The year is 1989 and practically every Thrash Metal band is trying to release another ‘heavy & aggressive’ album to cash in on it while Canada’s Voivod releases Nothingface. The album contains an excellent cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” and the video gets considerable rotation from MTV to introduce the new sound and direction of Voivod. This was the first album I bought of theirs and to this day I consider it a timeless classic regardless of any genre. What sets Nothingface away from any other release out there is that it is the very first record (along with Fates Warning’s Perfect Symmetry) to truly bring the Rush influence into Progressive Metal in a way that was fresh. As Voivod’s main goal was to be different than other bands, with each following release, they incorporated odd time signatures, key and tempo changes and futuristic lyrics in their songs. And, without doubt, Nothingface is their finest moment. It has already taken its place as a historic recording in the evolution of Progressive Metal.
The (timeless) music presented on this album sees the Canadian band largely exploring other areas and experimenting with a unique style of writing and performing. No longer a Thrash Metal act, guitarist Denis D’Amour and bassist Jean-Yves Theriault lay off a virtuosic overkill of riffs that are seamlessly blended and carried to a new musical platform. Denis Belanger’s vocal melodicism is heavily stressed and perhaps his finest job to date. However, the drumming on the album has got to be the most brilliant aspect of the musicianship. His odd-metered approach gives the music a level of depth and credibility. Michel Langevin’s performance on this disc (as well as other Voivod releases) is nothing short of amazing. He has a tasty style which is heightened to levels of excellence by his complex and multi-facetted polyrhythm work. The perfect harmony between the bass and drums proves to be one of the tightest and most impressive rhythm sections ever! The bass is a wall of relentless throbbing but it is cleverly kept in the context of the song. Most of the bass and guitar lines are played in opposition to one another and they are surrounded by a sonic intensity that is virtually impossible to verbalise. It really is so difficult to believe that this album was recorded in 1989 — it was way ahead of its time in every respect from musicianship to lyrics to production.
Throughout the whole 43-minute disc, time signatures continue to shift, blur, change and re-invent themselves. With Voivod eventually letting their Prog Rock influences (Pink Floyd, Rush and King Crimson) seep in, the result is a powerful record with incredible aesthetics. D’Amour’s razor-sharp guitar riffs are creepily worked into the mix giving each song a unique vibe. Belanger delivers deeply thought-provoking lyrics which seem to have improved greatly compared to their pre-1987 releases. The lyrical content, albeit a bit hard to grasp immediately, is as profound as the listener wants it to be. The subject matter seems to deal with how technology takes over the world and how the individual suffers the risk of losing his identity because of the constant changes happening. The Floyd cover “Astronomy Domine” established Voivod as an ever-changing Progressive Metal band whose work has been vastly underrated among the Metal community. Not be overlooked is producer Terry Brown of Rush and Fates Warning fame. Without his added touch, this album would never be as impressive as it is.