Canadian Musician - March-April 2022 - Page 42

the stage , Voivod were asked to fly to Tokyo to play with Testament , then asked by Judas Priest to open for them in Montreal , then invited to play Monsters of Rock alongside both of these bands , as well as Ozzy Osbourne , Serj Tankian of System of a Down , and more , all in 2008 .
“ From then on , we just kept going ,” says Langevin . “ We actually accelerated the pace as years went by .”
After the release of The Wake , the predecessor to Synchro Anarchy , in 2018 , Voivod toured incessantly , wrapping up a string of European dates with Gwar in late 2019 and earning the Juno Award for Metal / Hard Music Album of The Year . From there , they turned their attention to working on a new album in early 2020 . While many bands from Voivod ’ s era rely mostly on older material for live shows and tours , only releasing new music sporadically , Voivod has always had a steady output of studio work , with a new album consistently arriving every few years , simply because their love of creating music has never waned in their decades as a band . Bélanger , for one , believes his fans do want to hear new material just as much as they want to hear the classics again and again .
“ Most of the fans want to hear the old songs , and it goes the same way for many bands out there , like Slayer or whatever ,” he says . “ But I think what ’ s different with us is just that we were quite innovative . And if you ’ re a music enthusiast , you ’ re going to look for something that Voivod just released , because it ’ s something special for our fans .”
Bélanger notes that Voivod has never made the same record twice , and a unique touch to every album is something fans have come to expect .
“ We have very , very loyal fans , and of course , they like the old stuff ,” he adds . “ But they ’ re going to really look forward to see what we are cooking .”
Langevin names Motörhead , Ramones , and AC / DC as examples of bands who found and perfected a formula , saying he admires these bands for their consistency , but never saw Voivod as a band that could stick to just one sound .
“ For Voivod , it ’ s just a matter of trying to create something new all the time ,” he says . “ And people seem to think that we are more creative these days than ever .”
Voivod has persevered for 40 years , surviving changes upon changes to the recording and touring industry and the loss of a key member . The determination to push on no matter what it took was always present in this band , even going back to its formation in 1982 in Jonquière , QC . Langevin and Bélanger both remember feeling like their dream of playing in a world-class heavy metal band was unrealistic for someone living in northern Quebec and speaking French .
“ Back where we come from , you didn ’ t have much options ,” says Bélanger . “ There ’ s two big factories there . If you live there , you don ’ t have much of an option besides just to get out of that place . It ’ s a challenge , but we managed to do it .”
In 1984 when Voivod ’ s debut album , War and Pain , was released through Metal Blade Records , Langevin noticed it made an impact on the up-and-coming thrash and speed metal scene , and knew he could stick it out with Voivod for the long run — but not before taking care of one important piece of business .
“ That ’ s where I left university ,” he says , as he and Bélanger both burst into laughter . “ So , I had the dreaded supper where I had to tell my parents I ’ m quitting school in science because I want to be in a heavy metal band .”
Bélanger also saw Voivod ’ s potential early on , but knew it would not come easy and was prepared to make music his life ’ s vocation . He compares playing in a metal band , funnily enough , to being a priest , in that career musicians must devote their lives to their bands the same way priests must devote their lives to the church . There are certain sacrifices that come with the lifestyle as well , but getting to travel the world , meeting all kinds of people , and sharing his music with them makes the sacrifices worth it for the singer .
“ It ’ s a challenging thing , but also , it ’ s a particular life ,” he says . “ We ’ re not super rich , we ’ re not making millions , and maybe I could have worked in some places in my life and have a nice house and two vehicles
in the driveway , but that ’ s not what I want .”
After a few years away from Voivod , Bélanger says he “ freaked out ,” because he felt an intrinsic need to create and no longer had a vehicle for his creativity . Though he did some musical projects here and there , he eventually knew he needed to be back in Voivod full-time , as he had become addicted to the lifestyle .
“ Once you get hooked , you want to keep doing it ,” adds Bélanger . “ And it ’ s fun . It ’ s demanding , but it ’ s fun . It ’ s a world of creation when you ’ re an artist ; it ’ s a need to create .”
Relocating to Montreal took away the isolation factor Voivod felt in the beginning . A week after moving , they found themselves in New York City opening for British black metal trailblazers Venom and NYC hardcore outfit Cro-Mags . Though Voivod was still based up in Canada , far from the nowinfamous California Bay Area , which is seen as the cradle of thrash metal , Langevin says he didn ’ t feel separated from the scene because of how much touring every band was doing back in those days , and because Voivod had a recording contract based in California anyway . Additionally , Canada had a strong scene of its own , with bands like Annihilator , Sacrifice , and Razor as contemporaries .
“ I think it was one big thing , just from different areas ,” Bélanger says of the early thrash and speed metal scene . “ Because when we came out , we were just surfing that wave of thrash metal exploding back in the ‘ 80s .”
The thrash metal scene of the 1980s turned the world of heavy music on its head , with many of its acts , like Metallica , Megadeth , and Slayer quickly propelling to worldwide superstardom .
“ That was the new thing coming out ,” Bélanger recalls . “ New bands from all around the world were exploding .”
The scene did indeed become global , and within a few years Voivod was touring the world with bands such as California death metal forerunners Possessed and German thrash titans Kreator . Every tour was a practical who ’ s- who of the big names in the metal world , and Voivod shared the stage with nearly every one of them . Langevin remembers seeing Anvil , heroes of his , opening for Iron Maiden when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal ( NWOBHM ) giants were touring in support of 1982 ’ s The Number of the Beast , and thinking not only would his band never be as big as Iron Maiden , but they would never be big enough to open for Iron Maiden , which , of course , ended up happening on multiple occasions .
“ I would have never thought so when we started because we were like 19 , 20 [ years old ], you know ?” says Langevin . “ Now I see my heroes wearing Voivod shirts online and it ’ s pretty amazing .”