VOIVOD — Nothingface

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VOIVOD - Nothingface cover
4.04 | 51 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1989

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. The Unknown Knows (5:55)
2. Nothingface (4:14)
3. Astronomy Domine (5:30)
4. Missing Sequences (5:49)
5. X-Ray Mirror (4:28)
6. Inner Combustion (3:48)
7. Pre-Ignition (5:11)
8. Into My Hypercube (5:03)
9. Sub-Effect (4:29)

Total Time: 44:32


- Denis Bélanger "Snake" / Vocals
- Denis D'Amour "Piggy" / Guitar
- Jean-Yves Thériault "Blacky" / Bass
- Michel Langevin "Away" / Drums

About this release

MCA Records, October 13th, 1989

All songs written and arranged by voivod except "Astronomy Domine" by Syd Barrett
Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Glen Robinson

Two versions of this album exist. One version combines an intro track and "The Unknown Knows" into one track. On the other version, both tracks are separated, with "Intro" being the first track and "The Unknown Knows" being the second.

The initial MCA/Mechanic pressings in the US had a fold-out poster booklet, while the Noise Records version in Europe and subsequent re-pressings had a standard stapled booklet.

Miscellaneous staff:
- Elisa Casas / Photography
- Liz Vap / Design (additional)
- Mary Romano / Design (additional)
- Steve Sinclair / Executive Producer, Design, Art Direction
- Rob Sutton / Engineering
- Away / Artwork, Concept
- Glen Robinson / Producer, Engineering, Mixing
- Benoit Lavallee / Engineering

Thanks to The Angry Scotsman, UMUR, Unitron for the updates


More places to buy metal & VOIVOD music

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Voivod followed up Dimension Hatross with an even more technically advanced album which is almost on a par with its classic predecessor. The cover of Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine is an inspired choice, since it both brings out the heavier aspects of the song in such a way as to aid a new appreciation of the original whilst fitting in with the perfectly with the esoteric sci-fi concepts the album plays with. Presented in a mildly less aggressive style than Dimension Hatross, I'd also say this album is the more accessible of the two, though I think any Voivod collection would be deficient without both.
Detached technical metal with some shining moments.

Another very technical prog album from Voi Vod, "Nothingface" follows along the same lines as the previous release "Dimension Hatross", science fiction concepts, odd time sigs that change constantly and very heavy riffs. Snake's vocals are easy to listen to, no growling at all, and lots of innovative styles. The sterile lyrics and sheer detachment the band conveys on this will alienate some and, in my opinion, hinders it from being up to the standard of the previous release.

It begins with The Unknown Knows, a low droning sound is heard that builds into spacey industial noise, then Piggy's distorted mega riffs and howling lead screams out. The riff that follows is a fast tempo fractured ametrical pattern. It sounds the same as "Dimension Hatross" album but delightfully so as that was a terrific release. It doesn't take long until the odd time shifts begin; at 3:44 a broken signature pummels the order into glorious chaos. The bass pounds deep and resonates with excellent pulsating drums.

Astronomy Domine is one of the best Pink Floyd covers, Voi Vod also did other Pink Floyd songs but nothing comes close to this. The harmony in the verse is similar to early Floyd. I love the way Piggy plays the metal riffs to this classic instead of the "oooooohs". The lead break is astounding, as good as I have heard on this song. It also has that "Ummagumma" quiet section, and is very spacey and must be the heaviest version ever. Quite simply this track is a masterpiece.

Missing Sequences has a strong rhythm and features a booming bass solo and some innovative guitar work. Snake sings some excellent melodies on this track, and definitely it is a great performance from Piggy who keeps perfect timing with the percussion in very complex technical patterns.

X ray Mirror lyrics make sense "Tunnel seems so long, Touching the bottom, A slim reflexion, Punctured my vision, I didn't notice, Beside the last door, Standing on nothing, There was a mirror." The time sigs are in constant flux, competing with odd drumming and bassline shapes.

Inner Combustion is a great song with powerful lyrics; "All am I, I am all, Fluorescent light, Pellucid mineral, Essential dogma, Excludes the logical, Immobile centre, One, two, three for nothing, Projection ponder, Under a raven's wing, Catalyst fusion, Inner combustion." Piggy's metal riffing is second to none and he is simply at his best here, especially the grinding lead break. Snake's vocals remind me of Hawkwind at times.

Pre-ignition is a faster song with some inventive signatures and weird lyrics; "Grinding round, The hydraulic wheel, Extraction, The ultimate greed, Now hidden from view, Surveying stable shifts, A feeble groove, Unintentional split." It's not a love song. The industrial sounds add to the overall concept of decayed social damage by pipes and factories that pollute the skies in an apocalyptic future dystopia.

Sub-Effect has some awesome riffing that slices and dices any sense of consistent timing; perhaps it is consistent in that it has chaotic punctuations consistently. It has a terrific middle section with chiming guitar, especially the section where Snake sings "Please no Too late for S.O.S. Mute island, fish-eye view, Circling the border line, No resource, no rescue, I'm stranded, I'm otherwise."

There are lots of moments to savour for metal heads and prog fans alike but this album did not impact me as much as "Dimension Hatross" previously. Perhaps it was too similar, or too mechanised; either way it did not surprise me and did not feature as many highlights. Nevertheless, "Nothingface" is a solid Voi Vod album and worthwhile seeking out, if only, for nothing else, the Astronomy Domine masterpiece.
Conor Fynes
'Nothingface' - Voivod (10/10)

Although I would consider myself to be a fairly well-versed metalhead through and through, thrash metal is not a genre I have ever had much luck with. Being introduced to thrash by such albums as Slayer's 'Reign In Blood', I was never impressed and found the obsessive tendencies towards soloing and speed to be somewhat tasteless. Now, enter Voivod; a progressive thrash metal band from Montreal that would not only change my view on thrash metal, but also my perspective of how one could play the guitar. Since being introduced to this majestic album, I since consider it to be one of my favourite metal albums of all time, and for very good reason. 1989's 'Nothingface' is a unique album like no other in thrash, and with its combination of powerful originality and strong songwriting, Voivod have created what I now easily consider to be the greatest thrash album of all time, bar none.

Starting out as a more typical metal band, 'Nothingface' would see Voivod inherit even more progressive trends into their music. Changes in time signature, hallucinogen-addled lyrical themes and experimental musicianship would equate to a sound quite far flung from virtually all of the other metal released in its day. Like all of the best bands, Voivod's sound is equally divided amongst its four members. Perhaps most important is the atypical and disharmonic style of riffing from Denis 'Piggy' L'Amour, now unfortunately laid to rest. A very clear alternative to the 'skill through speed and soloing' approach adopted by most thrash musicians, Piggy makes his talent shown through using very irregular, at times unsettling chord structures and frantic switches between riffs. As a guitarist myself, Piggy's intricate work with chord experiments and unique tone stands as being one of my greatest influences; a guitarist who showed me that there was much more to metal guitar than going down the route of shredding. For that, I am indebted to him.

Also here are the keen bass lines of Jean-Yves Theriault. Usually the bass is not a particularly important instrument (instead gravitating towards a back-up), but Voivod makes it nearly as important as Piggy's guitar in the mix. The result is a mixed sound that has a much deeper resonance to it than most other bands. There are some surprisingly technical bass riffs here, which add to the already schizoid nature of Piggy's riffs. Denis Belanger's vocals on the other hand are not nearly as skillfully accomplished as the craft of the bassist or guitarist, are full of charisma and expression. An incredibly unique voice with a bit of a Francophone tinge to it that can only be found in Quebec, he leads the band very well, although some of the lyrics can get weak and amount to little more than technobabble over abstract science fiction concepts. The least remarkable aspect of the performance on 'Nothingface' is the drumwork of Michael Langevin, but it remains quite strong, leading the time signature changes with precision.

'Nothingface' is easily one of the strongest metal albums ever made. Some strong songwriting is made even more incredible by the band's innovative performance. If you're like me, you might be starved for some really original sound in the genre of metal. Voivod has accomplished this with 'Nothingface', and in doing so, they have made what is one of my favourite metal albums ever.
Continuing their progressive tendencies, Voivod delivers their most personal, elaborated and most widely acknowledged achievement ever with Nothingface. However, the emphasis on technicalities and production make it a very distant album, lacking the direct emotional appeal as well as the rocking song writing and spontaneity of the two preceding albums.

The album starts most impressing with the dramatic space prog intro of The Unknown Knows, what follows is pure guitar bliss. The production is perfect this time and balances all instruments perfectly. As a song though, this never clicked with me, it’s sought-after and stops rather abruptly just when it’s really getting interesting. The entire album boast impressive musicianship and amounts of originality that are simply unfair when compared to most other bands, but the songs sound studied, sterile and lack vigour and naturalness. Especially 'Snake' disappoints me. He let go of the punk flavours of his voice but does not have enough melodic qualities to compensate for it. The previous album had a better balance there.

Given my quibbles with the compositions, it’s no surprise that this album is at its most convincing when they leave the songwriting to someone else. It’s a bit cynical maybe but the quality difference of the Pink Floyd classic Astronomy Domine with any other song on the album is phenomenal. Here they can hang their unique sound and daft playing on a really accomplished piece of music and the result is phenomenal. It’s not better then PF's Umma Gumma version but it's a very fine metalized version.

Nothingface is Voivod’s acclaimed masterpiece and an essential album. However, you might not be the only one out there to be disappointed with its detached manner, sterility or far-fetched song writing. If such would be the case, don’t discard the band too soon, you still might find much to enjoy in the two powerful albums that preceded or in the two more easily flowing albums that followed.

Members reviews

As someone who much prefers Voivod’s true Thrash days, this is a hard album for me to rate. What Voivod were doing in their career with this and their previous album was pretty much unprecedented. No one had really combined Tech Thrash Prog Metal with weirdo avant-garde intricacies yet. Hell, there were barely any normal Prog Metal bands at the time. Voivod were already living in the 2000’s by the time they recorded Nothingface.

And yes, it is as interesting as it’s made out to be. Everything about it is odd in a very well done and endearing way. Never too odd to make it unapproachable (it was actually by far their catchiest album upon release) but always packing enough surprises to keep in interesting. The songs stand out with memorable riffs and some surprisingly catchy hooks, but they are all so odd that you never really get them memorized. There’s always something new to catch.

The weaknesses here are that there are a lot of start-stop tactics that just fracture the listening experience. They seem to change tempos and rhythms with the purpose of jolting you. Since they go for a much more melodic sound here, it’s really not enjoyable to be jolted and thrown when getting into some of the fantastic melodies and rhythms they lay down. Missing Sequences is a prime example of this; most of the song features speedy drumming and some of their best lead guitarwork to date, with some fantastic harmonized riffs. And then there are segments where everything just stops, ripping you from the trance they had crafted. Maybe to some this is an extra interest factor, but it takes away a lot for me.

Snake is also much better at doing harsh yells than singing. Another point their true Thrash days have over this.
This album is Voivod's progressive metal masterpiece and maybe their most diversified and technical album. Every fan of this band that I know considers this album as a brilliant masterpiece and one of the top three album of the Quebeckers and so do I. It is a shame that this album is not available on CD nowadays and I hope that Away's promises will come true and that he will rerelease the old albums with some bonus material.

The album is somehow divided in two parts: A very catchy and easily appreciable first part and a more technical and complicated second part.

The first half starts with a very floating and dreamy atmosphere that makes you travel on the waves of space and time during the short introduction and the first song "The Unknown Knows". This song is progressive but still heavy and straight and has an amazing chorus and is like nothing you have ever listened before. There are more details in this song than other progressive or science-fiction influenced bands put into a whole album.This high level continues throughout the next songs. I have to mention the Pink Floyd cover song "Astronomy Domine" which is even darker and eerier than the original version. I doesn't appear as a cover version at all and is perfectly integrated in the whole album concept. This song is what I would call "space metal" if such a genre exists and it is an eternal classic in the band's career. This song addicts you the first time you listen to it and drowns you in a really special mood. This song is simply out of this world!

The album is very technical and not always easy to approach in its second half though. A good example for this is the song "X-Ray Mirror" which is as strange and bizarre as its title. You really have to take your time to discover those songs of the second half and understand all the changes and details within them. But I think that Voivod sadly concentrated too much on the technical and conceptual aspect in some of the songs and forgot about the eerie and floating catchyness of the first four songs. Some songs like "Pre-Ignition" are really uneasy to listen to and destroy the interesting flow which the first songs elaborated. From a technical or creative point of view, there is not much to argue about though.

All in all, there are the four first perfect songs that make you lose your sense of space and time and travel through a diversified and strange galaxy you have never heard about. The second part is less intense but may impress you with its technically perfect and somehow very intellectual approach.

This album is also a turning point in the band's discography and the beginning of their progressive years. This album leads logically to "Angel Rat" which is my favourite album of the band and redefines the definition of progressive rock.

Ratings only

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  • Colt
  • Nightfly
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  • Unitron
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  • jsorigar
  • Orizzonte
  • ocasalif
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  • Anster
  • IMPF2112
  • IMPF
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  • Voivod
  • progpostman
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  • ultmetal
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  • The Angry Scotsman
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