Voivod & Cryptic Shift – Glasgow, UK – April 19th, 2023

Decisions, decisions. Tonight Canadian prog metal weirdos Voivod are in Glasgow, the same night as Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral. Despite the former’s legendary fame, Slay is particularly busy with punters who select cosmic chaos instead. 

The doors open at 6:30pm, yet the sole support Cryptic Shift takes the stage at 8:15pm. The audience’s mandatory patience makes them keen to hear anything by now, yet this English quartet is significantly more than ‘anything’. Formed in 2011, the cosmos-obsessed act draws influences from the headliners, Vektor, Atheist, Gorguts and similar tech metal, engineering atmospheric and frenetic tech death/thrash metal. Three of the members are also in death doom gloomsters Slimelord

Initially, the guitar sound is low in the mix but is amended after the opener. Guitarists Xander Bradley and Joss Farrington execute an impressive variance of styles. Voivod-esque angular riffs screech for your attention, chugging riffs flatten skylines à la Portal and Impetuous Ritual, and Blood Incantation-esque intergalactic atmospheres teleport the listener to outer space. Songs such as Planetary Hypnosis and Arctic Chasm explore refreshing earth-quaking brutality and pronounced technical prowess far beyond generic riff salad. The crowd’s support is emphatic for Cryptic Shift and a mere 30 minutes is not enough. They are absolutely an act to keep an eyeball on in the future.

Voivod’s tour observes a climactic 40th anniversary for these unorthodox Canadians. The tour seeks to celebrate all eras of these madmen’s discography. The progressive metallers take the stage backed by the instantly recognisable sci-fi beep that introduces Killing Technology. However, they commence the show with the newer title Obsolete Beings, a darkly pensive rollicking piece. The punters are ecstatic to see these ephemerally smiling Canadians. The sound is merciful to the headliners, imperative for such complex arrangements. 

Four decades of material is an abundance to form a setlist. This tour coincides with promoting last year’s Synchro Anarchy, so naturally, selections from this full-length are overrepresented. The title track, Holographic Thinking and Sleeves Off (Snake tells the crowd that this one is about when he told his dad he wanted to quit school and start a band). These fresher anthems feature perhaps even more experimental permutations than ever in Voivod’s career. Installing them among career highlights demonstrates just how far Voivod have trekked. 

Macrosolutions to Megaproblems, Rebel Robot, Nuage Fractual (debuted live on this tour) and the mosh-inducing Killing Technology are paradigmatic jazzy prog metal examples. Time signatures are increasingly dissonant and sound like they’ve been sectioned. Vocalist Snake’s idiosyncratic otherworldly croon engulfs the venue while Chewy’s jazz-splashed guitar work seeps through it. Away’s drumming is working overtime, overclocking on speedy fills, tech muscle and down-right weirdness. Many tech bands are accused of perfunctorily staring at their instruments and just playing. Yet throughout the performance, the band smiles and engages with the audience as individuals where they can. Someone hands Snake a mask of their mascot Korgull, which he takes and proceeds to sing in for part of a song. Snake chants, “Hey ho, Glasgow!” and gets the Glaswegians to chant along a few times, further endearing themselves to the city.

Time elapses too fast and before long, Voivod thanks Slay and leaves. It’s evident an encore is bubbling and before long, the fans are rewarded with the usual Voivod closer – the thrash metal belter Voivod. One final mosh pit concludes the show and wraps up a splendid anniversary. Seeing how sincerely enthusiastic a band can perform live after four decades is fantastic. Even immediately after the end of the set, the Canadians are in front of the audience, shaking hands and graciously accepting praise. What a bunch of sweet lads.