Monday, December 21, 2009

Ripple Theater: Voivod – Tatsumaki

Voivod has always been the special band for me. They were just left of center to everything else that was out at the time that very few of my friends understood what was happening, and that made the band even more important to me. I got ‘em! I knew where these guys were coming from with their discordant punk rock vibe and their sometimes jarring jazzy time signatures. I picked up on the dark and despondent imagery and adopted it for my own. I got this band, they got me, and Voivod were mine, and seemingly mine alone, to love. And though I tried to turn others onto the band, I was partly thankful that precious few picked up what I was putting down. What does any of this have to do with the band’s latest DVD entitled Tatsumaki? Well, it turns out, not all that surprisingly, that there are others like me out there on this vast planet who revere the band in the same way as I do, who were drawn to this band the same way that I was, and who feel a sense of pride in knowing that they were part of the Voivod family, albeit the distant relatives who may have never met the family founders.

The Tatsumaki DVD captures Voivod as they take the stage in Japan for the first time in the illustrious career, and for all intents and purposes, is a live concert. But that doesn’t tell the whole story of this particular product. It comes down to the bonus features. It was in the behind the scenes stuff and an interview with the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl that made this DVD a bit more of a treasure. I’m not saying that the bonus material makes the disc, but it did shed some light on how beloved this band was in its early days, and how loyal that fan base is to stick with the band through its various forms and musical directions. Grohl does a good job of expressing that fan passion, using words that always seem to escape me when I’m trying to describe what I love about the music so much. And just because the dude is such a huge Voivod fan, I may pick up a Foo Fighters disc to honor of his Voivod-id-ness.

The concert footage is strong even though it lacks some of the camera angles that I would have preferred. Apparently, the live footage was supposed to be used for a Japanese television program so they only had three cameras on site capturing the Voivod beast in all of its fury. In a weird way though, the minimal camera angles worked. It seemed to capture the band in a more raw sense, maybe giving it a more DIY feel, which harkens back to the bands original punk/metal origins. Never one for special effects mixed in with live footage, I was pleased with the stripped down version of the feed. However, I often found myself wishing to see more of Away’s attack on the drum set from behind the kit rather than face on from across the concert hall. Ah . . . again, it’s minor and the overall feel of the shots work well with the mood.

Ironically enough, the biggest fear that I had about this disc was that there would be a void left by the absence of Piggy too huge to ever fill. Truth be told, guitarist Dan Mongrain almost made me forget that I wasn’t hearing Piggy perform the classic parts of the classic songs. I didn’t expect that Voivod would hit the stage and release a product that didn’t capture the essence of Piggy relatively well, but I was exceptionally pleased that Dan hit the textural aspects of Piggy’s approach dead on. Plus, Mongrain’s stage presence was solid, whipping his hair into a dander filled tornado while carrying on with the break neck riffagry and striking the ultimate metal poses . . . it was an awesome sight to see. Also, throughout the show, it appeared that he was interacting well with the audience, making eye contact with the fans, cheering them on as much as they were to him. But most importantly, his playing of Piggy’s original works was out of sight. It goes without saying that there will never be another guitarist like Piggy, and Mongrain does a fantastic job of honoring his memory by simply trying to recreate Piggy’s sound to the best of his ability. Horns up.

Voivod focused the set around the three key albums of Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross, and Nothingface, and even threw in a couple of tracks from the oft overlooked, though equally brilliant, Angel Rat. As one who was stark raving about the band during this era, it was a welcome sight and sound to witness the band attack these numbers, primarily songs like “Ravenous Medicine,” “Overreaction,” and “Brain Scan.” The entire band powered through the numbers with conviction and they all appeared to be enjoying themselves, and the appreciation to their fans was readily apparent. Of course, “Tornado” was the ultimate moment, Snake changing up the chorus to “Tatsumaki” (tornado is Japanese) for the benefit of the Japanese crowd. Blacky’s return to the band was driven home with the break to this song . . . low end rumbling like an oncoming twister . . . then the whole band whipping into an off time frenzy. Man . . . so awesome to watch!

Voivod are one of those bands that people either just don’t get or love with a fiery passion. Tatsumaki is for the latter and will be hard pressed to convert new followers. Good video production despite the lack of cameras and solid audio makes the live footage a must for any fan of the band. The bonus material, though not earth shattering, gives a bit of clarity to why we love the band as much as we do. We all have our individual reasons, but I think hearing Dave Grohl talk so passionately about his love for the band helps formulate the reasoning even better. We like Voivod because they were raw and heavy and menacing and they were all of these things while never fitting in with one band within the genre. And then, they got weird, and then a little weirder, and then just flat out bizarre, and it all worked within the fantastic dark and heavy world of Voivod. - Pope JTE

Buy here:  Voivod

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