Voïvod – Synchro Anarchy (Album Review)

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Very few bands that survive for four decades continue to put out material that matches the intensity of their youth. The French Canadians of Voïvod managed to do exactly that, while making a grand total of zero concessions to the mainstream. From their punk origins on albums like “War and Pain” and “Rrröööaaarrr”, evolving into thrash with “Killing Technology” and “Dimension Hatröss” and incorporating more and more prog elements thereafter, they’ve always played by their own rules. The band reached a commercial peak with “The Wake”, which won the Juno Award for Best Heavy Metal Album of the Year in 2018, and remain unafraid to navigate uncharted musical territories.

Expectations were at an all time high with the successor of “The Wake”, and after a lengthy tour to promote that album, it was time to be creative again. There was one obstacle on the way, however: with the restrictions imposed by Covid, the group could not go through their usual creative process, which involved extensive jams. As a result, the upcoming album was born under completely unusual circumstances, with each member working separately. Surprisingly, it does not deviate too much from their recent output. In the making of the album, demos and files were shared and worked on, to the point where they sounded like the four members playing in the same room.

Set for release on February 11th via Century Media, “Synchro Anarchy” is Voïvod’s 15th studio release and, as fans have come to expect, it is yet another unparalleled concoction of wildly imaginative heaviness. Shaped by the weirdest of circumstances, the new songs were born from an intense period of collaboration, and the whole album was done in about four months.

Although it was recorded at the speed of light, not a single track on “Synchro Anarchy” sounds rushed or overlooked. The journey begins with “Paranormalium”: heavy, brooding, intense and jarring in equal parts, it explores the confusion of mankind with so many realities and truths, with parts that can be sung by the crowd on a live setting, but also Slayer-like moments that are foreboding of hot-blooded moments in the moshpit. The delivery of Denis “Snake” Bélanger alternates aggression and fear, with narrated parts that seem to have been taken from a horror movie.

Up next is the title track, which explores the coincidences and synchronicities that possibly govern our own existence. Its title is representative of the planet we live on and the way the album was built from snippets of ideas like a huge puzzle. Drummer Michel “Away” Langevin chimes in on the intricate genesis of the song: “After coming back from the European tour with GWAR at the end of 2019, we took a break and got back together in early 2020 to record some new ideas and improvisations. After finishing one of these sessions, while untying my running shoes, I had a flash of a rhythm where I would skip one beat every bar. I told the band I had an idea and walked towards the drums but I stepped on one of my shoelaces, missed a step and almost fell on the drum kit. Everybody laughed, then I played the beat, which Chewy recorded and named ‘Away’s Shoelace Incident’. This gave Snake the idea to write about these strange timings where somebody would stop to tie up his shoe only to be closely missed by a flying wheel of a car. At one point Snake had shorten the title to ‘Shoelace’ but I noticed in his lyrics the words ‘Synchro Anarchy’ and told him it would be a great name for the song.

Just as the title suggests, “Planet Eaters” talks about the way that mankind seeks to use natural resources, with tales of interplanetary travels added in for good measure. The plodding rhythm is carried by the thumping bass of Dominic “Rocky” Laroche, and the dissonant chords of guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain drive the listener through this desperate journey. Snake’s lyrics of late have combined social commentary with science fiction with rare aptitude, and he strikes a chord when discussing our endless appetite to expand: “Building more, building more buildings to build/ Build more buildings more again and again”. This one is followed by “Mind Clock”, which starts with a grunge vibe and evolves into a thrashy tune that will leave you breathless after the last note.

“Synchro Anarchy” Album Artwork

Elsewhere, “Sleeves Off” starts with a poppy accent, reminiscent of albums like “The Outer Limits” or “Angel Rat,” and includes a gnarly bass solo and vertiginous six-string wizardry from Chewy. By contrast, “Holographic Thinking” is more evocative, atmospheric and proggy, but leaves the listener wanting more, as it fades out when an interesting guitar lead comes in – maybe that melody will only be resolved in my head if and when they play this song live.

Voïvod finds time to approach pop once again on the unusually optimistic “The World Today” before bringing back the heaviness on “Quest for Nothing”, which finishes off with a disturbing yet enticing melody played on mandola and mandolin, separated by one octave. “Memory Failure” closes the proceedings, with reality-bending lyrics, ear-piercing riffs and thunderous drums that carry the band’s trademarks.

With the exquisite production of Francis Perron, who has been a great partner of the band since the “Post Society” EP, and a great cover which alludes to all the themes of the album, “Synchro Anarchy” was definitely a race against the clock. Wisely, they embraced this new constraint and took it as a new creative element, delivering one of the most consistent collection of songs of their late period. As is the case with most of their albums, the rewards to be reaped from “Synchro Anarchy” increase dramatically after each listen.

The album’s Deluxe CD/Digital edition includes a special live bonus disc entitled “Return To Morgöth – Live 2018” with a playing time of 65:31 minutes, covering the band’s 35th anniversary concert. Never mind the fact that many songs were already represented on 2020’s “Lost Machine – Live”, the contagious energy of their live set makes this a welcome addition to the whole package.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: February 11th, 2022
Genre: Progressive/Thrash Metal

Band Members:

  • Rocky / Bass
  • Away / Drums
  • Snake / Vocals
  • Chewy / Guitars

 “Synchro Anarchy” tracklist:

  1. Paranormalium
  2.  Synchro Anarchy
  3. Planet Eaters
  4. Mind Clock
  5. Sleeves Off
  6. Holographic Thinking
  7. The World Today
  8. Quest for Nothing
  9. Memory Failure

9.0 Excellent

Weird tuning, dissonant chords, sci-fi lyrics and thrash mixed with prog? Yep, it’s another Voïvod album! The Jonquière crew used time constraints to their advantage and delivered another highlight of their career with “Synchro Anarchy”. Delivering the successor to 2018’s “The Wake” wasn’t going to be easy, but they managed to do that while further expanding their musical and lyrical palette. Embrace the complexity, the weirdness and chaos brought to you by Voïvod!

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9

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