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Archive for the ‘Voivod’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The End of Domancy EP (2020).

Voivod has released a new EP for 2020.  The metal band were invited to play the 2019 Montreal Jazz Fest.

To do something special, guitarist Chewy created some orchestration for a song hey had not played live before.  This EP has the live version of the song as well as a newly recorded studio version.  There’s an extra live song from the Festival as well.

The newly recorded studio version of the song is now called The End Of Dormancy (Metal Section). It has  brass quintet comprising saxophone, trombone and trumpet.  It works quite well because of how cinematic their music (and especially their newest album The Wake) is.  I mean the military drum march in the middle of the song could come from any terrific sci-fi movie. The horns add a very interesting cinematic quality and do not detract from the heaviness of the original.  Even though the horns do a lot of the dramatic rising and falling parts there is still plenty of room for Chewy’s guitar soloing.  But that high note trumpet at the end is pretty spectacular.

The live version runs about a minute longer because even though Voivod is tight AF and very meticulous, they allow for an improvised saxophone solo.  The audience is pretty thrilled by it.  I love the way the band is quiet at the beginning of the solo and then builds in intensity to the end of the solo.  And that ending trumpet high note is even more impressive live.

The third song is a live version of The Unknown Knows, a fantastic song from Nothingface.  Voivod plays incredibly complicated an intricate music and the fact that they can pull it off live–and have it sound even better–is a testament to how great they are.  And also how great Chewy is as a replacement for Piggy.

[READ: September 10, 2020] Do You Mind If I Cancel?

I had no idea who Gary Janetti was before reading this book.  S. brought it home and thought I’d enjoy reading it.  With a title like that I thought it would be kind of funny.

Turns out that Gary Janetti is a TV writer for a few different comedies (although none that I watch).  And his writing is a lot like that of David Sedaris.  By that I mean he is lauded as being a hilarious writer.  But in fact, while some of his piece are funny, there is a lot of sadness and despair in some of these essays.  I mean, the last essay is about the many men who died of AIDS in the 80s.  To call this book “laugh-out-loud funny” is slightly off base.

I hate to lump Janetti in with Sedaris, because it’s not really fair.  They are both gay men, no longer young, with a great eye for details and a snarky attitude.  But the difference is in perspective.  Janetti is ten years younger (which isn’t that big of a deal, but given the time frame they are talking about, it was quite a change in gay culture).  More importantly, whereas Sedaris is from North Carolina, Janetti is from Long Island. So he has has much greater proximity to a big (gay) city.  His family also seems to be much less antagonistic with each other–so Janetti’s comedy doesn’t stem from familial wars.

Janetti lived much of his twenties in New York City as a single guy working in a fancy hotel where rich, fabulous people showed up regularly. He has many stories of Broadway, and disappointing encounters famous people and the like.   Amusingly he also has a lot of stories about how he watched a lot of TV–typically not the most exciting thing to write about–but his essays about this are quite funny.

There are eighteen essays in total. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 11, 2019] Baroness

Baroness is, for the most part, the work of John Baizley.  There are others in the band, but there hasn’t really been any consecutive albums with the same lineup.  I first heard of John Baizley on March 10, 2017 when he was brought out as as special guest at a Strand of Oaks concert.

I thought Baizley was great at that show and I really liked his voice.  So I investigated and I discovered the wonder that is the prog metal of Baroness.  Baizley writes beautiful passages and tacks them onto brutally heavy metal.  His voice is a rich baritone and it all works perfectly.  I later found out that all of the art is done by him and that he has crafted some amazing heavy metal covers as well (here’s his art site).

In 2017, Baroness was between albums (their previous one came out in 2015, their new one is coming out in a couple of days).  But I listened to his older records and really liked them a lot.

They have recently toured for this new album, but the two shows they played near me were not ones I wanted to see.  In April they played the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest which sounded like a terrible thing to go to, quite frankly (even if they were the headliners) –7 bands and all that beer, no thanks.  A few days earlier they were playing Starland Ballroom with Deafheaven.  A double bill I would have liked to see, but I was already seeing Voivod that night.

They announced a tour of the rest of the lands and I was a little bummed.  But then they announced this little acoustic tour to coincide with their new album.  I was planning on getting the album anyway, so to travel to Fords to get that record and to have Baroness play an acoustic show was a no brainer. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 20, 2019] Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets

While I, like many people my age, love Pink Floyd, (I mean Dark Side of the Moon is the most popular album in history or whatever), I have always really enjoyed their early stuff.  Not the Syd Barrett stuff, exactly, but the stuff from that era: Ummagumma, Meddle, Atom Heart Mother.

When I saw that Nick Mason was touring with some non-Pink Floyd guys, I was intrigued.  I’ve always thought that Mason was an underrated dude (when the rest of the band has huge personalities it’s easy to get overlooked).  He also seems like just a nice fella.

Then I read that this tour, dubbed Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, would focus on the pre-Dark Side of the Moon era of psychedelia and experimentation. Mason says he wished to revisit songs that were staples of early Pink Floyd shows from 1969–1972, as well as other songs that were never performed live by Pink Floyd during this era. Mason said the group was not a tribute band, but that they wanted to “capture the spirit” of the era.  And they were going to play some of “Atom Heart Mother,” my personal favorite.

The band would consist of Dom Beken on keys, Lee Harris and Gary Kemp on guitars and vocals, and long time Pink Floyd collaborator Guy Pratt (man, he has played with EVERYBODY) on bass and vocals. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 12, 2019] The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Nearly two years and a half years ago I saw The Claypool Lennon Delirium at the Fillmore.  Once again, this year they were playing the Fillmore.  But it was on a night that T. was doing a school play.  There is no way I would choose Les Claypool over my daughter, so I didn’t get tickets.  Then they moved her play to Thursday instead.  I could go!

But then WXPN announced that The Claypool Lennon Delirium would be doing a Free at Noon.  And that seemed like the best of both worlds–I’d get to see the band and it wouldn’t be a) at night or b) at the Fillmore (which was too big and crowded for me when I saw them).  I said I’d never do another Free at Noon because I basically had to take off four hours of work to do it, but for these guys it was a no-brainer and totally worth it.

And really, who doesn’t like to take off four hours of work. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2019] And the Kids

Almost exactly one year ago I saw And the Kids open for Lucy Dacus.  They put on a great show, but I had heard that they would be even more wild if they didn’t have the time constraints of that show (there were two full sets that night, so the earlier one was kind of rushed).  Back in November they opened another show that I wanted to get to but couldn’t.  But here they were headlining, which is what I really wanted to see.

I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.  But then I found out that Voivod was playing the same night across town.  Voivod is a band I have loved and never saw live.  So I chose Voivod.  During the headliners, YOB, I decided if I left I could get over to Johnny Brenda’s (about 10 minutes away) in time before And the Kids started.  I listened to one heavy YOB song and then took off.  I got on street parking a block away from Johnny Brenda’s and walked in a few minutes before And the Kids were to go on.  All signs indicated that I had made the right choice.

I was surprised at how crowded it was (good for them!)  But I managed to get past the drunken clumps and got right up at the edge of the stage, but to the side–near the steps where the band comes in.  It’s not a great vantage point (and the sound really isn’t as good, but it was better than standing in the middle of tall people.

Then the band came out.  Last time And the Kids were a four-piece.  But for this show they were only a duo.  I gather the core of the group has always been Rebecca Lasaponaro on drums and Hannah Mohan on guitar and vocals.  I have yet to find out why they were touring with just the two of them and not a full band.  I’m also not exactly sure how the bass and other sounds were handled.  I know it had something to do with Lasaponaro, but whether she was triggering them live or just starting them on a laptop, I don’t know.

In some ways this hindered their improvisatory nature.  But not really, because Mohan is a born entertainer and she was a ton of fun throughout the night–and made me glad I was standing where I was.

They played eleven songs in about an hour.   Five were songs from the new album, which I hadn’t heard yet. I hadn’t heard much by them when I saw them last time either, and I feel like hearing them live–even new songs–is absolutely the way to go.  The recorded versions are good, but the don’t quite capture the vitality and energy that their live set has. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2019] YOB

I hadn’t heard of YOB before this show.  I was there for Voivod.  But I assumed they must be compatible if they were playing together.

I also had a ticket to see And the Kids (a very different type of band) that night at Johnny Brenda’s.  After jumping in to see Dilly Dally upstairs in the Foundry after the Guster show in The Fillmore, I thought, well, why can’t I go to both shows if one ends early enough.  Johnny Brenda’s is about ten minutes from Union Transfer.  The Johnny Brenda’s show started later than this show, so I considered my options.

After the pummeling from Amenra and the fun but heavy set from Voivod, I was pretty wiped out.  I had read that YOB was “Epic, crushing, and heavy beyond words.”

So I decided to stay for the first song and see if I wanted to hear more. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2019] Voivod

I’ve been a fan of Voivod for decades.  But I never saw them live when I was most into them (late 80’s).  Then after Denis “Piggy” D’Amour’s death in 2005 I assumed I never would.

But amazingly they found a guy who plays guitar very much like Piggy did–a bizarre hybrid of prog, metal, dissonance and eerie harmony.  That man is Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain.  Chewy is able to play Piggy’s parts.  And his new parts are very much in the style of old Voivod, but are certainly his own (his soloing style is definitely different for instance.  And since recording songs with him in 2013, Voivod have been touring fairly regularly.  (They played Philly in 2015 and 2016–to see them at the Black Box in Underground Arts would have been amazing!)

For a band that’s been active (in one form or another) for over 30 years, they still had a lot of fun on stage.  If there’s one thing I love it’s seeing a band enjoying themselves.

Strangely, in the 30 years that they’ve been together, nearly everyone has been replaced (with some returns), and there have been a number of styles. (more…)

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ellsmere SOUNDTRACK: PROBOT-Probot (2004).

probotAfter all of the Dave Grohl love I’ve been sending his way, Grohl went and fell off a stage and broke his leg.  But, he is so badass (and such a thoughtful musician), that he went to the hospital, got his leg fixed up and went back on stage to finish the set!  Holy cow.

This is amazing (and he must have incredible endorphins (or something else) to be able to do this (the video is long because it shows his re-arrival):

Grohl has always been very open about his love of heavy metal–and the liner notes here go into pretty good detail about he bands he grew up listening to.  He wanted to create a kind of tribute/dream lineup album of metal vocalists.  As far as I can tell he was sitting around and banging away riffs and every time he got one that he liked, he recorded it.  He eventually added bass and drums and made demo tapes out of them.  Then he contacted some of his favorite metal singers from when he was a kid and asked them to write lyrics and sing.

I assume that Grohl sent the demos that sounded most like the bands to the appropriate singer, because so many of them are spot on for the original bands.  The Venom song sounds completely like Venom (Cronos’ bass certainty helps) and it’s one of the best songs here.  I don’t know Sepultura that well, but the music fits perfectly with Cavalera’s style.  And this song is just fantastic.

The Lemmy song sounds unmistakably Motörhead, again possibly because Lemmy plays bass, but the riff is pure Motörhead.  It’s another great song and one that the Foo Fighters have played live.

The song with Mike Dean is very punk, very C.O.C.  It’s followed by another punk/metal song from D.R.I.  This song also matches perfectly with Brecht’s style of singing on the more metal side of D.R.I..

Lee Dorrian used to sing in a guttural cookie monster growl with Napalm Death, but in Cathedral, he turned to proper singing.  I don’t know Cathedral, but the main riff coupled with the twin guitar solo notes from Thayil make a great epic song, especially that mosh section in the middle (I didn’t think Cathedral did mosh but whatever), although at 6 minutes it does go on a bit.

I also don’t know Wino, so I don’t know if this is the kind of thing he sang on, although I do hear a bit of Saint Vitus vibe from it.  There’s a really long middle section which is interesting for the backwards guitar solo, and while it’s a little long, when it comes out of that, the heaviness is really great.

Tom Warrior is a fascinating guy with all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, so the weird industrial sound on top of the heavy bass is pretty interesting.  There’s no way Grohl could hope to emulate Voivod’s Piggy, so he doesn’t even try.  Rather than playing up to Voivod’s proggy style, he goes deeper to the heavier stuff.  And, perhaps it’s Snake’s voice, the bridge sounds very Voivod.  The chorus is more poppy than what Voivod might do, and yet it’s a great song.  Voivod’s Away also designed the album cover.

I loved Trouble when I was in high school, although I don’t really remember them that well now.  This songs sounds bit more classic rock than metal (and I recall Trouble being pretty heavy), and yet Wagner’s voice works very well with the style.  I just read that Trouble went through a more psychedelic period and the middle section ties in nicely with that, so maybe this is inspired by later period Trouble.

Grohl says he was excited to get King Diamond, and who wouldn’t be.  Kim Thayil is back to create a suitable Mercyful riff (although it could never live up to the classic Fate).  But the mid section’s doom riffs are right on.  The song showcases some of the King’s vocal acrobatics, although not quite as many as I could have used (there are some excellent high-pitched notes in there though).

There’s a bonus track at the end of the disc which features Jack Black doing a suitably funny but accurate metal tribute.

This is a really solid heavy record that lets some classic metal singers back on the scene.  There won’t be a second Probot record, but there may not need to be one anyhow.  I also like that he picked some slightly more obscure singers rather than the obvious Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson type of singers, even if they would have also been interesting).

  • “Centuries of Sin” (feat. Cronos of Venom)
  • “Red War” (feat. Max Cavalera of Sepultura)
  • “Shake Your Blood” (feat. Lemmy of Motörhead)
  • “Access Babylon” (feat. Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity)
  • “Silent Spring” (feat. Kurt Brecht of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
  • “Ice Cold Man” (feat. Lee Dorrian of Cathedral and Napalm Death, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “The Emerald Law” (feat. Wino)
  • “Big Sky” (feat. Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost)
  • “Dictatosaurus” (feat. Snake of Voivod)
  • “My Tortured Soul” (feat. Eric Wagner of Trouble)
  • “Sweet Dreams” (feat. King Diamond of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “I Am the Warlock” (feat. Jack Black of Tenacious D)

[READ: February 13, 2015] The War at Ellsmere

I’ve enjoyed Hicks’ books in the past–both the ones she’s written and the one’s she’s simply illustrated.  In this book she does both which means you get big eyes and the dark hair.

As the book opens we meet Juniper, a girl who has just enrolled in Ellsmere Private School.   We meet the headmistress and learn the history of this beautiful school (established in 1810).  And then we find out that Juniper is there on a scholarship (merit based) and that Juniper is well aware that she will likely be there to “liven things up for the blue bloods.”

When Juniper meets her new roommate Cassie (who hears her talking to herself), Jun immediately goes on the defensive–until she sees that Cassie is actually quite a nice girl. (Nice, Jun, you just insulted Bambi).

But it’s during the orientation that we meet the real antagonist of the story–Emily, a pretty blonde girl who immediately insults Cassie and calls her “orphan.”  When Jun gets involved, it suggests that it will be an interesting year for all of them. (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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dec2004SOUNDTRACK: AWAY-Cities (2013).

awayAway is Michel Langevin, the drummer for metal band Voivod.  But on his first solo album he eschews all conventional music.  Rather, he has created an exercise in found sound and released it on the small label Utech Records.

The album is described as

Strong field recordings capture more than just the sound of an area, they capture a mood and spirit of the place and people. On Cities, local color and nature recordings clash with riots and discord, capturing the full human experience across the world. Literal and metaphorical “found music” appears: the booming stereo of a passing car or distant church bells, as does the rhythmic engine hum of a bus or the chirping of birds. This tour is a fast paced one, rapidly weaving through the geographic locations building a diverse, yet consistently engaging experience. The audio journey captured here perfectly reinforces the fact that, regardless of one’s location, the presence of music is never far, nor should it be.

What we get is a collection that sounds like a tour through the streets of the respective cities (nothing more specific than Europe is given, sadly).  We hear street noise and buskers playing (interestingly just about every type of music I have heard in Boston subways as well).

I only wish more information was given about just what Away was up to.  Where he was and, more importantly, how he recorded these sounds. The recording quality is amazing—the panpipes and harmonicas sound crisp and clean with no other ambient noise.  Did he ask the performers if he could record?  How did he get them so pristine especially since I assume they are in the streets?  And for the Europe ones, was there any given order to the way they were edited?  Is it the progression of their Voivod tour, or is it just random?  The mixing and sequencing is quite good, especially in the shorter pieces which really take you on a journey.  Not knowing what’s happening is maddening and part of the fun as you try to picture (especially if you use headphones) exactly what you are hearing.

“Montreal 2010” opens with the sound of travel until we zoom in on panpipes (for a few seconds).  This switches to a lurching shanty (sung, I suspect in French—it’s a little hard to hear).  Then from the shadows comes the sound of someone playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the harmonica.

“Europe 2012” opens with someone playing what I suspect is a hammered dulcimer (exactly the kind of thing that buskers play in subway stations), it shifts to a jazz trio (sax, bass, drums) wailing away with traffic noises in the background.  After some busses and an accordion solo, there are delicate chimes.  Finally a bagpipe melody leads us away from the delicate chimes until we hear announcements in what sound like Russian and then French.  The track ends with fans chanting “Voivod Voivod.”

Montreal 2012 returns Away to near his home city.  This time the scene is much nosier—it could be joyous, it could be angry—there are whistles and horns, and by the end it seems like a joyous parade.  The noise diminishes as an operatic voice pierces through briefly until the drums return.  More street noises, including police sirens, French chanting and a train passing by as we return to yet more street drumming.  If this track had more context for the title it would probably be more enjoyable. And yet as the parade (for surely that is what it is ) marches past you feel like you’re there.

“Mexico City 2012” opens with a truck honking and street noise until we hear what sounds like an indigenous band playing, then some more flute music and church bells pealing. Then there are announcements in Spanish (by both a man and woman presumably in the church) and church organ music.  Pan pipes and drums bring us back into the street and what sounds like a market scene which ends with some Mexican music playing.

“Europe 2011” opens with some beautiful guitar or perhaps an Indian stringed instrument playing and some traditional Indian singing.  There’s some more music playing and cheering and then some peace as birds take us out of this short track.

“Montreal 2011” opens with banjo music (!).  And then the more typically French sounding violin moves us along.  More pan pipes and traffic noise progress us through the city.  Then two very different examples of accordion music meld until the noise of the train wipes them out.   The track fades out with a band playing a  jaunty accordion inspired track.

“Chicago 2012” ends the disc with a symphony orchestra tuning up (I presume) for a few minutes.  It’s a shocking cacophony.  Until someone shushes the noises and the birds return, playing us out of this aural tour.

You can stream, download or buy the CD  here.  Buying the CD gets you some of Away’s cool art (although I wish there was more).

[READ: October 8, 2013] “War Wounds”

Since I’ve been enjoying Tom Bissell’s book reviews, I thought I’d see what else he had written in Harper’s.  He seems to have a storied career with the magazine as a traveling journalist.  And this article dates back to 2004.

It is a personal article about himself and his father.  What I found fascinating about this is that his father was a Vietnam veteran, and I don’t know too much in the way of writing that concerns being the child of a Vietnam veteran.  There are a lot of books and films about the Vietnam experience for the soldiers, but not so much about the families that they returned to (as far as I know).  So it was interesting to read Bissell’s account of growing up with his father–who was a hard man and who wasn’t afraid to fight with his children (especially when drunk).

The man that Tom grew up with had a temper and didn’t much approve of Tom’s chosen profession.  But unlike many people of his generation, Tom didn’t feel that he had a particularly estranged relationship with his father.  What on earth possessed him to invite his father on a trip to Vietnam–to visit the sites where he lost friends and was himself wounded, is the stuff of journalism. (more…)

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