This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Denis D’Amour, The Riffmaster Piggy.
Mascots are pretty much a heavy metal thing. From Motorhead’s Snaggletooth, to Iron Maiden’s Eddie, Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead, Anthrax’s Not Man, S.O.D.’s Sergeant D., Overkill’s Chally, Sodom’s Knarrenheinz, Sacred Reich’s O.D. (Our Dude) to name a few. Some of them have elaborated backgrounds packed in nice little stories. But there is one character that blew my mind. His name is Voivod. The band of the same name is truly one of the most underrated and still one of the most genuine bands that have ever emerged from the thrash metal scene. The story about Away’s Voivod universe is pretty much under the veil of mystery. No Wikipedia entry or whatsoever. It was only after I read the copy of Martn Popoff’s Worlds Away: Voivod and the Art of Michel Langevin (which Away signed in 2018 while I was doing an interview with Snake, Chewy, and him) that I realized how big of a genius Away and the Voivod guys really are. Therefore, I sifted through all the Voivod interviews I could find online in search of more details about the Voivod concept. I also interviewed Away, Snake and Eric Forrest for this research (3 interviews with Away, 2 with Snake and 1 with Eric).
Away invented this character Voivod even before the band existed. He had the elaborated story which he wanted to present in the French Heavy Metal comic book magazine. In Worlds Away (page 28) Michel says that Philippe Druillet’s illustration of a soldier coming out of the ground from the comic book Urm Le Fou was a spark that created the idea of Voivod. He eventually told his bandmates about the concept and they agreed to name their band after that fictious character – Voivod. The term “voivod”, is omnipresent in Slavic and European history. In Serbian, “vojvoda” means duke/the leader/ military commander. There’s even an autonomous province of Vojvodina (literally translated as Land of the Duke). But Away’s character has a lot more to do with grim castles of Count Dracula. Away’s Voivod is based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic – Dracula, Bob Morane’s Le Talisman des Voïvodes and on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In Le Talisman des Voïvodes, Voïvod was the “lord of all gypsies in Bohemia”. And that’s where the ï comes from. Vlad Tepes (1428 – 1477), a real life Dracula was the voyevode of Wallachia who fought the Turks. He also had a nickname The Impaler (I wonder why…). In the book Worlds Away: Voivod and the Art of Michel Langevin Away states that he had almost the whole concept between 1976-1979. In 1983 he decided to connect his concept with the band. Away also had an interest in science and a scientific background that surely affected the sci-fi aspects of the whole Voivod universe: "After reading The Morning of the Magicians, I really wanted to learn Alchemy, which is supposed to be an Art. Later, at school, I studied chemistry for two years, pure science for another two years and then one year of nuclear physics. After that I started putting those Voivod albums out, telling the apocalyptic stories of a post-nuclear Vampire. The scientific background helped me for the albums cover art as well, as I soon discovered computer graphics." (Omni Magazine 1996)
He got his nickname Away because he couldn’t attend all the rehearsals due to his commitment to the university. He attended University of Chicoutimi. In Worlds Away (page 12), Michel says that between 1978-1979 he started buying scientific journals that made the whole Voivod concept be more “high-tech”.
The whole Voivod concept is elaborated in 7 chapters or namely, in 7 Voivod albums: War and Pain, RRROOOAAARRR!, Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, Phobos. The final chapter of the Voivod saga was supposed to be released on an album that featured Eric Forrest on vocals, but that never came to fruition. Therefore, 2001 album demo featuring 12 tracks was supposed to be the final Voivod chapter but the band never released it as a full-length studio album. And it’s quite frustrating to know that. Especially when you have in mind that these are the songs written by Piggy (REST IN PEACE!)
So…who is the Voivod? Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Away’s parallel universe is set on a planet Morgoth (named after the main villain of The Lord of the Rings universe). Voivod is an anti-hero, a totalitarian with what can be described as bipolar disorder. He is a pro and an anti-war character at the same time. He fights fire with fire. He destroys so that he can save the universe from further destruction. In Away’s galaxies, there are lots of Voivods, but Away focused on Voivod who is the guardian of the planet Morgoth. Voivods are the guardians of galaxies and planets.They keep the balance of the universe in check and prevent the human race from commiting stupid things such as waging nuclear wars and destroying their own planet. In liner notes for RRROOOAAARRR album, Away describes Morgoth is similar to his hometown of Jonquiere – it’s “full of factories and very cold.”
“I had many bad feeling about this planet,” he continues, “I wasn’t happy to live here so a created a world of my own, the Voivod world. The world is the result of my bad feelings about technology and its bad nature, which includes things like nuclear war. The character of the Voivod can take many images including those of schizophrenia or paranoia. He is a superhero figure that can be very good or very bad.” (Creem Magazine 1988)
Away explained the early version of the Voivod concept in detail:
At first it was more like Dungeons and Dragons and vampire-oriented. "There was a lot of sci-fi involved in my art when I discovered the magazine called Métal Hurlant (Heavy Metal Magazine). A few great artists that come from that magazine like Philippe Druillet, Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), Enki Bilal. These became very influential for me. This was in the mid 70s. Philippe Druillet in particular became my favorite artist and I copied his style a lot where it’s sort of Gothic, sci-fi but everything is pointy and sharp. So it was like metal before metal. But slowly, the Voivod character evolved towards to out of the 70s when I saw the movie Eraserhead and The Wall of Pink Floyd and then in the early 80s I discovered anarchist punk and also it was a full-on Cold War Era. A couple of movies like If You Love This Planet (1982) or The Day After (1983) were hugely influential for me, so, slowly but surely my character, Voivod, sort of morphed into something that was more like punk-metal-science-fiction oriented. End of 70s and early 80s were very important for the development of my concept. The goal was not to turn it to a musical concept at all. It was because I wanted to be the artist for the Heavy Metal Magazine, so that’s where it started from. It’s only when we formed the band when we were looking for a name and I mentioned the name Voivod and the guys were like: what is it? I explained the concept about the Voivod living on the planet called Morgoth, and he is the guardian of the planet and there are many Voivods on many planets. They thought it was very cool, we sort of developed it throughout the 80s together musically and lyrically. Blacky and Piggy were more involved with the music and Snake and I were more involved with the content of the lyrics." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Away underlined that the anarcho-punk bands made him fully aware of the dangers of nuclear proliferation, along with some Cold-War era movies. Those two elements made the Voivod character shift towards more of a nuclear-oriented concept:
"It’s mainly I would say the documentary by the National Film Board called If You Love This Planet. That was a real trigger to me. And also before I discovered bands like Conflict or Crass I was not that fully aware of the nuclear stockpiles everywhere on earth. But again you know with the early 80s with the movie The Day After and the movie Threads (1984) in the UK, we were really confronted to the threat of nuclear war and for around in the 90s it sort of became out of fashion and even though I was talking about it, still people were telling me that it was sort of retro. But it was worrying me because the weapons were always there and these days it’s back to the frontline more than ever." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
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In Worlds Away,(page 43) Michel adds that hardcore bands such as Dead Kennedys, Broken Bones, GBH and Discharge made him aware of the problem of nuclear proliferation. Michel stated that the movie Incredible Shrinking Man made him aware of the danger of the “radioactive cloud”. He also cites the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still as one of the most influential. "Also, there is The Day The Earth Stood Still, where the character, Klaatu, tells the people of the earth that they are building stronger weapons every year, and they have become a meanace to the universe and the ballance of the galaxy, and if they don't stop building these weapons, he's going to come with a bunch of robots and destroy everything on earth (laughs). - I thought it was great, And it gave me a notion of the fact that high-tech weaponry could go out of control." (Worlds Away, page 6). Therefore, it is a no-brainer that The Day The Earth Stood Still had an impact on the whole story about Voivod, the nuclear vampire.
Of course, the Voivod concept was also influenced by 80s cyberpunk movies and literature:
Away: "There is a lot of occult influences in the Voivod concept but I must say that when I was sitting down with Snake in the 80s, we told each other stories… My style was very space oriented and conspiracy theory-oriented but Snake was more of the punk school (Jello Biafra, Johnny Rotten). Aside from Dimension Hatross I didn’t write the full story on the albums. Snake has its own characters and stories and we’re blending both sides. It’s only Dimension Hatross that I wrote the whole story from start to finish and Snake wrote the lyrics based on it but aside from that it’s all a mixture of my spacey style and Snake’s punk style."
"The early cyberpunk movies even though we didn’t call it cyberpunk like The Road Warrior or The Blade Runner had a lot of influence on us but also we loved to study soundtracks of movies like The Shining or The Thing and tried to make our music more cinematographic. We were really trying to make a soundtrack for an apocalyptic movie."
"We were influenced by Mad Max a lot even though it was cyberpunk, I don’t remember the term cyberpunk back then. Later, the cyberpunk literature like William Gibson influenced me but even then I was more influenced by old school cyberpunk, like proto-cyberpunk like Philip K. Dick who was my favorite." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
In Martin Popoff’s book (page 21), Away stated that the Voivod concept was also inspired by the band Magma, since these guys invented their own language and their own world (just like the good old J.R.R. Tolkien).
Voivod itself is a nuclear vampire, and his adventures are set in post-nuclear surroundings. Believe it or not, the very first officially recorded case of vampirism didn’t happen in Romania, Wallachia nor Romania but in Serbia in 1725. The local peasants believed that Petar Blagojević became a vampire after his death. But let’s get back to the Voivod story.
"…I read Dracula by Briam Stoker and I just thought the name sounded so great. Of Dracula and his warriors the Voivod. After that Voivod became related to vampyres. And I began to draw the Voivod as a post nuclear vampyre, but he was sucking more of others people’s power than their blood." (B-Side Magazine 1990)
Planet of Morgoth was struck by 4-5 nuclear wars and he is the judge, jury and executioner, ready to punish the human race for its stupidity. Away: "I admire their warrior’s strength and cunning, so I took this warrior and made him a nuclear warrior with atomic weapons." (Creem Magazine 1988)
Away: "I created the whole Voivod concept. When I was younger, I read about the barbarians that were living in the north of Europe, and they were called Voivods, They ate their people, and drank their blood. I imagined them with nuclear weapons in their midst, and so I created the concept of the band around these Voivods. I told the story to the rest of the guys, and they really enjoyed it. They felt it would be the perfect image, to correspond with the kind of music that we were going to play. And so we created all our songs around this nuclear Voivod." (Metal Mania Magazine 1986)
Away also stated that the Voivod concept itself was inspired by some of his real-life experience which made him interested in horror, biomechanical and mechanical stuff alike. "It was first triggered by an event that happened when I was four years old; I was attacked by a kid armed with a razor blade and I had to go to the hospital to get stitches on my shoulder. It started a fascination mixed with horror for pointy Bio Metal Hybrids. About a year and a half later I was seriously hit by a car and it added the mechanical part to the creatures I would meet in my nightmares. The sounds were provided by a giant factory I was spying on from my bedroom window. So every morning I’d wake up and immediately draw the monsters I had run into in my dreams." (Omni Magazine 1996)
The whole Voivod concept revolves around the idea of a post-nuclear world. It is inspired by the real-time events of the Cold War, such as the nuclear arms-race, but also by cyberpunk and movies in general. So it is no mere coincidence that the band also brought “survival of the fittest“ element to the whole story. Away: "I feel the message is that the band are Voivods, and like the guy on our album cover, we fight, Voivod is really a part of us. We are Voivods, we fight for survival. We want for the kids to do the same thing. If they want to do something, they shouldn’t let people bring them down. They should just fight and they will make it, just like we did. We had thousands of problems since the first album. We had all our equipment stolen and much more, but we kept fighting and we’re still here. You’ve just got to fight to survive." (Metal Mania Magazine 1986)
As a character, Voivod never stayed the same. He is far from, let’s say Eddie or Vic Rattlehead whom you can recognize instantly on any given album cover. Instead, Voivod is a character of many faces. He is constantly mutating and evolving along with the band’s sound, musical prowess and creative vision:
“We really never named the Voivod except on the first album’s song. It was a character that we would do mutations on as we wanted him to express our point of view. We kept creating characters on each album that were a new form of Voivod." (MCA The Outer Limits Promo pack 1993)
On the first album, the main character on the artwork is Voivod. He is just one of the Voivods. He is represented as this demonic soldier with point armor, a machine gun and a gas mask. The album cover for War and Pain was inspired by Iron Maiden’s Iron Maiden album covers, nicely put in a Cold War context. The pointy armor of the Voivod character on the debut album was also inspired by both Nazareth’s No Mean City and by the movie Conan The Barbarian (1982). Debut album features the most primitive, metallic version of Voivod logo that changed on almost every album except on RRROOOAAAR and Killing Technology albums. In Worlds Away (page 37), Away stated that ROOOAAARRR logo was more technical and mechanical and it shows that the humanity is going on a path of high-tech weaponry. He adds that the logo was inspired by a design coming from the scientific magazines such as Omni and Discover.
Away: “The first LP is about a Voivod that just woke up after a nuclear war. His flesh is totally maimed.” (Metal Mania Magazine 1986). In a Metal Mania 1987 interview, Away shared some background behind the very first chapter. “The War and Pain (Metal Blade) album was just our beginning… We were not very strong at the time but we wanted to be. This is represented by the very primitive Voivod creature. He is just awakening from a nuclear war and doesn’t have many weapons, but he is ready to fight and prove to the world that he can become something very strong."
Away explains that Voivod’s debut album reflects the environment of their hometown. He also stated that the first album is full of anger and aggression.
“War and Pain” was really raw and aggressive…It was the result of everything happening in our town (Jonquiere) at the time, which was very violent and corrupt. The album represented the physical and psychological chaos of that time.” (Metal Mania 1988)
"The first album deals with aggression. The music is aggressive and so is the concept. It’s like anger experienced by somebody waking up from a nuclear war. You see the Voivod who looks pretty aggressive on the first album cover. He really looks like he’s going to destroy everything around him. I guess it’s just anger, which was perhaps directed in a naive way; as we were young at that time” (B-Side Magazine 1990)
Of course War and Pain lyrics are heavily influenced by the Cold War paranoia, namely – the threat of nuclear war and environmental degradation in songs like “Nuclear War” and “Voivod”. “Warriors of Ice” are also part of the concept. Basically, they represent the band itself, “nomad soldiers” with some cold weaponry, roaming the barren wastelands. It’s like a Mad Max kind of thing, but with the icy background. The band used the term “Warriors of Ice” from Holocaust’s song The Nightcomers. Black City is a city where Korgull the Exterminator and many other characters live. Regarding Black City, Away said the following: "Snake also shares the interest in dystopia. His landscape for his stories are really post-apocalyptic as well, with the street vibe but like after many nuclear wars." “Iron Gang” are metalheads, and Voivod’s fans. The official Voivod fan club got its name after this song. War and Pain budget was limited to 2000 Canadian dollars, which the band borrowed from Snake’s mother. Kerrang journalist reviewed War and Pain and described Voivod as “the worst band in the world“ (just like Motorhead was when they formed) and “total Motorhead and Venom clones“. (From Morgoth to Megabytes)
In the second Voivod chapter, on the band’s album RRROOOAAARR, the Voivod mutates from being a “flesh and bone“ soldier into a “new age Voivod“, a mechanical creature called Korgull the Exterminator. Korgull is the "grand master of fast purification."
Snake: "Korgull is the one you see on the front cover of our new album. He is a new age Voivod. He is the same Voivod who was on the “War and Pain” front cover, but he has traded his primitive guns for new and more sophisticate weapons. The song tells the story of Korgull who goes around the top of a large, deep hole where lots of people are held prisoners. They try to escape, but they can’t, because if they do Korgull is there to terminate them if they do!" (Blackthorn Magazine 1986)
In the liner notes for the second album Snake stated:
“The Voivod character was meaner. living in a world of destruction for centuries of war. He had developed new weapons and new ways of surviving. He was mutating, poisoned by a toxic environment. Back in those days, we were influenced a lot by H.R. Giger’s artwork and movies like “Road Warrior“.
Snake also shared some more details about the RRROOOAARR album title: “The name was really a progression from the first album. The VOIVOD concept on the first album was one of the normal soldier but on this album he became all mechanical and stuff. The name comes from his scream after five or six nuclear wars. Rather then somebody in the band just screaming I think it was a logical step from the idea of “War and Pain” (Metal Forces 1987). Away also stated that this mechanical change also represents the advancement of Voivod’s music as well: “On Rrroooaaarrr the Voivod became Korgull the Exterminator and he represents oppression. The music also became more mechanical and technical.” (Metal Mania 1988).The logo on this album looks more advanced, and so is the band’s music and the weaponry of Korgul the Exterminator. Funny thing about the artwork is that it was done on a cardboard cut from a supermarket box. The band got robbed of its equipment from their studio and that’s the reason Blacky didn’t like this album – because his amplifier was stolen. But still, the bass sound on this album sounds damn fine if you ask me!
Blacky: "The front cover of our new album features the new Voivod, who now is a biomechanical one. We were looking for a title to remain the concept, something original. The four of us were wondering what kind of a sound this war machine that exterminates everything could make and then we came up with this one- “RRROOOAAARRR”. That’s a roaring and that’s the sound of the new Voivod when he is in motion." (Blackthorn Magazine 1986)
Basically in the second Voivod chapter, Korgull The Exterminator was awakened by 5 or 6 nuclear wars waged by humans in the land of Morgoth. He uses his Technodrome-like machine to circle around the shelter and kill humans who dare to leave their holes. In Martin Poppof’s book Worlds Away (page 34), Away explained that on RRROOOAAARRR, Korgull represents “evil destroying evil”. He’s there to punish pesky little humans for waging nuclear war against each other, stop them from making high-tech weapons and therefore prevent the spread of total destruction. However, the Korgull is building up machines and building up weapons. This dichotomy makes Voivod the ultimate warmongering pacifist. The song “Korgul the Exterminator“ is about the creature from the album cover. Also, in the song “Build your Weapons“, the band expresses their fears of nuclear warfare.
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On Killing Technology, Voivod destroys the nuclear weapons on Morgoth along with it and then roams through many planets and galaxies in order to prevent further nuclear proliferation. He wants to make sure that no one around the planet of Morgoth is building their high-tech weapons. At the same time, he goes into space to conquer more planets and galaxies. The mutation of Voivod continues both musically and conceptually as he becomes a bio-mechanical alien-looking creature. However the logo of the band on this album is almost the same as on RRROOOAAARRR. Killing Technology is surely the very first overtly political Voivod album. In his book, Worlds Away (43), Away even calls it “activistic“. This was the very first Voivod album to be recorded in West Berlin. According to the liner notes of Build Your Weapons compilation, the band got signed by Noise Records through Celtic Frost bass player, Martin Eric Ain (REST IN PEACE!) by giving him the rough mix of the RRROOAAARR album: “Martin took the tape back with him to Berlin, and gave it to Noise. As a result, we were offered a three album deal, which we were excited about getting“
Away explains the concept behind Killing Technology: “On the third album, the Voivod is used to put over the fact that technology is advancing faster than social improvement” (Metal Hammer 1988). Away also explains that the third chapter of the Voivod saga was inspired by real life events such as the Chernobyl nuclear dissaster (the biggest nuclear disaster at the time, which happened on April 26th 1986), Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion (a US space shuttle that exploded, killing the whole crew of 7 people on January 28th 1986) and Reagan’s S.D.I./ Star Wars project (defunct US anti-ballistic missile shield that was supposed to be launched in space to shoot down the Soviet’s nuclear missiles with lasers):
Away: “On the third album (Killing Technology), after Korgull destroyed everything around, the Voivod goes into space. This was also related to events that happened at that time like the Star Wars project, the Chernobyl accident and the Challenger explosion. We were not against technology. That would be stupid. It would be like being anti-breeding. But we didn’t like the underside of it, the political side. So I created the concept where technological improvement is faster than social improvement. The album deals with man’s inability to cope high technology”. (B-Side Magazine 1990)
Away once again underlined that the band is not against technology: “The whole concept was improved. Now we take more positions against what we are not for. We are all into computers and future technology. But we don’t like the political side of it” (Metal Mania 1987)
Killing Technology was also the very first Voivod album to be recorded in West Berlin. And of course, the Cold War times in the divided city surely had an impact on Canadian thrashers:
“It was our first experience in Berlin in a recording studio, and the city really rubbed on us. The studio, Musiclab, was right by Checkpoint Charlie and we tried to go on the other side of the wall and they wouldn’t let us through because we looked too funny (laughs). The atmosphere, it was a bit oppressive still. We will always have a special relationship with Berlin” (Bravewords 2017)
When asked if West Berlin had an impact on Killing Technology, Snake stated:
"Of course, there was a feeling of …a weird feeling of oppression… You know, you were by the wall and you could hear helicopter over your head and it’s like kind of this feeling like… you know, kind of surreal and oppressive so it really helped us in a way to build up Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross as well." (Agoraphobic News 2018)
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Away also explained whether the band is political or not:
“Killing Technology” lyrically will be a little more political though. We’ve never tried to side with one point of view but in the lyrics we like to tell people about nuclear war and polluting the atmosphere and stuff, and “Killing Technology” has quite a bit of that, “Over Reaction” for example is about the China Syndrome. Doom is always in our concept on each album but we like to progress to different ideas in each album we do.” (Metal Forces 1987). China Syndrome is a reference to a 1979 movie of the same name about nuclear meltdown with Jane Fonda in the leading role. China Syndrome was also a Cold War theory that in case of nuclear meltdown the explosion would dig the hole deep enough to reach other side of the planet (namely China). The song can also be a reference to the American nuclear catastrophe Three Mile Island (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) that occurred 2 weeks after the premiere of the movie, China Syndrome.
Michel further explains the band’s connection with politics:
Away: "Our music is very dark and the subject is usually dark. But through it all. I hope that people can see that there is a potential for positive change . We don’t consider ourselves a poltical band but it became political. Voivod has its own politics, and it’s kind of a reflection of this planet." (Pulse! 1988)
In general, the fear of technology is also connected to the survival-of-the-fittest kind of thing:
Away: "Yes in a way because it was like a way for me to express my fear of technology improving faster than the society in general. The character Voivod is a mutant that has to adapt and outsmart the newest technology. So it’s really a question of survival against oppression of Big Brother and Cold War’s fear of nuclear war and progress of technology. So it’s all a mixture."(Agoraphobic News 2020)
Killing Technology is probably the best Voivod album. That was surely the turning point for the band, which explored their more experimental, spacey and dissonant side. The title song is about S.D.I.; "Overreaction" deals with the dangers of nuclear energy – it will turn us into mutants and kill us all. Forgotten in Space is about a criminal who got thrown into space and left to die there. Ravenous Medicine is against experiments on humans and animals. In the 80s, the video for "Ravenous Medicine" was banned by MTV. I wonder why... Morgoth Science Hospital is a nasty place to be! "Order of the Blackguards" is about book burners, censorship, witch hunts and religion in general. Away describes The Blackguards as “men in black oriented“. The last song, "This is Not An Exercise" is another track about the impending nuclear nightmare. Even though the “Cockroaches” song is not on the album, it is a part of the Voivod concept – where giant radioactive cockroaches kill the humans:
Snake: “Yes; we took an apartment and there were millions of cockroaches everywhere. It was quite frightening because we had to kill something like 15 every night before sleeping and, you know, I just had this terrible though that after five or six nuclear wars these would be the only survivors, these huge mutated creatures walking around eating people and devouring everything”. (Metal Forces 1987)
Away shared a funny story regarding this song:
"Cockroaches is really because, when we moved to Montreal the four of us moved to cockroaches infested apartment. It’s sort of a funny song where Snake is saying the only solution is to eat them one by one. It was a bit of hilarious lying there. Snake is pretty comical at times…The cockroaches had to appear in the Voivod saga at one point. But the funny part about eating them is because we found a cockroach in the spaghetti sauce and so the song started because of that." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
P.S. DAVID CRONENBERG, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, PLEASE MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT RADIOACTIVE COCKROACHES BITING PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF!
The song "Too Scared to Scream" is also a part of the concept. In this song, the character comes back from Morgoth where he develops a “chemical imbalance” and roams around the parallel reality filled with paranoia. Away briefly discussed the concept of this song: "Too Scared to Scream is one the Snake’s stories. I know that it has a real nightmarish vibe where you don’t really know where is the reality and the dream there. It’s very claustrophobic."
The fourth chapter of the Voivod concept is probably the most intriguing, the most elaborate in terms of the whole story. The album got its name after a play of words – “hate” and French word for atrocity - “atroce”. Therefore, Dimension Hatross is a dimension that Voivod created in his laboratory. “The music had to be a bit weird for this album, although we kept the heaviness of it.” (Sounds 1988).
The concept of Dimension Hatross is loosely explained in the liner notes:
"Inside a giant particle accelerator, a beam of protons traveling at near the speed of light meets a beam of antiprotons moving equally fast in the opposite direction. The protons and mirror-image antiprotons annihilate each other, creating the fiery chaos of a parallel micro galaxy. Experiment one complete, the 'Voivod' goes into that new dimension, meeting different civilisations and psychic entities, extracting knowledge and energy in the eight programs of this project called: Dimension Hatross".
Away briefly explains the Dimension Hatross album:
"On the new album, the Voivod, searching for another place to go, creates a new dimension (born out of the mutual annihilation on contacts of matter and anti-matter) and enters this to study a social evolution within. Dimension Hatross is a complete story divided into eight chapters, each corresponding to one song. And every song has its own message; you have to read between the lines to find out exactly what this is. The best way to get any message through in a song is subtly. We don’t want to shout about our viewpoint on religion or terrorism like hardcore bands." (Metal Hammer 1988)
In the interview for Agoraphobic News, Michel stated that the failed experiment on the fourth album alludes to anthropocenic destruction of the planet. "On Dimension Hatross, he creates a new dimension, goes into it, and then at the end destroys it...Sort of failed experiment representing our world and not that I think the Earth should be destroyed...It's something that the man will do himself. Destroy his own boat." (Agoraphobic News 2017). When asked whether he had predicted the future in some of his older lyrics, Michel stated that some of the scientific magazines he was reading at the time did,for instance the Swiss “experiment of the century“ in the 80's. In 2008, this experiment with the proton collision successfully simulated the Big Bang in the Large Hadron Collider. "A lot of it was based on scientific magazines like Discover or Omni Magazine and they were trying to predict the future, so it's kind of normal that 20-25 years after the fact some of the events happened, even like the huge particle accelerator exists in Switzerland now. And that's what we were talking about on Dimension Hatross. So, since we were influenced by science, it's kind of normal that it came to happen." (Agoraphobic News 2017)
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The plot of Dimension Hatross is described in detail in Away’s book (page 59-60). After roaming around the planets and galaxies in order to maintain the cosmic balance and stop the proliferation of high-tech weapons, Voivod creates a micro galaxy in his laboratory so that he could figure out why there is an imbalance in terms of arms proliferation and where things turn wrong. Voivod studies the evolution of living creatures in order to understand what should be done to put a stop on nuclear wars. On the artwork of Dimension Hatross, there is a machine that teleports Voivod into a micro galaxy. He absorbs the souls of all living creatures from the dimension into the machine. But in order to leave the dimension, he needs energy. The experiment goes wrong and he uses the quasar energy to leave the dimension and destroy it. The humans are doomed to destroy each other.
In the liner notes for Dimension Hatross there is an explanation for the album: "The concept was based around terrorism, totalitarian governments and religion. But in our story, the whole thing ends in cosmic devastation – I just hope this isn’t prophetic!" Of course, the creepy atmosphere of West Berlin is also felt on Dimension Hatross.
Away: "Just the vibe of the city with the wall...The vibe of the city really was really important for the music that we recorded and wrote and also for the content of the lyrics afterwards. What I mean is we went to record Killing Technology there and it had the strongest impact on us for the lyrics where I was able to afterwards write the concept for the Dimension Hatross album. But also the whole atmosphere of the city made us create a new type of music for Dimension Hatross album as well. So when we came back to record Dimension Hatross at the end of ‘87 not only we had a new way of thinking the music but also at this point Harris Johns had gathered a lot of newer equipment including sampling technology and sequencing. So we were able to become more industrial in a way but we were not aiming to become industrial metal band. It just happened that we happened to experiment with more digital material with Piggy’s pedals and effects." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
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Snake: “It was like a sort of oppressive world… Maybe it was because we were in West Berlin but back in the day The Wall was still there and we had all these ideas of you know, like…troop or soldier or warriors get together against the big government. And as we were walking in the city, we could hear helicopter above our heads, the wall… It was the perfect scenario to get to that vibe. Kind of oppression. So we decided to get the story to have like a link from one song to another with little intros and different stuff that once you put your headphones on from the first song it goes…you let yourself go in a story.” (Agoraphobic News 2020)
He also said that the band wanted to go to over the wall, to East Berlin, but that the Soviet authorities wouldn’t let them: “They said to us, you look too funny!”(laughs). Snake also stated that the trip to West Berlin inspired some of the songs like "Chaosmongers", "Technocratic Manipulators", "Tribal Convictions."
In the interview with Borivoj Kirgin Away explained the whole concept of Dimension Hatross, song by song:
“The first song “Experiment”, sees VOIVOD in his laboratory using a particle accelerator to create a small energy field which we will call the Dimension Hatross, and in the second part of the song he enters it. There he meets the first living beings, who, because of their primitive beliefs, view him as a God and worship him as such (“Tribal Convictions”). He also destroys them. The song itself also deals with religion – who’s god and who’s the dog?
With “Chaosmongers”, VOIVOD comes in contact with some aggressive, dangerous beings, who, in our world would be terrorists. “Technocratic Manipulators” deals with the governments suppression of the people and their attempt to control the population’s lives – not unlike the situation portrayed in the book “1984”.
Side two’s first song “Macrosolutions to Mega-problems”, sees the Chaosmongers come into a direct conflict with the government in an attempt to overthrow them. In “Brainscan”, VOIVOD meets the highest forms of human evolution - an organism that is composed solely of brain matter- and in “Psychic Vacuum”, they use their power and intelligence to capture VOIVOD’s soul. This track of course, refers to the large number of American sects whose members are taught to be dependent on their master and do everything their told – like machine. And during the albums closing track, “Cosmic Drama”, VOIVOD breaks out and flees back into his laboratory, where he destroys the whole dimension which he created." (Metal Forces 1988)
Away underlined that Dimension Hatross is similar to the Phobos concept:
"Chaosmongers would be like anarchist movement, and Technocratic Manipulators are the people controlling the planet. And this thing came back on the Phobos album with Anark and Demok, really. It’s a fight between the resistance and the government." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Away explains the mutation of Voivod – from “flesh and bone soldier” on War and Pain, mechanic Korgull the Exterminator on RRROOAAARRR, bio-mechanical alien creature on Killing Technology, on Dimension Hatross, Voivod enters 4th dimension – his own mind:
“On the fourth one he’s like a psychic entity which is what I would like to be because I think Flesh and blood are cheap. But they can also be beautiful. Anyway, the Voivod goes into that new dimension and meets different aspect to the evolution of the people there, from really primitive to psychic entities. There are many point of view on the Dimension Hatross album; it’s more direct than the other ones” (B-Side Magazine 1990)
He further explains the concept in another interview:
"On the second album, it becomes more mechanical yet it still has an element of flesh and bone because without it, one can’t breed. Machines cannot breed. Slowly it evolves, until on Dimension Hatross, it dematerializes into a new dimension where it becomes a psychic entity, which represents real perfection in us." (Metal Hammer 1988)
In Worlds Away, Snake stated: “Dimension Hatross was sort of a dreamy album, in another dimension, out of the blue“.
In the summer of 1988, Piggy was diagnosed with a tumor in the hypophysis gland behind the optic nerve. The band had to cancel the European Dimension Hatross tour. After a month spent in the hospital, Piggy got rid of the tumor by using experimental pills.
“They never had to operate,” beams a robust, healthy Piggy. “The tumor was too young to operate on and could be dissolved by pills. The funny thing was that I had that tumor for five to eight years and I never knew it. The symptoms were so subtle and the tumor grew so slowly that it took an X-ray examination to realize what was going on. When you find out something like that, you start to realize how fragile the body is.”
“I feel responsible,” laughs vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger. “I wrote songs like “Ravenous Medicine” and “Brain Scan” and to be honest, everything that happened this summer really scared the me- I hope it wasn’t my fault!" (Metal Mania 1989)
Nothingface. The fifth chapter of the Voivod concept. This was the time when Canadian thrashers Voivod reached their peak. The album sold more than 300 000 copies worldwide. This chapter is the most schizophrenic in the whole story. Away also wanted to release Nothingface cartoon in the infamous Heavy Metal comic book magazine. He explained the concept of Nothingface cartoon in one of the interviews:
"It’s the story of Nothingface, the little guy, who doesn’t have any arms, any legs, any eyes, any mouth. He’d like to be part of the outside world but he can’t for some reason. The story is about him meeting people who are in fact himself, and who are trying to convince him to make his arms and legs grow, along with his eyes and ears and mouth. If he succeeds or not, I won’t tell." (B-Side Magazine 1990)
Sadly, the Nothingface comic book was never finished:
"I started the Nothingface comic. I published some of art from it on the Worlds Away book but nothing came out of it so I never finished it. The dream of drawing for Heavy Metal Magazine never really happened. The thing I was happy with is that one of the songs we did for the Kronik album ended up on the movie Heavy Metal II which is great. The song called Ion." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Away also stated that being busy with the band prevents him from finishing the comic book:
"I always dreamed of doing comic but it’s just that when I don’t play music I mainly do art to pay the bills so t-shirts for other bands or CD-covers or a lot of tattoo designs. I’m hoping one day to do a comic book but I would say that I would have to do tour a lot less to be able to afford the time to do it."
The inspiration for Nothingface chapter was drawn from Kaspar Hauser – a 19th century German man who was locked in a castle cell until they found him when he as 17. While imprisoned, he had no contact with the outer world. On this album, Away was inspired by the works of French philosophers and by Carlos Castenada and his work – The Teachings of Don Juan.
On the Nothingface album, Voivod retreats to his own brain, he does not want to know what is happening outside of his head, around him. He is nearly lost and he gave up on the control of high tech weaponry and he resigns to his own mind where he will be “happy“. (Worlds Away, page 149)
“Voivod in Dimension Hatross was experiencing things. In Nothingface it’s him thinking to himself.” (Loud Magazine 1990) Blacky shared his thoughts on the Voivod: "The character of Voivod is very much a reflection of ourselves” affirms Blacky. He’s never sure what’s going to happen. He doesn’t exactly lack self confidence but he gets the shakes from time to time." (Raw 1989)
Away also talked about his real-life experience that probably had an impact on the 5th chapter:
“My best friend when I was younger was shut out. I was about five or six and he was a year older. He was the one who really influenced me to create worlds from my drawings, because he was doing the same thing. To me he was a superior intelligence. He could remember so many details for his age, it was incredible. Someday when he was about seven or eight he became nothing, and the little guy who was always with him who was his imaginary friend became him. And he stopped thinking that he existed. He would act all day in the function that he was nothing and that the little guy was him. It was pretty weird. The family didn’t really accept it. At some point he began to shout that somebody hurt his friend—well his ‘him,’ you know, and he started to run after his sister with a knife. So they took him away to a special school.” Away pauses. “But he influenced me in a good way.” (The Village Voice Rock & Roll Quarterly 1989)
Therefore, it is no coincidence that the whole Nothingface chapter revolves around psychological issues: “The concept, which I won’t go into at length here, concerns an inner exploration of the mind of the Voivod, touching on paranoia, schizophrenia and depression“ (Metal Hammer 1989) He further explains: "I began to realize that everybody has his own little dose of schizophrenia. Schizophrenic people were more human to me than regular people. They are like the mirror of what everybody’s trying to hide from, so they try to shut them up. I began to be really angry about that.” (The Village Voice Rock & Roll Quarterly 1989) When talked about Nothingface specifically, Away stated: “A lot of it has to do with the mind, paranoia against schizophrenia, depression and personality-split while maintaining our science-fiction edge. “ (Metal Mania 1989)
Away said that the Voivod character reacts to things that are going on in the world: “Every Voivod album will be a reflection of what’s happening on this planet and there will always be something negative to talk about concerning life on earth. But we also have certain songs prepared for the next record that are based on reality. They’re more in The Twilight Zone. They are more connected with the idea of schizophrenia, which is a big problem today. The entire planet has a very schizo feeling that is getting stronger and our next record (Nothingface) will be almost entirely based around this disease.” (Metal Hammer 1988)
Since the whole concept is more psychologically oriented, so is the music and the lyrics. Away thoroughly explained the 5th chapter in his book. Nothingface is the most psychedelic Voivod album. The band decided to do a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” (version from Ummagumma) in order to pay respects to Syd Barrett, who became schizophrenic, an acid casualty after taking too much LSD over the years. Just like Dimension Hatross, Nothingface is also divided in chapters – this time, 9 chapters which are loosely connected into a larger picture. Some of the songs are science fiction stories for themselves. However, the album comes with only 8 illustrations (one song is missing). The artwork was inspired by Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1971 Tarkus album.
Away: “Nothingface is an inner trip into the Voivod’s brain. They’re many different states of mind of the Voivod himself in the album. It’s not a full concept album like Dimension Hatross was, not from beginning to end. It’s more like eight different states of mind of the VoiVod. To represent those states of mind we tell eight little stories, which are related to each other only by the fact that it’s all a state of anguish or paranoia” (B-Side Magazine 1990) He further explains the concept in another interview: “This album will be dealing with an escape, and easy solution. The Voivod will be going back into his own brain, sort of like going back to when I was young. You see, today people feel that the safest way for them to live is to live only for themselves. Since this new album is from a pessimist’s point of view, I decided to take that fatalist idea and build upon it.” (Good Times Magazine 1988)
In Nothingface, the Voivod character definitely has a multi-polar personality disorder of sorts:
Away: "The overall idea behind Nothingface is pretty much a story that Snake and I came up with.. The Nothingface (aka Voivod) character decides that his original personality is too weak, so he gets rid of it by creating alter-egos. Later, he realizes how artificial these creations are and goes back in search of his original personality. He can’t find it. However, and this leads him to question whether his original personality ever existed. It further leads him to believe that he’s been manipulated by a machine that has sucked the real self out of him. That’s what you basically see when you look at the new record sleeve." (Raw 1989)
Away adds: "He is unable to find this thought and is left holding a personality he has created which is not him.” (Metal Forces 1989)
Nothingface album contains 9 songs, each representing a story of its own. These stories are loosely connected to the concept of the 5th chapter. We found out the concepts of each song in a couple of older interviews. So here is the explanation of the songs in words of the authors:
“The Unknown Knows”: Away: The first song is THE UNKNOWN KNOWS. There is this little Indian waiting for the flying lords, which is a legend I created for UFO’s. The song is about questions we ask to ourselves; questions which are without answers. I chose the Indian because I was really into Indian mythology. They have an opposite way of thinking to the occidental world. The Indians think that we were parasites on earth and the occidental way of thinking is that we own the earth
“Nothingface”: Away: The song NOTHINGFACE is about a creature I created, a little guy who thinks that his original personality is weak so he kills his original personality and he created a few ones. Later on he thinks that the new personalities are fake and he tries to reach for the original one, so he is wondering if the original one ever existed. He has the feeling that maybe it has been shut out by the outside world, the world you have to live in which interferes with your inside world. That’s the basic concept on the album. That’s also what you can see on the front cover, this little story – NOTHINGFACE.” (B-Side Magazine 1990)
Snake: “People looking for something that they are frightened of. “X-Ray Mirror” is the type of mirror that allows you to see both your inner and outer self. It’s a confrontation with yourself.” (Raw 1989)
Away: “X-Ray Mirror” is about person who is slowly taken over by his own reflection. It’s a really horrible situation for the person affected who is really scared – scared of himself…” (Metal Hammer 1989)
“Inner Combustions”: Away: “Inner Combustions“ is basically kind of reflection on science, the song is about the destiny of an alchemist. I am very interested in these medieval sciences, because in contrast to today’s sciences, they consisted on half research and half mythology. These days things look as though they consist to equal amounts of research and the search of money.” In his book, Worlds Away (page 69), Voivod’s drummer adds that this song was inspired by the book The Morning of the Magician.
“Into My Hypercube”: Away: “The inspiration to this song came to me while I was reading a computer magazine about the development of nine-dimensional space. “Into My Hypercube” tries to describe what it’s like to be locked in a room like that.”
“Sub-Effect“: Away: “Sub-Effect“ is the last song on the album.. It’s once again about the recurring subject of what it must be like if you try and separate your soul from the body.” (Metal Hammer 1989)
Away: “I remember that was one of Snake’s ideas. That was written a long time ago. I think it’s actually the Voivod sort of drowning in his brain. It’s the Voivod going into a coma.” (Hellfrost 1996)
“Pre-Ignition“ and “Missing Sequences“:
The story here is somewhat contradictory, and therefore we’ll present a couple of examples:
“In Jonquiere, where we used to live, there was a huge aluminum plant called Alcan. It was the biggest plant in North America and because of constant smog around it a high percentage of the local people contracted Alzheimer’s Disease. I based a concept around these facts, a concept dealing with the fictitious idea of a breed of living factories invading the earth, walking like spiders and searching out aluminum. People who come in contact with them get Alzheimer’s, lose their cultural identity and their ability to deal with things. That’s the basis for two numbers on Nothingface, namely Pre-Ignition and Missing Sequences. Both songs are part of the same story” (Raw 1989)
“YB-1 was an automaton working in a giant mechanical spider digging for aluminum in the song Pre-Ignition on the Nothingface album. Thousands of those spiders were crawling around and the small planet was soon enveloped in a very thick smog. The result was further discussed in another song, Missing Sequences, from the same album. In that song, all the inhabitants of the planet were wandering about, struck by Alzheimer” (Omni Magazine 1996)
‘Missing Sequences’ is about the fact that from aluminum you forget everything from Alzheimer’s disease. Then it changes the robots, it makes things flash in their heads. They think that they are real robots, and don’t have to be a slave in the factory, but can move and be free.” (Sheet Metal Fanzine)
"Two songs “Pre-ignition” and “Missing Sequences” describe the effects of mining aluminum, how it’s mined in space by robots and the effects on people in our world of aluminum poisoning if they live near mines (a disease called Alzheimer’s Disease has been known to affect these people and causes pre-senile dementia).This album is definitely about mental states not just a concept of story. Some of it is Science Fiction (the Cyborgs mining on the planets for example), and, some is a lot closer to reality (“Missing Sequences”) where cultures are already dying. We have a deep feeling of paranoia on this album, but it’s just something we felt we could tackle. Our next subject could well be the state of anguish, because that’s another very strong emotion with many facets.” (Metal Forces 1989)
The story of Nothingface, the 5th chapter ends with Voivod going into a state of deep sleep. The band paused the concept on the next three records Angel Rat, The Outer Limits, Negatron simply because writing a concept album is really demanding since the story/the lyrics need to follow music.
Phobos was the second album to feature Eric Forrest, the singer who filled the place of Snake on Negatron. Following the sounds of its predecessor, Phobos was Voivod’s groove metal release inspired by bands like Sepultura, Fear Factory, Machine Head. On The Outer Limits, Negatron and Phobos, Piggy was using a 7 string guitar. That’s where all this heaviness comes from! In term of concept, Phobos is the only Voivod album along with Dimension Hatross where each song is tightly connected lyrically into a broader concept. All the songs are connected with eerie interludes. The album got its name after the phobos – ancient Greek word for fear. Phobos was also the Ancient Greek god of fear. Phobos is also the satellite of Mars.
Away: "After Nothingface, Voivod went into a cataleptic state. He stayed in a coma for many thousands of years, and for Phobos, the creator, Demok, has reawakened him because the inhabitants of the planet are fooling with high-tech weapons and it’s getting very dangerous for the balance of the universe, so he has to take control back. The Voivod assimilates what’s going on and becomes 10 times more powerful. It’s very much a description of what’s going on on this planet. It’s just science put into fiction." (Metal Maniacs 1998)
Basically, Anark is awaken, mutated Voivod, ready to once again wreak havoc in the universe. Anark represents anarchy while Demok represents democracy. Away briefly described the Demok character: "He is more like the character that built the Voivods. He created them, and controls them. Once in a while, one of them becomes a bit bold and there’s a fight going." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
"Phobos means fear, and we wanted the album to represent fear, and he (Piggy) came up with a very good soundtrack for my story. Total scary sounds and chords. Not as chaotic in the structure, more flow, more groovy. That’s what we were looking for…."
"We tried to push him (Eric Forrest) in different directions, an effect for every character of the story. We asked him to get into character’s skin, to really feel whatever the character was saying. He improved while touring for Negatron. We pretty much let him go on Negatron to see what was gonna happen, and for Phobos he understood immediately that he couldn’t really scream on some of the moody parts. Again, it’s all just a matter of experimenting a lot and picking the best choice of effects." (Metal Maniacs 1998)
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In our latest interview for Agoraphobic News, Away discussed the Phobos album song by song:
"Phobos album is like Dimension Hatross in terms of being a controlling entity and fighting with a resisting entity. After Nothingface, the Voivod character goes in a coma or forced sleep for 7000 years or so and then he is being awakened by his creator. So, Anark is the new version of the Voivod character. So the character that created him, Demok, awakes him because things are out of control on his planet where many factions are at war. It’s total chaos and he needs to take control of it. So the first song "Rise" is the signal that awakes Anark, sent from Demok from far away to space. But the thing is, when Anark starts to take control of the planet, he gains power and Demok is not too pleased with it. And he comes to Anark’s planet to try to take control of Anark. That’s on the "Mercury" song and then he uses a satellite, like a moon, that’s hidden spy satellite. It’s based on "Phobos", the moon of Mars. So he uses the satellite that can scan everything to gather the most data possible. And also he unleashes biological warfare onto the planet. That’s total destruction. And there is a break in the middle called "Temps Mort" where people gather. I did the instrumental on the accordion. And then it starts over again where Anark, he is in his Tower surrounded by his followers and waiting for Demok to attack. But with help of "Quantum" physics he creates thousands and thousands versions of himself (“quantum super state”) so he has like full-on clone army really. But Demok uses "Neutrino", like a micro particle to reprogram the clones and the dead. But there is a huge battle there, where Anark wins but everybody is dead. And he is very weak from the battle and goes back to "Catalepsy" for another 7000 years. So it’s basically from what I can remember from the story. It was more intricate but it was so many years ago." (Agoraphobic News 2020). In Worlds Away (page 17) Langevin underlines that after 7000 years of sleep the human race had much more high-tech weaponry than their ancestors and because of that, Voivod had to become stronger to confront them. On Phobos album, Away also expresses his fear that someone had developed a “beam weapons that can scramble the brain long enough to take over part of an army," (Metal Music as Critical Dystopia, page 115 ) He there expresses his fear that HAARP system can be used for surveillance and control.
In interview for Agoraphobic News, Michel stated that Phobos album was inspired by the 90s conspiracy theories, such as HAARP and so on, since the high-tech weaponry in the real world was much more advanced at the time Phobos album was out when compared to the time when Nothingface was released (1989). "Phobos is more like a collection of conspiracy theories that were going around in the early ages of the internet with like -HAARP project. But it's a fight, the war between Anark and Demok. An anarchist, and Demok is more into democracy type. So it's sort of a clash between two worlds on Phobos using technology that was a lot newer than back in the Nothingface days. Even though it was like seven or eight years after. High-tech weaponry is going really, really fast." (Agoraphobic News 2017)
Away stated that he would like to do a Phobos comic book in the future. The lyrics for "M-Body" were written by Jason Newsted and this song itself wasn’t tied to the concept.
The band was supposed to make a final, seventh chapter but that didn’t happen. Even though there is a whole demoed album – 12 songs, with Eric Forrest on vocals, the full length album was never released due to some unfortunate events. In 1998 while the band was on tour in Germany, Voivod had an accident on the road. Eric Forrest was badly hurt. He broke a part of his spine and neck. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Eric was in coma for 10 days, and he stayed in the hospital for 9 months.
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Eric Forrest: "It was August 4th 1998 and we are on our way to the Wacken festival to play and we’re going down the Autobahn, and the tire blew and the van rolled.The next thing I know I’m on the other side of the highway…It was kind of a blur. It was a real, brutal situation. Piggy was injured too. Yeah, it was quite a trip, that and being in a coma for like a week… Seeing a lot of weird shit you know, and making out alive and going back and getting back to groovin’. I kinda had to learn how to walk again. It was all blur. It’s weird when you hear stories of this from the other people… I can recall being in coma and seeing Piggy and Away and those guys like there and I’m like, I don’t know, I had like out of body experience and I’m waving like: Hey, guys, HEY! HEY! HEY! And no one is listening. Some weird shit happened like that but fortunately things turned out OK since I can still walk rocking go to the girlfriend and have a good day. Not being paralyzed or whatever." Eric told us that he is not fully recovered from the accident: "I broke my back in a couple of spots. In the lower spine. I don’t know the exact numbers of bone fractures but I’m still handicapped in a degree. Some days are good, some days are bad but like I said, I can still walk, rock and make it happen. I never stopped. I never surrendered, right?" (Agoraphobic News 2020)
The album was supposed to be produced by Steve Albini (Neurosis, Om, Dysrhythmia, High on Fire, Sunn O))), Weedeater). The 2001 album demo featured the following songs: “Comma“, “Collapse“, “Confrontation“, “Chaos“, “Day by Day“, “Aware“, “Anger“, “Victory“, “High“, “Belief“, “Rebuild“, “Peace“.
At this point, the band was on shaky ground and therefore, Away and Piggy decided to split the band:
"Piggy and I demoed everything while Eric was at the hospital in ’99 for a year [from a bus accident while the band was on tour], and then he came out of the hospital and played the bass and sang the vocals. And we did a bunch of tours with Kreator and Neurosis in Europe and USA, and then time came to record the album. We had booked the studio, Steve Albini’s studio with Steve Albini, and,” Away pauses, “I don’t know. In early 2000 the spirit was not there. We had lost the momentum, and I believe the accident in Germany was just too heavy, and we decided to split the band. “I know that Eric is under the impression that he was fired, or we split the band to get rid of him, but it’s really not the case. Piggy and I decided to, like, terminate the whole project, and this was in 2000, and then we spent the year 2001 doing other stuff. That’s where I started to set up online galleries and establish myself a little more as a graphic artist. Piggy was working as a light man in the oldest theater in Montréal; everything was cool. But about a year and a half after, maybe two years, we phoned each other; we had to do something, and decided to reform with Jason and Snake." (Disposable Underground 2010)
AWAY: "First of all, it was not a decision by the band to take such a long hiatus. Everybody heard about the accident in 1998 that pretty much put a stop to the band for a long while, while Eric Forrest, former bassist/vocalist] was recovering. We tried to patch it up with the live album [‘Voivod Lives’, 2000]. The accident happened while touring for ‘Kronik’, which was a whole bunch of tracks from the vaults, but I would say that, starting in ’98 when we crashed in Germany, things got really slow. Eric recovered for a year and then we did some touring with Iron Maiden, Neurosis, Therion – we had a great time. We tried to sue a few people in Germany in relation to the accident and we lost in court. The last tour was in Australia, at the end of 2000. At this point we had the decision from the court and we were involved in a whole bunch of lawsuits and the bank account was down to zero, actually in the minus numbers. After the holidays in 2001 we had time to think it over and we phoned each other in early 2001 and decided it was time to put an end to Voivod. And a couple of months later we decided to reunite with Snake. There were a couple of months – three months – when there was no band. That can explain why there were no studio albums between 1997 and 2003."
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In interview I did with Away in 2017, he shared some details about the final, seventh chapter of the Voivod concept:
“The last chapter was based on Eric’s recovery from the accident we had in Germany. From not being able to move to being fully mobile. So it was sort of a metaphor for us to awake the Voivod again and make him victorious again. In that lost album, the Voivod destroys his own creator, his own god so that’s full on victory if you’re able to achieve that, no masters, no god." (Agoraphobic News 2017)
Away discussed the 7th chapter of the Voivod saga in even greater detail in the latest interview for Agoraphobic News:
"Eric was in the coma for ten days if I remember well in Germany. And eventually they woke him up but then they had to transfer him to his home in Toronto. But he was almost a year in the hospital and during that time we wrote an album based on his recovery from the coma. It wasn’t until he was able to come back on stage with us…I mean the crash happened in 1998 and we were able to start over again in 1999 when we opened for Iron Maiden for a few shows but in the meantime it was the long process for him to recover. At one point we didn’t know if he was going to be able to regain all of his memories because he had a serious, very, very, concussion during the accident and also his body was broken all over and rebuilt by German doctors. And we had no idea and he had no idea if he was ever gonna be able to walk again. In the meantime, Piggy and I were recording the music and Eric and I were writing the lyrics and he was able eventually to start recording the bass for the demo and then the vocals. We demoed the album. We were gonna record it with Steve Albini but it must have been at the end of the year 2000 maybe where we really got disillusioned and we had lost the momentum with the accident. Anyhow, we got discouraged and decided to split the band and never recorded the album. So it only exists as a demo."
We also asked Away to try to tell us what the final, 7th chapter of the Voivod saga is about:
"It’s a tough one. We were just trying to imagine Voivod waking up after another 7000 years, so it’s like Eric Forrest waking up from the coma. But Voivod realizes the collapse, that he is not functioning at all and is very broken. And he is confronted with that fact when he starts to walk and it’s not working. There’s a lot of mixed emotions and chaotic thoughts...discouragement. It’s a day by day experience really where one day there’s hope, the other day there’s no hope. Eventually, the realization that maybe things are over and then a lot of anger. But eventually, the body starts to heal and starts functioning again and it feels like victory and a huge pile of self confidence accelerates the processes of rebuilding the body. And in the end, everything is fine and the Voivod is at peace. I must say it was a great album and it’s one of my greatest regrets in my career ‘cause we never got to Chicago to record the album with Steve Albini." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Eric Forrest covered one song from the unreleased Voivod album called “Victory” which can be heard on E-Force’s album Modified Poison (2008):
"I still got a copy on a cassette. I hadn’t listened to that for many many years. One thing that I would like to say is that I did do a cover on one of my E-Force albums (Modified Poison 2008) of a song called “Victory“ which is one of the songs (from the unreleased album). And I did that out of the tribute to Piggy in a sense like hey, I brought one of these songs to life, it’s a victory…a big production… as a tribute to Piggy in a sense. The album was supposed to be recorded and done but at that point there was a lot of financial problems…" (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Two other unreleased songs “Day By Day“ and “Confrontation“ can be heard on live bootlegs on Youtube. Eric Forrest stated that the unreleased album sounds like Angel Rat, and that it isn't as heavy as Negatron or Phobos :
"On this album and recording, the guys wanted me to like maybe sing a little more in supposed to UUURRRRGHHHHHH. So I would have to say that there’s some of that Angel Rat vibe in there of songs type of metal, not so heavy like the Negatron or Phobos, although when I did the cover of Victory song I did make it maybe sing a little heavier than it was. But it was my version of it anyway." Later in the interview he said: "It’s not my place to go out and like for my next record to go and take a song off that and redo it… What’s done is done and like I said, I did it out for Piggy as a tribute to Piggy but I haven’t touched any of that stuff…I haven’t even listened to it maybe for 10-15 years. But like I did say I do plan to…on my next E-Force record I’m doing a cover of a sort of famous song from a famous band and you can read between the lines what it could be."
When asked if the Voivod saga is ever going to be finished, Away stated:
"That’s a really tough one because at the end of the 80s we had a meeting with the band where we decided not to touch the concept on the Angel Rat and on The Outer Limits. We decided to get away from the concept a bit and so we did the Angel Rat, The Outer Limits and then Negatron. For Phobos we came back to the concept. The problem I have with it is I felt around The Outer Limits era, I was writing concepts for like the song Jack Luminous and Le Pont Noir and stuff like that but I felt eventually that Snake wanted to talk about his own stuff that was more related to his own experience and I didn’t want to impose a concept to him. It was a lesson for me because I had the feeling that it might have been one of the reasons why he left in ’94. So I’ve been since then very careful not to write a full on concept for one album and to let the persons singing express himself more fully. And I would be reluctant to come with a full on concept for an album to Snake and say, OK, on the next album we gonna talk about this! Because he has his own view of this planet and it’s more of a collaborative effort these days where we…Everybody in the band throws ideas at each other, lyrics and music, and then it morphs into a Voivod album. And I think it’s a bit healthier this way." (Agoraphobic News 2020)
Voivod. A story about a nuclear vampire is surely a breathtaking one! It is no-brainer that these seven chapters are one of the most intricate and elaborate conceptual works in the history of heavy metal. Let’s face it, can you name better conceptual albums or characters? I don’t think so! This is but a glimpse of what the whole Voivod universe was. Just like Away said: "So it’s basically from what I can remember from the story. It was more intricate but it was so many years ago." And of course, since there was never a canon version of the whole Voivod saga, I tried to piece the whole thing together by digging out the old interviews, when the metal was still hot, and let those interviews speak for themselves. This post-nuclear cosmic drama deserves a proper end. It sat in the dark for way too long. Now it’s time to resurrect the nuclear creature back from the dead! (And send this script to your favorite movie director).
P.S. Do not damage the puzzle pieces!
Written by: Miloš Čabraja
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