Voivod - Angel Rat
MCA Records
Progressive Rock/Metal
12 songs (44:06)
Release year: 1991
Voivod, MCA
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

After Nothingface, arguably the career highlight of Canadian Prog-Thrashers Voivod, there was little musical territory for the band to conquer. They’d proven that they could Thrash with the best on Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss, and well, Nothingface is about as perfect a Prog Metal album as you can get. It was a surprise, then, when follow-up Angel Rat didn’t perform nearly as well, earning itself poor reviews and fan hatred despite being a more than decent attempt at following Nothingface up. You can hear why people were shocked, however; it is a more mainstream Voivod than had ever been heard before, almost washed-out in some strange way. Yet as with all Voivod albums, there’s more going on than meets the eyes, and Angel Rat benefits from repeated listens, working its woozy way into your consciousness and staying there. It’s quite a psychedelic album, from the hazy laid-back, almost dreamy atmosphere pervasive throughout to the artwork, avoiding the usual sci-fi theme in favour of cut-and-paste wackiness.

There’s a similar schizophrenia evident from the music itself, disparate elements brought together almost perfectly, pieced together without clashing in a way that only a genius band could manage. After a brief intro, first track proper Panorama has that Motörhead-based thrashy punk style that fans know and love, yet the vocals and melody are notably less out-there than usual. It’s the catchiest the band have been up to that point, with a clear poppyness to the likes of Clouds In My House and almost New Wave influence apparent on The Prow and Best Regards. You could call this a sped-up version of one of Rush’s 90s albums in many ways, Piggy’s guitarwork more Lifesonic than ever (seriously, listen to that proggy breakdown and solo that end Clouds In My House!) as melodic structures get piled up and rearranged before your eyes. Rush producer Terry Brown also twiddled the dials here, and he did a great job, highlighting the aforementioned dreamy, psychedelic atmosphere without sacrificing clarity.

I can’t help but simultaneously like and dislike the more twisted tracks on here, such as Twin Dummy with its meandering melody, as catchy and straightforward as the chorus is. The album seems to take a perverse pleasure in hooking your ear with a particularly well-crafted riff, and suddenly fading the song out – there’s nothing here over five minutes long. As frustrating as the band’s reticence can be, however, you’re always listening – the title track’s almost balladic nature never fails to ensnare me, and I defy anyone not to love Golem from that first bass noodle, all the way through the maddeningly catchy verses to the freakout conclusion. My memories of the album before writing the review were far worse than it proved to be; it’s that sort of album, that you expect to disappoint and instead find yourself incredibly fond of. The sudden harmonica on The Outcast is a personal favourite moment, and the sheer reflective intelligence of Nuage Fractal and especially Freedoom is quite striking.

Whatever you do, don’t expect another Rrröööaaarrr. Angel Rat is a song-driven album that might as well be from a completely different band, and you have to learn to appreciate itself for its own merits. Preconceptions about albums from artists as self-challenging and progressive as Voivod are never helpful – go into Angel Rat expecting nothing but a good time, and it’s sure to repay. It’s a bit of a musical watershed for the band, who would lose both the more uncomfortable New Wave elements here and the deranged heaviness, and get back on track with their following effort, 1993’s brilliant The Outer Limits. Angel Rat, like all albums caught between two better efforts, tends to be overshadowed in the Voivod discography, but it has much to offer for those willing to explore, even if the results aren’t what they expect.

Killing Songs :
Clouds In My House, The Prow, Twin Dummy, Angel Rat, Golem, The Outcast, Freedoom
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Voivod that we have reviewed:
Voivod - The Wake reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Voivod - Target Earth reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Voivod - Warriors Of Ice reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Voivod - Negatron reviewed by Goat and quoted 72 / 100
Voivod - The Outer Limits reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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