Few bands are as synonymous with Canadian heavy-metal as Quebec’s Voivod, who performs this Saturday night at Moncton’s Tide & Boar Ballroom as part of the Mud City Meltdown Festival. From their origins in the Saguenay region of Quebec to stages all over the world, the group’s influence continues to be felt far and wide.
Voivod’s three-decade long musical trajectory has been unique:
On their first two releases – 1984’s War and Pain and Rrroooaaarrr (1986) – the group brewed a distinctly unique amalgam of punk and thrash metal, which quickly earned them legions of fans the world over.
As their career progressed, however, so did Voivod’s sound, so much so that by the time that the group was ensconced in the early 90’s, their sound evolved into something that bore the hallmarks of progressive and technical heavy metal.
Remarkably, their original fans remained by their side even as they broke through to a new generation of music fans on the heels of tours with bands including Soundgarden and Faith No More.
Of course, the band cannot be reduced to being a footnote of the 90’s. Since the turn of the century alone, the band has released four studio albums – the most recent of which is 2013’s Target Earth – and has continued touring the world over.
Voivod’s continued relevance – now more than three decades running – stems largely from the fact they have always marched to the beat of their own drummer. They have never been a band that fought for acceptance among music fans or changed their sound to “fit in.”
That musical integrity led to high-profile fans coming out of the woodwork, including Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who enlisted Voivod vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger to contribute vocals to his 2004 heavy-metal project Probot. Former Metallica bassist Jason Newstead was not only a staunch supporter of the band, often seen dressed in Voivod shirts in Metallica’s promotional pictures, he also joined the group for 2003’s self-titled record.
From his home in Montreal, Voivod drummer Michel Langevin marvels at the fact they are still kicking, 31 years after their debut record hit store shelves.
“It’s pretty safe to say that we weren’t thinking in terms of longevity when we formed. We were all so young when our debut album came out, all 18 or 19 years old. We didn’t have a plan. In fact, I wasn’t even all that sure we would go on to do anything after War & Pain.”
With that album, Voivod stood confidently alongside predominantly American acts including Slayer and Metallica, who were also beginning to make names for themselves in thrash metal circles. Their relatively quick acceptance among the heavy metal community provided the group the fuel it needed to soldier on.
“It seemed as though there was a lot of excitement around thrash metal when we realized that we might be able to make a career out of this after all,” Langevin says, noting they were initially hesitant about how a group comprised of French Canadians would be received in the world of heavy metal.
“As soon as we started touring with Sepultura, who came from Brazil, and Germany’s Kreator, we realized the heavy metal scene was indeed a global one. Accents didn’t matter in the least.”
Langevin credits the global heavy metal scene as helping sustain the group. Although they completed a North American tour earlier this year, and have another jaunt scheduled for later in the year, Voivod dedicates a significant amount of time to touring throughout Europe.
“There has always been a healthy appetite for heavy metal in Europe, even at the height of the grunge movement in the early 90’s. It seems to be something that is spreading in popularity to new territories as well with heavy metal bands making in-roads in places like India and China, among others.
“All that being said, heavy metal certainly still has its place here in North America. Compared to Europe, the scene is more underground, but the fans are still there. Just because heavy metal music doesn’t have a mainstream profile doesn’t mean that it has ceased to exist. We’re very lucky to be able to tour throughout Canada and the U.S. and have people turn up at our shows,” Langevin says.
With a flurry of 7-inch singles scheduled to be released later this year, in addition to tours with heavy metal luminaries including Napalm Death, Carcass and Obituary, Langevin says the group will concentrate on writing a new record next year.
Asked what fans should expect from the group’s sole Atlantic Canadian show this weekend, Langevin promises a mix of material that spans their lengthy discography.
“We have a few different set lists that we rotate through when we are on tour, which keeps things interesting for us as well as the audience,” he says. “That means including material from the 80’s, the 90’s, the Jason Newsted-era along with material from Target Earth. We try to cover as many different eras from our catalogue as we can.”
What: Voivod with Hard Charger and Zaum
When: Saturday July 25, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Advanced tickets are $25 plus service charge, available online at tideandboar.com/music. Tickets at the door are $30.