragging his voice and actually sing properly. His voice is not ideal, yeah but it’s the technique that improved thousand-fold.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          True if you listen to War and pain (possibly most amateur record ever made) through to Angel Rat it’s a pretty fantastic arc.

      • Thanks for the name drop!

  • Always loved this album. Never understood the people who didn’t. I even love the harmonica, though you may have just ruined it for me ;)

  • So awesome to see a writeup about Angel Rat on AMG today! The first time I heard of Voivod was when an article about Denis D’Amour in Guitar World when Angel Rat was released. I ended up blind purchasing first Nothingface (the article heaped all sorts of praise on that one) then Angel Rat at the local Strawberries music store…it hit me the right way and I got way into Nothingface quick. While it was underwhelming at the time Angel Rat like most other Voivod albums is now among my all time faves. I dig all the songs, my only real gripe these days is I wish for a little bit punchier of a kick drum on it, but man those riffs.

  • Wilhelm

    This is a great album, I seem to love that early 90’s era when thrash bands started to slow down and experiment; Angel Rat, The Ritual, I Hear Black, The black album…

    • Dr_Fisting

      I came of record-buying age during that era (sadly), and a lot of those records still hold a special place in my cold black heart. Very few people will admit to liking “I Hear Black,” even today…

      • Wilhelm

        I’m glad you agree, a lot of people see this a weak era for metal, when bands had to slow down, especially if they were on a major label – but in doing so, it also forced their creative hands, perhaps not technically, but as songwriters. The production technology was also rebounding from the late 80’s high end to a more rounded sound (with audible bass, especially when coupled with the less distorted guitar tones) – but where as I Hear Black isn’t my favorite Overkill album, it has character and good songs and I prefer it to the thrash-by-numbers they’ve released post 2000.

        • Dr_Fisting

          Dude…that’s so spot on, if you were here I’d be high-fiving you right now. I think having that pressure creatively made a lot of bands come up with cool stuff that they otherwise wouldn’t have. And the improved sonic quality didn’t hurt either.

    • I’ll probably get shot for saying so, by The Ritual is my favourite Testament album. Much as I love many of the songs on other albums, this was the most consistently solid album they ever released.

      I’ve never heard I Hear Black so will go and check that out now.

  • robpal

    Where are the reviews of the new In Mourning & Katatonia albums, I’m asking!!!
    Love you boys anyways.

    • Diego Molero

      I can’t wait for the In Mourning review to drop, so exited about it.

    • Hammersmith

      And Morningside. And First Fragment. ;)

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    I agree about the Another Perfect Day comparison. Both of these albums are awesome and a couple of my favorites. But, boy, were they disliked at first.

  • Man, I still can’t get into this album. Check out Phobos from the Eric Forrest years. I hold that up as one of their best any era!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      If you had to pick one Voivod album before being exiled to a desert Island which would it be?

      • Killing Technology for me with Nothingface a close second and Dimension Hatross a still close third.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          That trio of albums is untouchable. Nothingface would be my pick. I would agonise for a second or two over Dimension Hatross.

          • If it had to be one it would be RRROOOAAARRR

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I thought you might say that

      • Dr_Fisting

        Either “Killing Technology” or “Outer Limits” depending on my mood.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Outer limits is superb.
          Since you posted this I’ve been on a Voivod bender and working my way through the albums chronologically which has been both interesting and fun. Listening to Negatron at the moment for the first time in years… Goodtimes!

  • Norfair Legend

    Angel Rat was/is fantastic but I especially love The Outer Limits, Fix My Heart is just too much of the jam.

    • Bas

      Me too!

  • Hammersmith

    Literally all I can think about when I hear the album title.

  • Bas

    Thanks for the review ! Glad to see this album getting some appreciation.
    I love this album, but I can also understand that its melodic nature is a bit too much for some…
    Twin Dummy as a song is not great, but it fits well in the album as a whole I think (as faster song between some slow ones). I agree about the song ‘none of the above’… the album should have ended with ‘freedoom’..

    PS I don’t get the DK’s holiday in Cambodia reference…

    Now more nineties crazy stuff :-) …Thought Industry or O.L.D anyone?

  • Norfair Legend

    Or how about Filthy Christians while we’re at it…Wish I still had my cassette.

  • John

    Awesome pick for yer metal is olde. Also, where is this Black Sites album, Doc? Is that still the plan? Chicago is ready.

    • Dr_Fisting

      I’m almost done recording the Black Sites album, and there’ll be some interesting news regarding the release and who’s in the live band. I’m pretty sure Chicago isn’t even remotely ready.

  • Bas

    Okay, i hear it. Thanks!