Friday, March 31, 2006

VOIVOD - Killing Technology CD (Noise/1987)
If there are two '80s thrash/speed/death/blah metal bands you're going to investigate whilst on this planet, I'd lay my bets on Canada's Voivod and Switzerland's Celtic Frost (you can throw in Slayer ca. Reign In Blood and even Metallica's Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets in there, too. Fuck you right back). For the 'Frost, you can't go past Emperor's Return, Morbid Tales, To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium, but I'll talk about them at a later date. I grew up a Metal-phobe, I've documented that previously somewhere before, though at some time in my late 20s I became exposed to the likes of Slayer and Celtic Frost and re-evaluated my way of thinking. Genres are for the birds, it's the music which means everything. And let's face it, "hardcore punk" has been a toothless tiger for a good 20 years now; the Punk Vs. Metal debate I used to actually care about as a teenager means so little to anyone with a brain I would never dare to bring it up in polite company again. When the music is as good as Voivod, you can only state that they were a very fine musical outfit, period.

I was first given a tape of this when I was 19 from a Canadian penpal. She was going to send me some MX-80 tapes she was making (their Ralph LPs were impossible to find down here at the time) and she promised me some cool Canadian music as a bonus. Since the genre known as "cool Canadian music" is a rather limited one (sorry, Chris, you can email me and berate my sorry ignorance) - barring the likes of Neil Young, Simply Saucer, maybe a couple of early punk 7"s and Constellation bands I like - I awaited her choice. It was Voivod. I knew the name well, was aware of their eclectic fan base, namely the likes of MX-80 themselves, Sonic Youth, Die Kreuzen (whose October File LP influenced them greatly), Jello Biafra, Lydia Lunch, John Zorn, Glenn Branca and every downtown NYC hipster you may to care mention, and was interested in their music and what their supposedly unique take on "frash metal" would be. It was more than I'd hoped for. I hung onto that cassette for years, or at least until I finally took the plunge and bought Dimension Hatross, Nothingface and Killing Technology a decade later, and having flogged this in the car the past week I can happily report that their music has weathered well.

If I was to describe them as a progressive-space-rock-thrash-metal outfit with thematic albums which told a story about a future dominated by robots and technology gone mad, you'd have reason to be afraid. It sounds dreadful, though it works a charm. I don't read their lyrics, so they're not too important; for me it's the music which does the talking, a white-hot combination of bone-smashing punk/metal thrash and, at times, ludicrously convoluted song structures lifted from the Red/Starless & Bible Black book of prog songwriting. Or, if you will, picture a combination of early Hawkwind/Pink Floyd, Mekanik Destruktiv Kommandoh-period Magma and Hear Nothing...-era Discharge in a melting pot and it approximates the sound of Voivod in the '80s. Way too many u/ground music snobs thumb their nose to the completely genre-defying sounds of Voivod, and it's their loss.

In the early '90s they signed to a major, mutated into a kind of pop/grunge/sci-fi outfit (Angel Rat is considered their strongest by many fans, though I've never heard the whole thing), then were unceremoniously dropped and reinvented themselves once again as a kind of dirge-y, noisy and lo-fi noise-metal outfit influenced by the likes of Neurosis, Melvins and maybe even some of those AmRep bands you now deny having ever owned (God Bullies, Helmet, etc.). Those albums are pretty A-OK, too, though if you want the real goods, stick to the holy trinity of Dimension Hatross, Nothingface and Killing Technology. They played a low-key (or should I say "sparsely attended") show here in '01 and it was, as they say in the business, "a night to remember". Super-nice fellas, too; they hung around for a beer and a chat w/ the fans, so let's a raise a glass to Voivod and their now-deceased guitarist, Piggy. Here here!

ERASERHEAD Soundtrack LP (Alternative Tentacles/year??)
A couple of months back Jay over at Agony Shorthand had a dig at Alternative Tentacles, hailing them as perhaps the worst record label of all time. I put my two cents in and came to their defense. I'll be the first to admit their high level of turkeys (has anyone ever listened to a Victim's Family LP all the way through?), but over the years they've done some fine things I still own and cherish: the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation (seriously, a fairly groundbreaking introduction of early US '80s underground music made specifically for the ignorant UK public), Flipper and Husker Du (again, licensed for clueless Limeys), Tragic Mulatto, Alice Donut (ca. Mule), Amebix, Half Japanese, Zolar X, Dog Faced Hermans, BGK, Crucifucks, Dicks, even an upcoming Metal Urbain LP. And this.

I never even knew this existed until 7 or 8 years ago when I stumbled across it in a suburban second-hand record store. The catalogue # is VIRUS30, so that'd pinpoint it as an early-'80s release, though I can only assume it was deleted fairly soon thereafter (this is a UK version, an IRS/A & M version still exists on CD, apparently). This wouldn't have been a hit w/ the punkers, though it does at least show Jello and co. to be an eclectic bunch willing to release the seemingly unsellable. David Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet made a one-of-a-kind soundtrack here, a collage of sound comprising of baby screams (you know the one), smashing glass, howling winds, dripping water, industrial machinery, creeping organs and, creepiest of all, that "In Heaven (Everything Is Fine)" track sung near the end of the movie, a song which, strangely enough as I read the LP's credits, was co-written by none other than Peter Ivers, the radical DJ/producer/singer/songwriter who hosted "New Wave Theatre" in the early '80s and brought hardcore to the cable-TV masses before he was tragically murdered. Huh...

Why did I drag this out? I watched the movie last night; first time in over a decade. Loved it as a pretentious 18-year-old Arts student and - despite Lynch's film-making abilities hitting the skids for nearly the last 20 years - it still gives me a warm glow, and I wasn't even baked. Along w/ Metal Machine Music, you'll hardly ever listen to the thing, though the Eraserhead soundtrack is a nice relic to drag out on a rainy day.

Other LD Party Trax (sorry, Tim):

1) THE EX - Instant 2CD
2) RED KRAYOLA - Soldier Talk LP
3) PATTY WATERS - You Thrill Me CD
4) VARIOUS - Ethiopiques Vol. 4: Jazz and Instrumental Music 1969-74 CD
5) BRUTAL TRUTH - Need to Control CD

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