By Adrien Begrand
What a gift Denis D’Amour has left us. When the guitarist affectionately known as “Piggy” was diagnosed with cancer, he could have easily rested on his laurels, with every reason to be immensely proud of the 20-odd years of music he created as a member of Voivod. Instead, he dove straight into his art during his final months, writing songs, arranging music with his bandmates, and recording guitar tracks in a burst of creativity that we could only wish to experience when we’re healthy. When D’Amour passed away in late 2005, we were not only left with a wealth of new Voivod material, but as it turned out, those final sessions have yielded the band’s best work since their 1988-1991 heyday. With vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger, drummer Michel “Away” Langevin, and bassist Jason “Jasonic” Newsted recording around those posthumous guitar tracks, 2006’s Katorz was a triumph, the new material streamlined, ferocious, and bearing those inimitable, idiosyncratic D’Amour riffs that have always set Voivod’s work apart from anything else in the genre.
Ever since the release of Katorz, fans were fully aware that there was another album’s worth of guitar tracks remaining, and three years later, Infini continues right where the last album left off, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. D’Amour had worked extensively with Newsted on arranging the ten tracks that comprised Katorz, but when it came the remaining 13 songs, his surviving bandmates had considerably more work to do. Consequently, Infini actually sounds more fully fleshed out, more refined, with a menacing undercurrent palpable through the entire record, from the familiar sci-fi prog strains of “God Phones” to the undeniable Discharge influence heard on “Global Warning” and the explosive album closer “Volcano”. Newsted’s bass work is tremendous this time around, a perfect foil for D’Amour’s dissonant style and some of his most spirited work since his Flotsam and Jetsam days nearly a quarter century ago, while Langevin continues to deliver those characteristic fluid beats and fills that have become as identifiable as D’Amour’s riffs. However, Belanger’s inspired vocal performance earns top marks, revisiting an aggressive style we haven’t heard since Killing Technology, best exemplified on “From the Cave” and the lurching standout “Destroy After Reading”.
Although there are plans to continue as a live act into 2010 with Martyr guitarist Dan Mongrain taking D’Amour’s place, Voivod’s future as a studio band remains uncertain. If Infini does turn out to be the last record we do hear from these heroes of Canadian metal, though, we couldn’t have asked for a finer, classier way to go out. Voivod forever, indeed.
(Sonic Unyon [Canada] / Relapse [USA])