78. Voivod, ‘Dimension Hatröss’ (1988)

There are bands that are so unique in their approach to writing and recording music, that they defy classification, and yet we find a way to systematize them. How else could you expect to find music in a record store—and it wasn’t that long ago that people primarily bought music from record stores. Certainly when Dimension Hatröss came out, the record store was the only place to get music. Though this album is mos def experimental (the first song is called “The Experiment” FFS), I would have looked for this band in the hardcore rack, and not the heavy metal rack.

Hardcore wasn’t any less boundary-busting than metal. From the beginning hardcore was experimental (think Bad Brains), and so elements of this album (abrupt changes, weird chord progressions, and unconventional vocals) aren’t surprising for a hardcore album. The energy is a hardcore energy…this isn’t headbanging music so much as running-face-first-into-friends music. There is very little guitar chugging or anything resembling a breakdown. The recording style is more similar to what you would expect from the Dead Kennedys or Black Flag, than any metal band. Though metal lyrics may focus on social ills, they are very rarely as tongue-in-cheek, or as…snotty as Voivod. Hardcore lyrics often run the gamut of satirical to enraged and are nearly always about real bullshit that has to go; this is less common in metal. At first blush, the lyrics on Dimension Hatröss seem to be what one might expect from a late 80s hardcore record (but see below). The vocals are shouted as much as sung, but are clearly intelligible.

On the other hand, metal is by nature transgressive. One way to be transgressive is to sing about taboo subjects. Another way is to create really surprising, unconventional music. This album does a lot of the second. Some bands do both (Pig Destroyer…horns up \m/).

Dimension Hatröss is *so* unconventional. Songs make use of abrupt changes in key, tempo, and time signature (which go odd in a hurry), have nonrecursive structures, feature dramatic pauses, and unpredictable melodic structures. The late guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour makes use of chords that you rarely hear outside of jazz, most often creating a feeling of confusion, or sometimes something more unsettling as in the intro to “Cosmic Drama”. All the same, there are intervals of musical coherence long enough to groove– Sepultur-esque drum-pounding in “Tribal Convictions” and “Macrosolutions to Megaproblems”, thrash riffing in “Technocratic Manipulators” and ripping guitar solos scattered throughout the tracks). The bass guitar is often in a higher register than is acceptable in metal…reminiscent more of Mike Watt’s work with the Minutemen than anything else.

Lyrically, this music is stranger than I imagined. It is about societal ills, but maybe not those of any society that currently exists. Though themes of “revolution”, “the system”, and wokeness are apparent throughout, there is an overarching theme that I missed—the mission of a fictional killer robot named Korgüll the Exterminator to annihilate all life in the galaxy? I don’t know. I guess it is a narrative that was carried over from the second album Rrröööaaarrr (which may feature the most umlauts in an album title).

Maybe more importantly, this is a rocking good album. Yeah. It’s weird, but it is earnest in its weirdness. I don’t get the feeling that weirdness is the point. Rather, I think the band wanted to make really fun, challenging music. Nailed it.

Voivod is from northern Quebec. Maybe that explains things. I don’t know.

Also, there is a cover of the theme from Batman.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7151530

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