VOIVOD — Angel Rat (review)

VOIVOD — Angel Rat album cover Album · 1991 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
One of those albums where everything just feels off… except after repeated listens, I have determined this to be quite intentional, and done in the best way.

You see, Voivod get bored easily, and they had already been down many musical avenues, and pushed the limits of music (and their own abilities) multiple times. On Killing Technology, they showcased the extent of how fast, aggressive, and technical they could play. On the following Dimension Hatross and Nothingface, they were at the forefront of slightly avant-garde Progressive Metal, making albums quite bizarre in musical structure, showcasing complex songwriting ability. And now we have Angel Rat, which at first listen just sounds like them giving up on trying to prove anything anymore. Only faint glimpses of their progressive technicality remain on what is almost a poppy, Post-Punk inspired Alternative Metal album.

I was disappointed at first, as I think anyone would be. But something about the album kept me coming back, and I realized something. Voivod have transcended using technical speed or complex songwriting. They are taking the term “progressive” to a new frontier here, and focusing on creating very complex, ever changing MOODS. If you can imagine a mood having an odd time signature, this is absolutely it. Every song here, despite having relatively simple instrumentation and structure, jumps between some of the most schizophrenic, bipolar moods I’ve ever heard, all without janky start-stop instrumental tricks. The songs flow as smoothly as pop songs, and although the instrumentation can actually be quite intense and complex at times, you wouldn’t really know it without focused listening.

They place the most normal tracks at the beginning. As long as you weren’t listening to the lyrics (which are beyond strange) you could convince yourself that the first 5 tracks were all normal, though they just don’t sound right for some reason… And were those double bass Thrash beats playing under the chorus at the end of Clouds in My House? That’s right, this IS a metal album after all, and don’t forget it!

Track 6, Twin Dummy, is where you could no longer convince yourself this album is normal. The way Snake anxiously yells “The circus left without me!” and then sinisterly muses “And I’m alone with you now…” is unnerving to say the least, especially surrounded with off-kilter lyricism about carousels, dummies, and whatnot. From here on out it becomes more obvious that there is something wrong with this album.

The title track, Angel Rat, capitalizes this best. The opening line “The idiot walks along the canvas…” as Snake then paints a dark and unnerving picture much like the album cover. Gloomy, ominous chords and soft spoken vocals shake through this hideous landscape of darkness and hopelessness… and then a sugary sweet, smooth chorus kicks in about how nice flying away would be. At first this chorus kind of ruined the song for me, but after sitting with it, I totally get it. The figure in the song is an idiot precisely because they still have this innocent, childlike hope of flying away from this horrid picture. Yet they are painted into the canvas just as everything else is. They are stuck there for eternity. The question “rat or angel, does one really know?” is such an interesting comparison. They aren’t comparing good or evil. They’re comparing something significant, powerful, and bright, with a wholly insignificant pest (that cannot fly, mind you). The song is a masterpiece in cryptic writing and mood distortion, and the rest of the album walks the same line.

There are a couple other factors that make this album work so well. For one, I’ve always maintained that Snake’s yells are much better than his singing, and that was a big reason why Voivod’s duo of Prog albums weren’t as great for me. But here, Snake’s vocals are perfect. Not that he’s improved much, no… rather, his shaky, strained voice works wonders for the kind of atmosphere they’re going for here. He’s got an anxious tone to his voice that shines through even during the poppy choruses, and this makes them catchy but never anthemic. Even when he sings smoothly, like in Clouds in My House or Angel Rat, it just doesn’t sound right, and that is precisely why this album succeeds in such simple verse chorus format. The drumming is another fantastic element here. Usually it’s pretty simple, but never boring, and best of all, more than occasionally it just breaks out into full on double bass metal beats. However, the drumming is pushed low in the mix so that it never overpowers the music, and it really serves as another backbone of hidden elements you wouldn’t appreciate unless you listened intently for it. Layered guitar melodies, vocal harmonies and atmospheric soundscape textures work the same, hidden at first listen but uncovered after due attention.

This album is a massive grower and has so much to offer to those willing to delve into the depths of its dark, demented canvas. Voivod have successfully taken progressive music to a new level!
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
23 days ago
I don't disagree with your analysis about Nothingface. I find the best track to be the Pink Floyd cover!
Tupan wrote:
23 days ago
Forget what I said before about Nothingface, that album is awesome too!
siLLy puPPy wrote:
40 days ago
Voivod has always been hit or miss for me and unfortunately this one is mostly a miss. Just seems weak compared to the best.
UMUR wrote:
42 days ago
I like this one, but I never enjoyed the sound production much, and I always seem to get lost midway through the album. I´m not sure...maybe I think the songs sound a bit too much the same. I´m looking forward to listening to this one again and see if my opinion has changed, when I write a review.
Tupan wrote:
42 days ago
This album is so underrated... And great review man, agree 100%! I think I prefer this album over Nothingface.


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