By Rob Hughes
You’d think that Japan, the land of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Mechagodzilla, would have always been prime territory for Voivod. However, the band had to wait until September 20, 2008 for their first Japanese concert, as part of the Thrash Domination Festival in Kawasaki. This DVD presents that show, along with several extras that make this an essential package for Voivod fans interested in both their present incarnation and their incomparable legacy.
The full festival set was shot for Japanese TV and features excellent, no-frills videography and sound. If you were lucky enough to catch them on tour with Down last summer, this is an expanded version of that set, with 12 songs drawn from the Blacky era (skipping RRRÖÖÖAAARRR). While there’s no substitute for the legendary Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, Daniel Mongrain is an excellent understudy. The more difficult the material, the more he excels. Listen to him on “Nothingface”; his playing is absolutely seamless. Blacky’s back too, lest we forget how much his blower bass helps define the classic Voivod sound. “This is a dream come true,” says Snake, before the band launches into a version of “Tornado” customized for the Japanese crowd. Everyone yells “Tatsumaki!” during the chorus, and the gig’s only discernable mosh pit breaks out.
After “Astronomy Domine” and the ensuing “Voivod!” chants fade away, there are some quirky but substantive extras to enjoy. Three bonus songs from Quebec City in July 2009 bring us right up to date. The camera work is much busier than the Japanese footage, with close-ups, quick pans, and vantage points from backstage and front of house. This approach would be exhausting to watch for a whole set, but over the course of three songs (including “Treasure Chase” from Infini) this segment captures a lot of action, excitement, and emotion.
The Dave Grohl interview segment (conducted by Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen of A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal fame) features him in fanboy mode, describing first hearing Voivod (“From that day, the heaviness of any band that we listened to was gauged by how they lived up to Voivod…and nobody ever did”) and discussing Snake’s involvement with the Probot album. This is raw footage most likely intended for Dunn and McFadyen’s rumoured Voivod documentary, a project they sadly abandoned to focus on Iron Maiden: Flight 666 and an upcoming Rush documentary.
The final special feature (not counting a photo gallery from the band’s Japan trip) is an actual, complete Voivod documentary…of sorts. It’s difficult to describe exactly what Panorama: Seeking Voivod is. A short-subject meta-documentary, maybe? Presented with English subtitles, this Quebec production concerns two filmmakers (Jean-Marc E. Roy and Joel Martel) and their attempt to make a Voivod documentary. It’s a strange hybrid of seemingly staged conversations and genuine interview footage with Voivod’s friends and associates, and, in the end, the band themselves. While it’s not quite the ultimate Voivod documentary, it does offer an interesting, heartfelt glimpse into how Voivod fit into the culture of their home province.
Voivod have survived under the unlikeliest, most difficult circumstances. The performance captured on this DVD offers more proof of their tenacity. As Away writes, “This show was the affirmation that Voivod should carry on playing old and new songs to life-long and new fans around the world.”
(MVD Visual/Conveyor Canada)