Slipdisc / Mercury Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Experimental music - or, at least, music that is classified as one particular genre and doesn't quite fit into it - is always very hard to adjust to. It took me a long time to learn to appreciate King Crimson - I couldn't do so when I was younger, but as I've gotten older, I've found the pleasure in their music.

Canada's Voivod is another case of experimental music - if anything, you could call them the heavy metal version of King Crimson. And while there are some moments on their latest release Phobos that demonstrate why this band has lasted for well over a decade, it is often hard to get through in one listen.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - bassist/vocalist Eric Forrest, guitarist Dennis D'Amour and drummer Michel Langevin - have best been known as a thrash metal band, but their music has always had quite a bit of experimental aspects to it. While the biggest experiment I heard in the music - metal meets industrial - might not be considered groundbreaking, throw in a touch of ambient noise - ah, now, we're onto something!

Too bad it doesn't work out perfectly on paper - oops, CD. Some songs like "Quantum," "Forlorn" and "Neutrino," just don't take off like Voivod would have liked them to. In fact, by the time you get to the midpoint of Phobos, it becomes rather difficult to listen to. (To be honest, I had a hard time getting through Voivod in the late '80s when they were the next big name to break, but this is a better sounding product than some of the older material.)

Ironically, where Phobos falls is also where it succeeds. Songs like "The Tower" kick in the right amount of industrial into the mix, making the song quite enjoyable. Likewise, the title track, "Bacteria" and "Mercury" are more listenable than some of their album cohorts.

One song, "M-Body," might succeed thanks to a collaborator on the tune - a bassist named Jason Newsted. Perhaps you've heard of him, and the little band he's with called Metallica? Surprisingly, whatever hand Newsted had in this song, it still sounds like vintage Voivod - and this, eventually, is a very good thing.

The experimental circle comes to fruition with their cover of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man," a cover which is not only close to the bone, but is executed damned well. You can tell the difference between the two versions (King Crimson's is a tad jazzier sounding), but Robert Fripp should look upon this version with great respect.

Overall, Phobos is an album that's for the diehard Voivod fans. If you've only heard a little Voivod, this will still be an entertaining listen, if not a tad challenging. For the newcomer, it's just as good a spot to start in the Voivod catalog as any - but expect to give this disc at least five listens before you really get into it.

Rating: C+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Slipdisc / Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.