Canada has a fine Rock and Metal tradition, but there seems to be something about the frozen North which seems to warp the minds of musicians a little. Canada's greatest export, Rush, forged a reputation for producing highly imaginative progressive rock with a hint of the unusual, even for the experimental world of prog rock.
Voivod did the same with thrash metal. These four twisted musicians produced one of the oddest albums of Thrash's early days. While Metallica and Slayer were content to play it straight and fast, Voivod seemed to make things deliberately difficult for themselves on `War And Pain', opting for a complex and choppy songwriting style. Playing at a speed where it would be easy to trip and stumble, the band doesn't miss a note. Think it sounds easy? Check Possessed or early Celtic Frost for examples of bands playing too fast for their own good then.
Title track "War And Pain" for example mixes up several riffs, which seem to tumble past like a rockslide, and are bridged together by guitar solos or rumbling drum fills, all the while Snake shouts blank verse lyrics of the horrors of war over it all. Sounds complex? It's the most straightforward song on the album.
Piggy was an incredibly underrated guitarist. Most bands of the time went for a twin guitar line, either to cover for lack of ability or to fill in holes when playing fast. Piggy carried all the guitar duties on his own. He possessed a killer chainsaw tone which cut red raw to the bone, and was able to slip effortlessly from rhythms to solos and back again. This album avoids double tracking the guitars, so during solos the rhythm drops out and is picked up by Blacky on bass. The galloping rhythmic pattern of the final track "Nuclear War" features countless guitar/bass interchanges, and it is difficult to keep up with who is playing what.
It's not just the music which is unusual. Vocalist Snake invented the Voivod, a creature that lives in a violent, dark cyber world, and is fond of torture and killing. The Voivod continued to pop up on subsequent albums. Snake's lyrics use simplistic words to express complex themes, probably because of the band's French Canadian heritage, where English is only a secondary language.
At a time when speed metal bands were stealing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest riffs to impress their fans, Voivod blew them all away with a raw and truly original thrash creation. Unfortunately, most metal fans in 1984 weren't prepared for such experimentation, and `War And Pain' remains a forgotten pearl cast before undeserving swine.