Groundbreakers: Voivod’s Killing Technology
BEHOLD. BEAR WITNESS. We present to you the birth of… the skronk.
The year was 1987 and the thrash metal movement was arguably at its creative peak. This fertile musical breeding ground not only saw the release of undeniable thrash classics, but also held the embryonic stages of what would eventually become death metal, black metal, and a whole host of now established and beloved extreme metal subgenres. The previous year, Slayer‘s Reign In Blood, Metallica‘s Master of Puppets, Flotsam and Jetsam‘s Doomsday For The Deceiver, Kreator‘s Pleasure to Kill, and Megadeth‘s Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? were all released. So where does an oddball, Canadian d-beat happy band like Voivod go to stand out within this rich and varied musical landscape? The answer was clear; get weird, get proggy, get dissonant. Or, in a more succinct term, get skronky.
Voivod’s first two albums were curious affairs; they used odd, ugly chords and had a charmingly primitive drum style, but just didn’t quite “punch the meat” in a way that deserved international attention. That all changed with Killing Technology, wherein they fully embraced a prog rock sensibility in their chord voicings and compositions while maintaining their thrash aura and, shall we say, headbangability?
All of a sudden, Voivod was not the sound of the angry weirdo quietly huffing paint in the corner. They were now the sound of a tortured warrior, a powerful force haunted by the existential pains and ghosts of the 20th century. Uncertainty lies behind every aggressive posture. Twisted emotions are forced unto the discomforted listener with relentlessly melodic dissonance.
The effect Killing Technology had on musicians that came after can be heard all over the extreme music spectrum. Never before had a full-length metal album been so heavily based around harsh semitones and tritones. This bold move not only laid the groundwork for dissonant death metal heavyweights like Gorguts and Atheist, but planted seeds for the entire genre of “mathcore” ala Rorschach, Deadguy, Botch, and Dillinger Escape Plan. Plenty of guitarists that garner near universal respect from the progressive metal and hardcore communities credit Voivod’s sole axeman Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (RIP) for tearing their young minds asunder and expanding their vocabulary of what’s possible to play on an electric guitar.
We’re almost 30 years on from the release of Killing Technology, but even after decades of other artists bringing the skronk and bringing it hard, these riffs still sound original and poignant. They show just how likeable dissonance can be when grafted onto a high-energy package of punkish/metalish rock n’ roll tunes. Give the whole record a spin and I bet it’ll hit you weirdos hard, right in the gut, just like it’s been hitting other weirdos hard in their guts since 1987. Then you can move on to other gems in Voivod’s career like 1989’s Nothingface, 1991’s Angel Rat, and their laughably improbable return to form that is 2013’s fabulous Target Earth. Enjoy, ya freaks.
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