Voivod – Katorz – Review


Katorz (The End)
by Martin Popoff

Just to cover how this was made: Piggy, before he died, had demo guitar tracks, to which Jason – on his porch – ran through with him on bass, the end. Away’s drums were added and tinkered with a bit, then Snake did his thing. It was ass-backwards and difficult cos of the unfortunate circumstances, but you’d never know it cos the album rules, and roils, and flows.

Katorz is jumpy, nervy, punchy, and organic, like an early Voivod album, the guys finding a punk rock ethic that inspires to action. The sound is urgent, fastback, and live, live, live, in marked contrast to the self-titled first of the Jasonic era, which had polish. And simplicity, in marked contrast to Katorz which, well, it’s got some of that, resulting in effortless heavy metal grooves and songs which unfold logically. But most fortunately, Katorz has loads of Piggy’s astringent, slide-rule melodies, his dark prog componentry as derived from King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. And almost as much a joy is Away’s swirling, circular drum tornado rhythms. It helps to see him do it, but even just in the listening, one quickly gathers the impression that this is one of the dozen or so legendary drummers with his own sound, a trademark. It’s a jazzy, effortless, grooving arc around the kit and back again, and it’s a canny match to Piggy’s trademark riffs, which also seem to zig-zag in an arc, rinse, repeat. Snake adds the crowning eccentric touch, with his punk and Goth preponderances (see “Silly Clones” for the Bauhaus moment) and his chopped to-the-quick lyrics. But I love opener “The Getaway,” on which Away gets away with the signature moment: His single stroke accompaniment during the break – percussive genius. “After All” is cool as well, Piggy turning in one of his many secret agent man riffs, taking us back to the resplendent MCA-era albums. Fave comes late in the sequence, “The X-Stream” slamming over a sharp, shocking riff, Snake enforcing the punk rock speed of it with his monotone cool.

In basic terms, what Katorz does is combine the best elements of the self-titled – that record’s immediate songfulness – with the note density and the exotic tripiness of Outer Limits or Angel Rat, all over a production job out of Robinson that clangs like any one of Away’s chaotically assembled robot beasts. The album closes with a haunting bit of Piggy on acoustic guitar, which, as legend has it, was the only time he ever picked one up.