Voivod’s Late Guitarist Offers Fans Final Farewell with ‘Infini’
On Aug. 26, 2005, following a short battle with colon cancer, Voivod guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour died at the age of 45. In the final stages of his illness, D’Amour presented his bandmates with a laptop containing guitar parts for 23 new songs, enough for two more Voivod records.
“We didn’t do anything right away because we had to take care of the funeral arrangements, and then there was a period of mourning,” vocalist Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger tells Noisecreep. “But it was obvious that there was so much good stuff in the laptop. We couldn’t just put it on a shelf.”
When the surviving members of the veteran experimental metal band were finally ready to address the new material, they re-amped the guitar tracks that Piggy had recorded and used them as the framework for the 10 songs that made up 2006′s ‘Katorz.’ The disc captured the raw savagery and futuristic psychedelia of Voivod albums like 1989′s ‘Nothingface’ and the underrated 1991 disc ‘Angel Rat,’ and was well-received by fans and critics. It was more than a heartfelt tribute to a fallen hero — it was a proper Voivod album.
After ‘Katorz’ was released, there were still 13 songs left on the laptop. So in late 2008, Belanger, drummer Michel ‘Away’ Langevin and bassist Jason Newsted got together to determine how to best record Piggy’s final output. Ultimately, they determined that Langevin would enter a Montreal studio with engineer Glen Robinson and track his drum parts over the existing guitar tracks. Then, Newsted would add bass lines with Enrique Gonzalez Müller at Fantasy Studios in San Francisco before Belanger tracked vocals with Robinson in Montreal. Finally, Newsted and Gonzalez would mix the album in San Francisco.
Like its predecessor, the finished disc, ‘Infini,’ is surreal and abrasive. But it’s even more direct, driven by angular, tinny guitars, fist-in-face beats and space alien vocals. Even though Voivod were unable to deviate from the structures Piggy had created, the guitarist incorporated enough sonic variation that the material — while primal — never feels incomplete. And instead of re-amping the riffs as Voivod did on Katorz, they ran the original recordings straight into the soundboard.
“The sound is different than ‘Katorz’ because of that,” Belanger says. “But I think it’s really good that we left the guitar intact. It gives the music a really intimate, personal guitar sound that was individual to Piggy. Sometimes when I hear some of the intros that feature guitars only, you can really feel like you’re in his room. For me, sometimes I have goosebumps because I remember what that was like.”
Voivod fans who cherish the band’s early-’80s blowtorch noise or late-’80s progressive arrangements might not vibe with ‘Infini.’ But anyone who has followed the band’s intriguing career arc or appreciates primal, punky metal should find the album appealing, if not fascinating.
“When we were improvising around Piggy’s songs and the roots of the band came out, it was almost like an automatism rock ‘n’ roll type thing,” Belanger says. “There were a lot of Motörhead-ish beats and guitars. And I think it gives a good vision of where Voivod is from. It’s less technical and complicated than ‘Dimension Hatröss’ and ‘Killing Technology.’ But there’s a good vibe to it, and we tried to really put together this album the way Piggy would have liked.”
Whether ‘Infini’ turns out to be the final Voivod album is still unclear, but it will definitely be the last to feature D’Amour — one of the most creative, unconventional and unsung metal guitarists of all time. “I’m really proud to have finished this album, but at the same time I’m sad,” Belanger says. “It’s something that we had to do, and it was important for us, and there’s a feeling of relief. But it’s still a little sad. Right now we’re just focused on playing live and sharing with people what Piggy left on his laptop before he died. And that’s a good feeling, after all.”