Canadian Musician - March-April 2022 - Page 41

“ I couldn ’ t wait to open it ,” he says , smiling like a kid on Christmas . “ The amount of work was pretty intense , so it ’ s always a relief when it ’ s there , physically , in my hands .”
Also on our video chat is vocalist Denis “ Snake ” Bélanger , Voivod ’ s singer and other remaining original member who , aside from a hiatus between 1994 and 2002 , has performed alongside Langevin throughout the band ’ s four-decade career . Both musicians are in high spirits today , chatting with each other from their respective homes as they build off each other ’ s points and recount stories from their long and uncompromising career together . Both Bélanger and Langevin speak about Synchro Anarchy with a sense of pride in what they ’ ve managed to pull off with this record .
“ This one in particular is something different than what we have previously done ,” says Bélanger . “ We did this record in four months , which is crazy .”
On top of the time restraints the band found themselves under , Langevin says he and his bandmates hadn ’ t rehearsed the new material before heading into the studio to record it — and some of the songs weren ’ t even finished being written . This was last June , when concerts and festivals were just starting back up in Quebec , so the band were recording during the week and performing on weekends . It was stressful , but the band believes that in the end , the urgency added an unexpected type of energy to the album .
“ The result is fantastic , I think ,” says Bélanger . “ It ’ s one of a kind .”
Though they are pleased with the final product , neither Langevin nor Bélanger wishes to repeat the same process in the future . They agree that the challenges they faced making Synchro Anarchy , many of which were brought on by the pandemic , have made them stronger as a band .
“ It was really exhausting for everybody . And I think that next time we will be more prepared ,” says Langevin . “ But the formula that we had to come up with to build the album , it will allow us to be more prepared next time . Just the fact that we found a way to do demos , while social distancing , it ’ s going to be helpful .”
The physical distance between band members during the preliminary stages of the album was something Voivod had never had to deal with , and couldn ’ t have seen coming before 2020 .
“ If anything , we ’ re more organized now for sure ,” Langevin continues . “ But it was a stressful experience . And I don ’ t think we will approach the next album the same way .”
Still , there ’ s something to be said for a band this far into its career to still be taking new approaches rather than tried-andtrue formulas . But this is Voivod , and Voivod have always been innovators . The band has long been known for its inventive approach to heavy metal and are often credited as pioneers of the progressive metal style . When asked how it feels to see a new wave of bands influenced by Voivod , the members humbly say they can ’ t really take all the credit .
“ I would say that it took a while for me to start noticing the influence ,” says Langevin . “ It was only when I started hearing Meshuggah and Fear Factory . And then we started playing with these guys at festivals , and they confirmed that we were an inspiration . And so , it was a while before I noticed , but these days , I can hear it , let ’ s say , in Gojira , but I don ’ t know if they were influenced by Voivod . They might have been influenced by bands that were influenced by Voivod ; it ’ s hard to tell . But it ’ s always fun to hear from the musicians that they were influenced by Voivod .”
Langevin and Bélanger do point out , however , that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters can be heard using “ Piggy ’ s chord ,” a threetone guitar chord attributed to late Voivod guitarist Denis “ Piggy ” D ’ Amour .
“ Dave will confirm that he is a huge Voivod fan for sure ,” Bélanger says with a laugh .
Our conversation takes a bit of an unexpected turn when Grohl ’ s name comes up — it starts with Bélanger touching on what a great experience it was to work with Grohl on his 2004 metal side project , Probot , but before long , the two are sharing their memories of meeting and hanging out with Grohl , who they ’ ve known since the ‘ 80s when he was a kid going to Voivod shows in Washington , while also praising his character and songwriting style .
“ He ’ s just a big smile walking ,” says Bélanger . “ Each time he plays in Montreal , he invites us backstage and stuff like that , and it ’ s super cool .”
As we chat , it ’ s clear to see that Voivod still have a great time working together , whatever it is they ’ re working on , be it writing , recording , rehearsing , music video shoots , or anything else . Langevin , for one , believes the band would write “ really basic songs ” if they couldn ’ t stand being in a room together , and basic songs are not what Voivod does .
“ We have a blast ,” he says . “ We just get along so well , and there ’ s no way we could write this type of music if we didn ’ t .”
Newer to Voivod ’ s lineup are guitarist Daniel “ Chewy ” Mongrain and bassist Dominic “ Rocky ” Laroche , who have been playing in the band since 2008 and 2014 , respectively . The two grew up as Voivod fans , and the longer-serving members of the band believe their addition has breathed new life into their music . After D ’ Amour died of prostate cancer in 2005 , the band took a three-year hiatus , during which it was uncertain if they would ever continue .
“ What was difficult was losing Piggy ,” says Bélanger . “ That was the worst part .”
D ’ Amour , who up until his death , had also been with Voivod since the beginning , was known for his unstructured and anarchistic style of guitar playing , and brought a huge part of the innovation that the band ’ s signature sound is built around . In addition to being an important part of the band ’ s sound , he was a great friend to Langevin and Bélanger . Though they chose to regroup with a new guitarist in 2008 , they knew it would never be quite the same without D ’ Amour , and there was no use trying to force that .
“ We spent almost three years wondering what we were going to do and mourning Piggy ,” Bélanger continues . “ Back then I had no hope — who was going to replace Piggy ? He was such a unique player , and the fact that we lost a great friend , as well . It ’ s not only a business thing .”
Eventually , the remaining members decided the best way to honour D ’ Amour ’ s music , legacy , and innovation was to keep going — not only to continue to play the music D ’ Amour helped create for fans , but to make new music as well , pushing forward with the band that he poured his life ’ s work into .
“ For me , it was like a sort of benediction from heaven ,” says Bélanger . “ Then this guy Chewy popped up , and I had goosebumps because he knew exactly what to do .”
Voivod ’ s relaunch started off slow , with a festival appearance in Montreal at the 2008 edition of Heavy MTL ( now called Heavy Montreal ), headlined by Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe . It was a special show for many reasons , including the massive crowd reaction Voivod received , dispelling any doubt as to whether or not they should continue .
“ It was a truly amazing experience ,” says Langevin . “ There were people there that never thought they would see Voivod , so it was really such a wonderful experience . It was supposed to be a one-off show , and then the word spread .”
Shortly after their triumphant return to