Overall Rating: 89
So I moved to Washington DC in January of 1989 to begin an internship working for a congressman on Capitol Hill. It was supposed to be a temporary thing so I left most of my “stuff” behind. But I did have one of these:
And that meant that, against my very basic instincts, I actually purchased what I called “store bought” cassettes. Before then I always purchased LPs and would then record them on high quality blank casettes. This allowed me to keep the LPs in mint condition and enjoy the music in my car or wherever. Store bought cassettes were terrible quality; they sounded like shit and would often get eaten by players. Anyone who lived in the 80’s and listened to music knows exactly what I’m talking about.
So, one day I’m reading about music in Spin Magazine. Spin was relatively new then, and in the pre-internet days such magazines were one of the few ways to learn of new, unkown bands without actually seeing them. And they had a story about a “cyberpunk” band from Quebec. I didn’t know what “cyberpunk” meant in 1989 but the write-up on the band was interesting and thus Nothingface became my very first “store bought” cassette purchase. It was a good one:
Voivod is not a household name and yet the band has endured from the mid-80’s and still play to this day. No doubt, however, their peak was the mid-80s to early 90s and Nothingface is considered among, if not THE band’s greatest achievement. Upon its release it was quite unique, combining New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) riffs and emerging thrash elements with a tech-centric sci-fi take on the modern world. Consider lyrics such as:
Stupendous flaking fume
Tremendous dancing doom
Smoke stack spill
Momentous reeking ooze
Enormous creaking crew
That discombobulating combination of half sentences somehow makes perfect sense when Voivod sings it as part of Missing Sequences, perhaps the best song on the album. But that judgement’s arguable, because there’s so many outstanding pieces here. Opening track “The Unkown Knows” combines all the Voivod ingredients in a perfect opening stew: brooding ambient soundscape (similar to fellow Canadian’s 2112 opening by Rush) that immediately jumps into rapid-fire thrashy rhythms combined with their dark, dark sci-fi lyrics. Other stellar songs include the title track, Inner Combustion and Into My Hypercube.
However, the song that gained the band the most attention and which is (arguably) their most popular to this day is the band’s fairly straight-forward take on Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine. When it comes to cover songs there’s two paths to success: do it different or do it better. In this case, Voivod did it better. It’s spacey, hard, compelling and unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else.
Amazingly, 27 years later the album holds up very well. The music played here was largely ahead of its time with many others later using similar formulas. And the consistency is strong, with only a couple late songs not scoring as high as 4 or 5. Admittedly, this isn’t an historically great record. The breadth of the music is pretty narrow; Voivod knew their stengths and played to them here. I’d strongly recommend it to any fan of hard rock, 80’s-90’s metal or progressive metal.