Voivod – Ultraman EP


Not content with producing one of the albums of the year, French-Canadian prog metal legends, Voivod, are back with a new EP and a European tour with Opeth this month. Those of you that know the band’s latest Synchro-Anarchy LP, will marvel how it completed another trilogy of classic albums for the first time since their golden era of the late 1980s. How many times must we say it – without Voivod’s Killing Technology from 1987, you’d have no blueprint for the discordant metal of today. So, why did they decide to release a pointless and misleading EP of five tracks based around a 1960s Japanese tokusatsu superhero called Ultraman?

Voivod have a loyal (and obsessive following), and a new physical product will look good in many people’s collections. But a theme tune split into three parts – Opening Theme, Victory Theme, Closing Theme – and totalling less than four minutes is atrocious value for money. No wonder it failed to make the cut for this year’s album. The avant-garde percussion, mathematical guitar chords, and Killing Joke punk of part one illuminate like only a Voivod song can, but it still sounds like an idle piece of studio tomfoolery rather than a serious recording. Fans of the group’s 1988 game-changer, Dimension Hatröss, will recall that they included a cover of the Batman theme tune as a bonus track. Their Ultraman adaptation is about the same standard and just as irrelevant in the band’s back catalogue.

Fortunately, the creative minds behind the structure of this EP understood the wisdom of including two classic live tracks to round out the material on offer. The 2018 live performance of ‘Overreaction’ from Killing Technology reminds you that the band invented progressive thrash and dissonant metal in this one song. Piggy’s iconic guitar tone and imaginative chord sequences are safe in the hands of current guitarist, Dan ‘Chewy’ Mongrain, who might well be the most innovative axeman in modern metal and one of the few musicians that can do justice to his predecessor’s unique style of playing. Does drummer, Michel ‘Away’ Langevin, receive enough credit for the complexity of his timekeeping? Probably not. Likewise, Denis ‘Snake’ Bélanger has the finest snarl in thrash and could teach Dave Mustaine a thing or two about how to project this type of voice to its full potential.

Including the band’s namesake song from their 1984 speed metal debut, War and Pain, is another masterstroke. Though more conventional than their later work it incorporates Motörhead and Venom into a thrilling neo-thrash frenzy beloved of Darkthrone (and referenced on their 2007 album, F.O.A.D.). But you can access a wealth of live material from Voivod, including full concert recordings as part of the Noise/BMG reissues of the 1985-1988 albums, which include three-disk sets with two separate CDs and a DVD. Why would you fork out money on a five-track EP that feels like a bootleg for the diehards with an unreleased headline song of no great importance?

We appreciate that bands like to have something to promote when on tour, but this EP is poor value for money and futile in the Voivod discography. Instead, buy their Synchro-Anarchy record from earlier this year.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 04/11/2022

Record Label: Century Media

Standout tracks: Overreaction (Live), Voivod (Live)

Suggested Further Listening: Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm (2021), Gargoyl – Gargoyl (2020), Solar Cross – Echoes of the Eternal Word (2021)