9. Voivod, The Wake (Century Media)
Like Judas Priest, it’s not as if I ever needed Voivod to make another classic album again. Their most fruitful years – 1986 through 1993 – yielded some of the most innovative heavy metal music ever created, and in the years after the death of cornerstone guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour the Quebecers have put out consistently strong music. On their 14th album The Wake, though, it marks the first time since D’Amour’s death that Voivod are in the right headspace to start looking forward, to forge new territory with the current band lineup. That lineup – Michel “Away” Langevin, Denis “Snake” Belanger, Dan “Chewy” Mongrain, and Dominique “Rocky” Laroche – is key, here, because the chemistry is such now that there’s no more dead weight. You can sense that chemistry here, as all four elements push each other, complement each other in a way that I personally have not heard since The Outer Limits back in 1993. In Mongrain’s case, he is now long past “honouring” D’Amour’s distinct, atonal style of playing, and now takes that style into places that showcase his own creativity. Surprises abound on The Wake, as listeners follow a narrative involving a discovery that leads to sudden and significant change on Earth, forcing humanity to decide whether they want to evolve or not. Or something to that effect. Either way, this is one spellbinding sci-fi metal concept album. The usual influences are there: krautrock, post-punk, thrash metal. As strong as the entire album is (the title track is an instant classic) the real highlight is the 12 and a half-minute closer “Sonic Mycelium”, which sees Mongrain unleash a staggering array of clever riffs, underscoring Belanger’s snarled narration. The song twists and turns and twists again, a psychedelic metal odyssey that is as staggering as it is exciting. There’s stuff here that most metal bands would not dare attempt, let alone have the brains to conjure to begin with, again a testament to Voivod’s place in metal history. There is, and never will be, another band like Voivod, and we are very lucky to see them hitting another career peak.