VOIVOD’s career path has endured as many shifts and disturbances as the music itself. From major label deals and big-time tours to slogging it out in clubs while metal went through growing pains in the mid 1990s; from high profile bass player ex-Metallica man Jason Newsted to Eric Forrest, who pulled double duty as bassist and vocalist in the mid/late ‘90s. Both men departed from the band by varying degrees of accident and physical injury. The Quebecois prog metal pioneers have persevered through thick and thin to arrive at a comfortable place in 2012 -- a place of rebirth, rejuvenation and respect.
VOIVOD’s various lineups have often revolved around the changing of bass players. In the mid ‘90s, bassist/vocalist Eric Forrest entered the fold to make the band a trio for the first time. After two albums, a collection called Kronik and the Voivod Lives live set, Eric was laid up to do a van accident incurred during a road jaunt. Several years later, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted did his part to help revitalize the band again, and after 2003’s VOIVOD S/T album, an extensive stint on Ozzfest and supporting Ozzy on an arena tour. The band’s Mark IV lineup is as good a lineup as could exist without original guitarist and chief riff catalyst Denis “Piggy” D’Amour. His tragic passing in 2005 threw the band into a period of hiatus, and it was only an event of such unthinkable gravity that could bring surviving members Denis “Snake” Belanger and Michel “Away” Langevin back together with bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault.
Estranged after disagreements during the recording of 1991’s Angel Rat, Blacky -- who handled “blower” bass for the band since their formation in 1983 -- came back to the fold in 2008. When the three surviving members decided to keep the legacy of Piggy alive, there happened to be exactly one perfect match for the job: Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain. A veteran of tech-death monsters Martyr, the very first metal album Mongrain owned was VOIVOD’s 1987 album Killing Technology, and his first live metal show was seeing that very same band in 1990. Mongrain grew up on VOIVOD. He worshipped and eventually learned Piggy’s innovative techniques. He looked up to his local heroes, and his band even covered VOIVOD’s “Brain Scan” in 2006, which also featured Blacky himself on guest bass. It was a collaboration that served as the testing ground for both men to join/rejoin the VOIVOD fold in the coming years.
Once Piggy’s final recordings were made into albums with Jason, Snake and Away working to cobble together the demo’s they had written together (2006’s Katorz and 2009’s Infini), a revitalized VOIVOD hit the road, largely as a means to keep Piggy’s music alive, to celebrate all that VOIVOD had meant to so many fans around the world. After several jaunts through North and South America, Europe and Japan, the new lineup began itching to do more than just exist as a tribute to itself. A new song, “Kaleidos,” began showing up in live sets, and response was positive enough to keep the band writing and driving in the only direction they’ve ever known: forward.
The result of that drive is 2013’s Target Earth album. Recorded at producer Pierre Rémillard’s Wild Studios in Quebec and mixed by Sanford Parker (Pelican, Nachtmystium) the album is out right in time for the band’s 30th anniversary. For this release, VOIVOD’s own company, Iron Gang Factory, joins with global powerhouse Century Media Records for a January 21st/22nd worldwide release. It’s something the band’s diehard fans are eagerly anticipating, and to say the songs of Target Earth run the gamut of VOIVOD’s capabilities would be an understatement. Where “Corps Étranger” steams forward at a frantic clip, so does “Kluskap O’Kom,” the latter more refined and layered, while incorporating what are perhaps the first-ever backup gang vocals heard on a VOIVOD album. On the other side of the spectrum is “Empathy for the Enemy,” a thoughtful art-metal landscape. Several tracks carry the creepy, folkloric vibe of the Angel Rat album; the title track is quintessential VOIVOD sci-fi metal; and strange studio trickery spices up a variety of tracks, lending additional depth to the listening experience. Mongrain’s riffs possess the angular trademark of Piggy’s approach, and the entire band challenged themselves in constructing some of the trickiest arrangements heard on a VOIVOD album since their Nothingface phase (such as the dizzying changes of “Mechanical Mind”).
But while reference points can be made to previous Voivodian eras, there is more new than old here, and that is the way it has always been with the band. Even the cover artwork is both familiar and brand new. Drawn by drummer Away, as ever, the image of an armored, gun-toting nuclear warrior recalls the band’s 1984 War and Pain debut, but he is rendered entirely differently, while a brand new VOIVOD logo flies above the scene.
VOIVOD’s 30th anniversary celebrates their career as one of metal’s most influential bands. The handful of live albums, reissues and DVDs that began to surface in the past ten years proved how beloved this band really is, and now comes another album of inspired fresh material that proves VOIVOD still have many new paths to travel. What band continues to redefine and reinvent themselves 13 studio albums and 30 years into their career? There is only one answer to that question: VOIVOD.
After an awe-inspiring 15 years of blazing trails and dominating stages, Unearth is now institutionalized as a relentless force in heavy metal, standing the test of time with consistently triumphant creative output, tireless road warrior resilience, Blue Collar style workmanship and a resolute determination to deliver the goods.
Like Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Testament and Anthrax before them, Unearth emerged as part of a burgeoning revolution in heavy music but continued to maintain their relevance and mastery of their craft. They’ve resisted and prevailed against changing trends, subcultural fashions and the way music is obtained and distributed with their credibility, integrity and unique persona intact.
The men of Unearth – longtime members Trevor Phipps (vocals), Buz McGrath and Ken Susi (guitars) – are proven “lifers.” In just four short years, drummer Nick Pierce has proven his commitment as well. They have put the furtherance of uncompromising heavy music at the forefront of their career goals. Unearth perseveres, conquers and continues to achieve.
Harnessing the punishing groove of Pantera, the melodic majesty of the New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal, the fist-pumping anthemic power of traditional metal and the gritty realness of early ‘90s Metalcore and Noisecore, Unearth offers a unique take on what was already a thrilling recipe. The Massachusetts based quintet stood tall beside their peers in the so-called New Wave of American Heavy Metal (a category that includes their friends and
contemporaries in Killswitch Engage, Lamb Of God, Shadows Fall and All That Remains) even as they refined themselves into a timeless outfit independent of metal subgenres.
The astounding quality of Unearth’s music has never wavered and only continues to shine through the overly crowded landscape, like a beacon to their fans. The early rumblings of Unearth’s debut full-length, The Stings of Conscience (2011), as well as the EPs that bookended that release, were followed by albums that became classic, defining landmarks in the past decade of underground metal.
The Oncoming Storm (2004), a devastating benchmark many of this generation still discuss with the same devotional awe as albums by The Big 4; III: In the Eyes of Fire (2006), which cracked the Billboard Top 40 with 22,000 in sales during its first week; The March (2008), a conceptually driven opus awarded a 4 “K” review in Kerrang!; and the enduringly awesome latest chapter that was Darkness in the Light (2011), which broke into the Billboard’s Hard Rock Top 10 and was hailed by the international press, all comprise a pristine metallic catalog.
Unearth have made most of their albums with Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz (August Burns Red, Underoath, A Day To Remember) and worked with the legendary Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones, Soundgarden) as well as heavy hitter Mark Lewis (Whitechapel, DevilDriver). Ken Susi is an accomplished producer/mixer in his own right, having worked with The Contortionist and Seemless (among others) and on Unearth records, as well.
With over 500,000 in worldwide album sales, Unearth’s continued staying power has also hinged on their highly interactive and toweringly heavy live performances. Over the course of a relentlessly impressive career, Unearth have played amphitheaters, sheds, theaters, halls and clubs with a diverse group of bands in the metal, hardcore and heavy rock elite. They’ve appeared at prestigious festivals like Download in the UK, Germany’s With Full Force and Wacken, Belgium’s Graspop, Hellfest in France, Japan’s Loud Park, Malaysia Rockaway Festival, Heavy MTL, and many other notable fests across Europe and the United States.
They’ve traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, South America, Europe, Russia, China, Scandinavia and all over Asia. They’ve toured as part of Rockstar Mayhem, Ozzfest (twice), Europe’s Never Say Die, Metal Hammer’s Defenders of the Faith Tour, Australia’s Soundwave (twice), Europe’s Persistence Tour (twice), Sounds Of The Underground (US and Europe) and MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball Tour (twice) as well as multiple headlining runs. Much of that live energy was captured on the Alive from the Apocalypse DVD, which went gold in Canada and debuted at #13 in the US. The Unearth historical legacy was examined in the documentary portion of the DVD.
Unearth are committed to collaborating on uncharted new heights within their music. No sellout and no letdown for their extremely dedicated fans on the horizon. Newly partnered with eOne (North America), Century Media (Europe), 3 Wise (Australia) and Howling Bull (Japan) Unearth will always steadily maintain and powerfully proclaim their allegiance to the lifestyle, the ethos and the community of heavy metal, both now and forever.
Two years have passed since Israeli thrash metal act Hammercult released their album Steelcrusher. Two years during which not only the whole world but also the international metal scene have changed. Hammercult have stayed abreast of those changes: more than ever before, the band impress with their broad stylistic range, increasingly allowing – along with their unmistakable strengths – influences from the punk, hardcore and traditional heavy metal genres. The result is entitled Built For War, a true, intoxicating thrash metal manifesto with an inescapable knock-on effect. Hammercult’s latest release will be out on Steamhammer/SPV on 28 August 2015 (US: 4 September 2015), so you’d better mark the date in your diary.
Because one thing is certain: anybody who liked Steelcrusher is bound to be absolutely bowled over by Built For War. And all those who haven’t got Hammercult on their metal menu yet will celebrate the group’s latest offering as the discovery of the year. “Every song on the album is the kind of pumping anthem which Hammercult are known for – but this time we’ve taken the songs to different places, with a more melodic and more original approach which really stands out,” vocalist Yakir Von Hammer explains. “The vocals on Built For War are very unique and range
from screams to growls, hardcore shouts to clean vocals – which I honestly believe has never been done before by a single performer. If I had to summarize Built For War in a single sentence it would be ‘Destruction meets Manowar in an explosive mix of extreme music and true metal.’”
This description definitely hits the nail on the head. Von Hammer and guitarist Guy Ben David have composed 13 new songs, all of them razor-sharp metal tunes which they went on to record together with the other band members Elad Manor (bass), Maayan Henik (drums) and new addition Yuval Kramer (guitar) in Tel Aviv in February 2015 and which cover the full range of contemporary thrash metal. In line with the album title, following the short intro ‘From
Parts Unknown’, Built For War kicks off with a bang: the opener ‘Rise Of The Hammer’ sounds the way its title would
have you expect: “There’s a good reason why we decided to open the album with this song,” Von Hammer says. “It’s a total metal powerhouse! A true fist-pumping war anthem. Slower but heavier than most of the Hammercult songs,
it feels like storming the battle front, riding a war elephant.”
‘I Live For This Shit’, a kind of leitmotif for the band, comes across just as powerfully. Von Hammer: “This song is about my passion and my way of life. Metal, the road, the roar of the crowd and the strength I get from the people I meet across the world as we spread the war machine known as Hammercult … I live for this shit!” The band has never sounded more explosive than on this number. And they’ve never penned a more political, socio-critical lyric than ‘Spoils Of War’. An Israeli born and raised, this song pretty much tells Von Hammer’s life story: “The lyrics are about how we, the people, are misled by political agendas, left and right – which are all the same and at the end of the day serve to fuel the war industry, which is very profitable in the Middle East.”
You’ve already guessed it: Hammercult touch on sensitive issues, in terms of their lyrics as well as in terms of their music. Their new album brings across pure energy and documents the amazing development process that this band has gone through in the past two years. To incorporate this energy into Built For War, the musicians have enlisted the support of one of the most renowned metal sound engineers worldwide: mix and mastering were handled by Tue Madsen, who is well known for his work with The Haunted, Heaven Shall Burn, Dark Tranquility, Holy Moses, Moonspell, to name but a few. The martial cover artwork courtesy of Péter Sallai (Sabaton, Civil War, Kataklysm) suits the uncompromising sound of the album to a tee. Von Hammer: “The story behind the cover art process was basically my idea to highlight the progression of Hammercult with this album and to present it visually – in the modern world we live in.”
The album comes complete with first-rate bonus material. The DigiPak version includes a live DVD recorded in Tel Aviv two days before the work on Built For War commenced. “The best way to listen to Hammercult is live,” Von Hammer says, “on stage is where we really shine, and we wanted to prove that and capture the live energy on stage and bring it to the masses.” In addition, the album’s vinyl version features a cover of the Slayer classic ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’. “During our tour with Sepultura in 2013, the metal community had the news that Jeff Hanneman had passed away. On that day I promised to myself that we would cover Slayer.”
So it’s done: Built For War will definitely shake up the thrash metal scene and arouse anticipation for Hammercult’s upcoming European tour scheduled for autumn 2015. As Von Hammer puts it so aptly: “I’m really looking forward to
getting this album on stage and to the audience. I live for this shit!”