Midway through metal legends Voivod’s live-in-studio performance of the album Nothingface that streamed last Sunday afternoon, it occurred to me that the band’s long-expressed desire to become a Psychic Entity, freed from the limitations of the body’s ability to travel, was actually happening. From their Canadian Hypercube, they could now transmit their presence as a blistering live act into thousands of living rooms at once so that we, starved of physical interaction with any musicians for too long, might feast upon their essence and gain relief and inspiration. Ain’t that progressive?
No, Voivod did not invent the streaming concert, but they sure did a proper job of it with this show, once it got going. As fans gathered around their screens on Sunday afternoon, anticipation built and built until… our Vimeo links all went dead and stayed that way for about 14 minutes. Fortunately no one was injured in the melee that took place on the band’s Facebook page (lots of “We are connected…NOT!” jokes) during this alarming, but brief, delay.
Once the stream appeared at fifteen after the hour, however, it was evident that great care had been taken with this performance, and the sound. When I actually saw the Nothingface tour, a co-headliner with Testament at the Santa Monica Civic, it was the worst sounding show I’d ever seen in my life, and thus, the most disappointing. I was so bummed out, because I knew they had probably played wonderfully. but there was just no making it out.
As if to make up for that long-ago misfortune, this show sounded pristine, like the album but purer. Vocalist Snake has an advantage over many singers of his generation, in that he never went for the heroic high notes. As such, he is able to sing his old parts with no loss of function whatsoever. Drummer Away is playing these things flawlessly with what appears to be fewer drums than were in the arsenal at the time they made this. His specificity and drive for perfection is a rare commodity in metal, indeed in life.
The younger members of the band, Chewy and Rocky, are well up for the game. Chewy can play the dearly departed Piggy’s singular guitar parts with uncanny accuracy. Before I heard it, I would have not thought was likely to happen. Piggy was so weird, who that was good enough to do it would choose to play like that? As it turns out, the person is someone who was a teenage Voivod freak and learned how to play the way his hero played- thirty years later, this is a culmination of that influence. Bassist Rocky has the same story – quite literally, as the two both saw the same Nothingface show in their Canadian town long before they knew each other.
The gig was followed by a Zoom call in which three of the four band members answered questions and heard guys talk about what awesome players they all are, and how much Piggy is missed. It was charming and fun, and the most interesting tidbit I took away was Away mentioning that Piggy’s strange chords, for which he didn’t always know the names, came from teaching himself to play Keith Emerson’s keyboard parts on guitar.
This weekend, the band will be giving the same treatment to the preceding album, Dimension Hatross, which is the evolutionary step that took place just before Nothingface. It could be argued for hours which is “better” but certainly, Hatross is the gnarlier, hairier, less studio-polished work, the more primal one.
You can still buy a digital ticket that includes the rerun of last weekend’s show. I recommend it.