Voivod – Synchro Anarchy Review

The most frightening album I ever bought was in 1984, a cassette called War and Pain, issued by the weirdly-named Voivod. Up here in Canada it came out on Banzai Records, a strange little upstart that licensed metal albums not otherwise available. Anyhow, back in the 80s my pals and I snapped up everything on that label, even when we had no clue who the band was. We were pretty lucky – Metallica, Exciter, Slayer, Venom, all sorts of great up-and-comers. And then this one. Pressing play on the tape deck resulted in some of the scariest, heaviest thrash-death-punk shit we’d ever heard. That was our introduction to Voivod, and it wasn’t until five years later and Nothingface (mostly because of their cover of “Astronomy Domine”) that my mental fortitude was strong enough to jump back in and give them another listen. They changed a lot, of course, and today are recognized as prog metal legends of the Canadian scene.

Synchro Anarchy is the band’s 15th album, following 2018’s excellent The Wake, and sees the band planted firmly in their quirky comfort zone. The album opens as The Wake faded out: it’s the same melody, thus linking the albums. “Paranormalium” writhes and snakes its way through a variety of bizarre riffs and tempos in trademark Voivod fashion. Meaning, despite the herky-jerky nature of the songs and Snake’s scowling, acerbic vocals, there’s an irresistible groove underpinning it all. The title track and “Planet Eaters” trundle and lurch along in similar fashion, oddly charming and undeniably Voivod in chord progressions, arrangements, and of course vocals.

The initial trio of songs is a taut way to open Synchro Anarchy, but the best songs lie in wait. “Mind Clock” fades in with menacing fashion, full of killer guitar tone and eerie vocals. It’s a heavy and aggressive song and comes with a lovely little thrash bridge and a pair of gradual tempo changes in the back half thrown in for good measure. “Holographic Thinking” is the most immediately engrossing song, with its rudimentary opening riff, catchy vocal melody, simple arrangement, and soaring guitar solo. Oddly enough, these are also the two longest songs on the album, both past the six-minute mark.

I mentioned comfort zone earlier and I’ll mention it again: it is what holds this album back from attaining the same level as The Wake. Many of the songs – “Sleeves Off,” “Memory Failure,” even “The World Today” with its surf-rock vibe – are well done in their own right but through the course of the album tend to blend into one another. The sparse arrangements and Voivod’s unique style admittedly leave little wiggle room for songs to differentiate themselves, but a dozen listens in there are a few songs that fade into the background. As for the band itself, bassist Rocky (new to the band for The Wake) is prominent in the mix, and his chunky overdriven bass lines are a joy to listen to. Of course, the rest of the band sounds great as well, but it’s refreshing to hear such loud bass on a metal album these days.

It’s weird to keep saying it, but Voivod seem to have found their comfort zone. Synchro Anarchy sees them doing what they do best without stretching out and pushing any limits. The thing is, it mostly works; part of that might be the band’s innate charm and style, which while it may not appeal to everyone is oddly irresistible. Part of it might also be because the band has no issues with self-editing (yeah I’m talking to you Iron Maiden); nine songs over forty-eight minutes feels just right, and while a couple of the tracks can blend into each other, Synchro Anarchy never bores the listener. Just don’t play this back to back with War and Pain or you might hurt yourself.1

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: voivod.com | facebook.com/voivod
Releases Worldwide: February 11, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Play War and Pain and Rrröööaaarrr later on though, or face harsh metal judgment. – Steel
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