Unquestionably the hardest act to ever hail from Quebec, Voivod was formed in Jonquiere in 1982 by frontman Denis Belanger, Jean-Yves Theriault on bass, guitarist Denis D’Amour, and drummer Michel Langevin.
Drawing equal influences from the heyday of the new wave of British metal and hardcore punk scenes, they began writing their own material, often with political and social conscience themed lyrics while they were still practising in basements. They worked their way into steady gigs around the province’s metal circuit, eventually landing a deal with newly-formed Metal Blade Records.
With the music too dark, long, and against the meainstream hair metal prevalent at the time, their 1984 debut album, WAR AND PAIN, was largely dismissed by radio from the start. But the hardcore metal critics who chose greasy rockers over poofy hair-dos were fuelled by drunk & debaucery in underground clubs in pockets throughout Ontario and Quebec.
Speed metal on overdrive was the back bone of tracks like “Live For Violence” and the conspiracy-laced tale behind “Nuclear War.” The original cassette version also had an extra track called “Condemned To The Gallows,” whose only other commercial release was the compilation album, METAL MASSACRE V. They eventually saw what they claimed to be the seedier side of the business, as although their debut album sold over 40,000 copies within two years, the band was reportedly only paid $1,000 total. This prompted them to find a new home at Noise Records.
Their sophomore record two years later was a continuation of their debut. But again with little or no support, RRROOOAAARRR was a huge hit in the underground circuits. Their cult following continued after issuing a pair of releases in ’87, releasing the five-track EP called COCKROACHES, then the full album KILLING TECHNOLOGY later that year. Along with the title track and “Forgotten In Space,” it featured a more progression in the lyrics with less emphasis on death and speed, though tracks like “Tornado,” “Over Reaction,” and “Ravenous Medicine” were anything but commercially-oriented. Years later when the album was reissued on CD, it also featured re-recordings of “Too Scared To Scream” and the title song from the COCKROACHES EP.
After DIMENSION HATROSS IN ’88, their most commercially accessible album came in the form of NOTHINGFACE a year later, which broke Billboard’s top 200 albums list. Glenn Robinson marked the fifth producer in as many albums, and featured the move to their third label, Mechanic Records. The album continued the change for the band, expanding their sound and exploring more progressive outside infulences. Most noteable was the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine,” which the band got decent airplay on MTV when they made it into their first video. As well, several riffs are heavily influenced by Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring”, specifically the center section of “Pre-Ignition.”
Starting in the early ’90s, their ’84 debut WAR AND PAIN was re-released a few times at home and overseas, with each version slightly altered visually and in the studio and live rarities. The Batman theme was also included on the re-release of DIMENSION HALTROSS in the early ’00s.
They returned in 1991 with their critically-acclaimed ANGEL RAT album, although bassist Jean-Yves Theriault left prior to its release. Produced by heavyweight Terry Brown (Rush, Klaatu, Max Webster, etc), it featured another video in the way of “Clouds in My House,” and the beginning of their collaborations with Ivan Doroschuck, of Men Without Hats. Starting with his keyboards skills on “The Outcast,” he would also make cameos on other songs and co-write a few over the years. Although it was critically acclaimed, the record was a commercial flop according to what MCA execs were expecting.
Following dates throughout North America with a few overseas, as well, they returned to the studios in the fall of ’92, then again the following spring to work on some new material. THE OUTER LIMITS was released in August 1993 with new bassist Pierre St-Jean, and the last to feature frontman Denis Belanger, whose drug problems were becoming legendary at this point. The album featured another Pink Floyd cover – “The Nile Song,” and the 17-minute epic “Jack Luminous.” In a stroke of marketing genius, the original CD also came with a miniature pair of 3D glasses to view the booklet artwork correctly.
With a new deal with Hypnotic Records, NEGATRON in 1995 marked the first of two albums with new vocalist and bassist Eric Forrest. With The Hats on hiatus, Ivan Doroschuck contributed to the writing of “Nanoman,” and “Don’t Do Anything” was based on a poem by Jim G Thirlwell.
PHOBOS was next up in ’97, featuring their first working with ex-Metallica’s Jason Newsted, co-writing “M-Body,” another Doroschuck collaboration in “The Tower,” and a cover of King Crimson’s classic, “21st Century Schizoid Man.” But like its predecessor, album sales were nowhere near where label execs were hoping, and neither went gold.
The band was on tour in Germany in 1998, when Forrest was seriously injured in a high speed car collision. He was eventually forced to leave the band, but not before his insurance company attempted to sue the band, claiming they were responsible for his collision, despite none of them being in the car at the time. This led way to Belanger to return to the fold in ’02, now relatively clean and with his new band Union Made going nowhere. The addition of Jason Newsted full-time on bass also saw him co-writing much of the material.
They released their self-titled critically-acclaimed album in ’03, released on Newsted’s own label, Chophouse Records. The video for “We Carry On” got good rotation on MTV and overseas underground metal markets, and the band found themselves on some of the biggest hardcore tours, including performing at Ozzfest 2003. Incidentally, Newsted was doing double duties with bass, also performing with Ozzy.
While recording their highly anticipated follow-up album, guitarist Denis D’amour died on August 25, 2005 due to colon cancer. Recordings finally resumed early the next year, and culminated in KATORZ the following summer, which also featured the return of producer Glen Robinson. The song “The X Stream” found its way onto the soundtrack to the game “Guitar Hero II.”
For the most part, the band laid low over the next few years, popping up at festivals now and again, including playing at three festivals in Buenos Aires, Wacken, and Calgary under the ‘Monsters of Rock’ banner. In 2009, they released INFINI, although the album was for the most part written around material prior to D’Amour’s death, featuring the lead-off “God Phones,” “Global Warning,” and “Morpheus.”
Around the same time, the remaining members began working with guitarist Dan Mongrain, with expectations of releasing a new studio album, and a live record, in 2012.