Turns out, as drummer, co-lyricist and band artist Michel “Away” Langevin explains, that Target Earth was long in the baking...
“Well, actually, we toured for a couple of years in 2008 and 2009, before we really started thinking about writing some material. So, I think it was early in 2010 that we gave it a shot. I think, the main trigger was a demo that Blacky and Dan had done, on the bass and guitar, with the songs... I think it was ‘Artefact’, and ‘Kaleidos’. Snake and I were blown away. It really brought us back to the Dimension Hatröss material. We were pretty excited to give it a go. So, we decided also to do some sessions of improvisations, which we recorded. We thought there were a lot of good parts that again, Blacky and Dan could rearrange into songs. It was pretty natural in a way, because at this point we headed towards ‘80s thrash metal, but also since Infini came out in 2009, we had included songs from Infini on the set list. In 2010, we also had ‘Forlorn’ from Phobos—the Eric Forrest era. I think, when we decided to start writing, we had a lot of the ingredients of many Voivod eras, in our blood already. I think it went very well, and Blacky and Dan also had individual songs, that we mutated into Voivod material.”
“He actually wrote it for Voivod,” clarifies Michel, on whether these were tracks written for other Dan plans. “I think it’s sort of ‘new’ Voivod, but it still keep the Voivod spirit intact. After a while... I mean the material was very intricate. I realized many of the songs are in 7/8 signature and all that. So I had some requests. One was, we had to have a song with the Motorhead beat which was ‘Kluskap O’Kom’. Also, I asked for a song reminiscent of Rrröööaaarrr, mainly ‘Ripping Headaches’, and that’s ‘Corps Étranger’, our very first French song. So, these were my two requests.”
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a fully conceptual album from Voivod, yet the vision is so singular, one can always conjure concepts. Plus, there are subtleties that glance across the catalogue deliberately. Still, yet again...
“There is no concept on this album,” affirms Away. “Although, the other guys asked me to write one involving the Voivod character, for the next album. So, I’m working on that. I think that Target Earth... I mean, there are the reoccurring nightmare scenarios on most Voivod albums happening on Target Earth, like pollution, high-tech weaponry, and destruction of the Earth, in general. I think Snake was very much influenced by the latest events that happened since we started writing the album in 2010. Like, I guess, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, occupy movements, Arab Spring probably. I know that Target Earth originally was meant to be Invasion Of The Earth, from outer space, if I remember well. I suggested to Snake, that it would be interesting to have, like, a hacker taking control of the armed satellites around the planet, you know, in order to blackmail countries, and we took it from there. So, that’s pretty indicative of the subjects on the album.”
And while yer pondering all that, check out as well, the odd and innovative drum sound and stun bass guitar, sorta Geddy-meets-Lemmy, really cool texturing, if the complexity of the material wasn’t enough to blow your mind.
I know that Blacky and Pierre Rémillard from Obliveon... we went to Pierre’s studio to record the album (ed. Wild Studios) and Blacky and Pierre put a lot of microphones on the drums. They also put a lot of microphones in the room, kind of a similar technique to Steve Albini, I guess, where you rely more on the natural sound of the room, than putting in and plugging effects after. So, it’s a very natural sound. And I think that what really helped afterwards was Sanford Parker, who mixed the album. Sanford from Nachtmystium did a real good job. He really understood the psychedelic metal vibe of the band. So, I think he did a great job with the drum sound.”
“And Blacky has always had a very distinctive bass sound, that he calls the blower bass,” continues Michel, concerning returning original bassist Blacky, after a sojourn where we saw Eric Forrest and Jason Newsted plying the fat strings. “It’s very important, I find, on the new album, because, again, it’s sort of reminiscent of the thrash metal material, and progressive thrash metal. I personally really like when the bass is very audible on an album, like MOTÖRHEAD or THE STRANGLERS or even YES, you know, like Chris Squire. So, I think it’s great to have Blacky in the mix for this album, because it’s very Voivodian.”
And it’s cool to see a fecund and creative division of labour in the band, a dynamic that is much different from the usual, with lyrics by the drummer and singer, and the music... “Definitely Blacky and Dan. The fact that Dan and Blacky are collaborating, also brings me back to the Blacky and Piggy days, when they were listening to a lot of movie soundtracks, like The Thing, or even like the old Mad Max soundtrack. They were trying to transpose that into metal. It’s cool to see Dan and Blacky collaborate like that.”
“It's because it's the first track of the next album,” explains Michel, on the quick start and fade of album closer ‘Defiance’, in scarcely a minute-and-a-half. “We have a lot of touring next year, but in between tours, we want to write new material. It's actually a lot like what VENOM did for Black Metal and At War With Satan... which I always thought was great! Blacky, came up with the idea of doing that for Target Earth.”
Finally, asked to contrast Mongrain with Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, lost to us from stomach cancer in 2005, as guitarists, Michael says, “I think that Piggy was a lot more old school, and Dan is more metal. Dan’s sound is more new school than Piggy, who more so had his roots in LED ZEPPELIN, DEEP PURPLE, and also older punk, like PISTOLS and THE DAMNED. Dan is more like MESHUGGAH. So, it’s different for me. Without over-thinking it, we tried to keep the spirit of Piggy present, still. Then again, you know, we do our own thing. It’s a fine line, you know? I thinks it’s a very good continuation, because Dan learned to play, listening to Voivod, and he knows all the eras and loves all the albums. I think that everyone who’ll listen to Target Earth will feel at home.”
The official Target Earth EPK, featuring behind-the-scenes footage, plus an exclusive interview with Away and Chewy about the making of the album, can be found below:
The album tracks, 'Target Earth', 'Mechanical Mind' and 'Kluskap O’Kom' can be heard below: