Easily one of the greatest Metal bands to have come out of Canada, Thrashers VOIVOD have always made me proud. However, as virtually every band that has been around for so long can tell you, it's nearly impossible to keep the same level of quality throughout a career. Gracing the 80's and early 90's with such epic works as “Nothingface” and “The Outer Limits”, the latter half of VOIVOD's work would see a turn for the worse. The result of some line-up changes, the band's album “Phobos” represents a real disappointment in their catalogue. It appears that even the best bands will have lapses in judgement at times, and VOIVOD is no exception to this.
“Phobos” is a stark contrast to the groovy and upbeat Thrash I was first introduced to the band through, and instead goes tends to go down the route of Alternative Metal. The change of line-up in the musicians is most noticeable with the vocals here, which deviate from Snake's charming Francophone inflections to something more akin to grungy screaming; all to mixed result. Having said before that this may very well be VOIVOD's most uninspired release, it brings to mind another album by a well-known Metal band, METALLICA's “St. Anger”. In an apparent attempt to strip their sound down to a lo-fi bout of anger, the band looses a lot of their charm, although the uninspired song writing and muddy production here is made all the more bearable by a couple of really great moments.
The lesser of the two songs that spark my interest is the album's opener “Catalepsy I”, which features an eerie riff, courtesy of Denis. However, it is generally short-lived and doesn't take long before succumbing to the first of a great many songs here that do little for the imagination. However, “Phobos”s real strength lies in its title track; which -quite contrary to the rest of the album- is actually incredible. An eerie build-up leads to a highly spacey and dark riff, simple in construct but carrying plenty of presence through its ingenious use of delay effects. The anger brought about by the vocals is mixed with the eerie approach of Denis and his guitar work, creating a piece of music that instantly transports me to the Martian lunar landscape, and gives me a really unsettling feeling that I only wish the band had recreated on any other song here.
Of additional interest here may also be the closing track, “21st Century Schizoid Man”. Originally written and performed by Prog Rock giants KING CRIMSON, it's unfortunate that VOIVOD does not bring their own magic to this classic track, but instead butchers it through a brutal production value and noisy delivery. Not to mention the lack of saxophone that gave the original such charm, but it may be of slight interest to a fan of either band.
“Phobos” really shows VOIVOD working with only a shred of their charm and magic. While this band has never stayed in one place for too long, it does feel as if the best aspects of VOIVOD's delivery are void here. Besides Denis' atypical guitar work (which is always of interest) and one fantastic track, there is little of interest to speak of here.
(Online January 23, 2012)