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This article was published 29/7/2009 (3729 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
To call the recording of the new Voivod bittersweet is an understatement.
The band's 12th album, Infini, features the last riffs recorded by guitarist Denis (Piggy) D'Amour for the band prior to his death in 2005.
It is the second album to be released from the pioneering Montreal metal band since the influential guitarist died from colon cancer months after being diagnosed.
He left behind 23 songs, which the members fleshed out and released on 2006's Katorz and the recently released Infini.
"We took a couple of years off after Katorz to reconstruct ourselves and mourn," explains drummer Michel (Away) Langevin during a phone interview from Barcelona, where the band was enjoying a day off following a series of festival dates and club shows. "After a couple of years, I actually felt people would forget about Voivod, and it was the other way around, as there were more and more demands for us to tour and also to get back into the studio and finish Infini."
The new album features D'Amour's riffs with additional material from Langevin, vocalist Denis (Snake) Belanger and bassist Jason Newsted.
The studio band isn't the same as the live one, Langevin explains. Newsted couldn't play the current dates so Voivod recruited original bassist Jean-Yves (Blacky) Theriault to fill in. Martyr guitarist Dan Mongrain is handling guitar duties.
It's this lineup Winnipeggers will get to see when the band opens for metal supergroup Down Wednesday at the Burton Cummings Theatre (tickets are $22.50 and $35 at Ticketmaster).
"It's great now; Voivod is like a big collective with everyone contributing. Piggy's unfortunate death brought us closer together," Langevin says.
"Blacky was away for 17 years. We met once in a while and kept in touch, but the breakup in 1991 was pretty bad and we were reserved when we met. At Piggy's funeral, all the little fights and things seemed so stupid all of a sudden and we promised each other to make up for the lost years."
Langevin, D'Amour, Belanger and Theriault formed Voivod in the early 1980s and made a name for themselves during the first wave of thrash metal. Their technical proficiency, passion for progressive rock and experimentation would soon set them apart from their peers. The concept albums Killing Technology (1987) and Dimension Hatröss (1988), followed by their most commercially successful effort, Nothingface, in 1989, cemented their status as arguably the greatest Canadian metal band of all time.
The 1990s were turbulent for the group with Theriault and Belanger leaving the group, but Voivod continued on as a trio with Eric Forrest singing and playing bass.
Belanger returned in 2001 and ex-Flotsam and Jetsam and Metallica bassist Newsted — a longtime fan of the band — also joined.
"It's a bittersweet situation, of course," says Langevin. "We have a feeling of victory over tragedy, but on the other hand, it's sad we won't be playing with Piggy. I have been jamming with him since high school.
"Next year will have been five years since his departure; time heals and maybe we'll be able to write with Dan. I have a dream to have all the Voivod members write on one album," says the drummer, who accomplished another of his goals recently by releasing a book of his art.
As far back as the band's first album, 1984's War and Pain, Langevin has designed all the band's album covers and drawn the interior artwork. He has collected his work in the new hardcover tome Worlds Away: Voivod and the Art of Michel Langevin.
There are between 500 and 600 drawings in the book, including album covers, sketches and commissioned work for other musicians including Dave Grohl and Danko Jones.
"Right now I have a great artistic life where I travel the world playing music and draw when I'm at home. I aspired to that for many, many years, to establish myself as a graphic artist," he says.
As for Voivod, the plan is to tour for the next year and see what happens next. There might not be any new Voivod material, but fans of D'Amour's guitar work might not have heard the last of him.
Along with the tracks he wrote for the band before he died, he also recorded two solo albums complete with bass tracks, Langevin reveals.
"We would love to finish them eventually. They are very Voivodian and we can tell the influences of Piggy more than (his work for) Voivod. He was an Alex Lifeson fan, and a fan of Robert Fripp and the Tool guitarist (Adam Jones)," Langevin says.