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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Voi Vod

Katorz

Review by Mike Korn

Elsewhere in this edition of MSJ, we took a look at Rebel Meets Rebel, a project of the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott. Now we turn to the last output of another innovative guitarist who tragically passed away at a young age, Dennis "Piggy" D'amour of Voi Vod. Long one of the most original axemen in underground metal, Piggy died in 2005 after a bout with advanced colon cancer. However, he left a computer full of basic guitar tracks and on his deathbed, instructed the other members of Voi Vod (who have endured an incredible amount of misfortune in their long career) to go ahead and use those tracks to create an album. Katorz is the result.

It's hard to believe that this album was not done by the whole band live in the studio. It has such a natural, organic sound to it. Thanks should definitely go to producer Glenn Robinson for stitching this all together so seamlessly. As for Katorz itself, it's the most rock and roll of all Voi Vod's albums, even more so than their self-titled disk of a couple years back. The music is simple, catchy and punchy; in some cases, it's more punk than metal. Those who like Voi Vod for dense psychedelia and odd avant-garde time signatures may be disappointed with Katorz, as this is far from their most "out there" work. But I can't see anybody who enjoys catchy rock and metal failing to enjoy such strong cuts as "The Getaway" and "The X-Stream."

Aside from Piggy's strong guitar work, a lot of the success here can be chalked up to the excellent vocal skills of Snake. He's not a vocalist with a great voice, obviously, but he does have an uncanny knack for coming up with strong vocal hooks with infectious rhythms. Every track here has at least one vocal line that embeds itself in your brain. Add in the super-tight rhythm section of Jasonic and Away and you have Katorz...an entertaining album that's a fine tribute to a great guitarist and a strong piece of rock wizardry.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Getaway
Brilliant simplicity is the key to this killer rocking cut, which starts off with a super catchy riff that will have your neck bobbing right away. There's a kind of punky, Motorhead-ish feel to the first part of this, with Snake's vocal lines more infectious than influenza. The tone becomes darker and more urgent as Snake yells "Let's call it even!" and then slows down to an ominous crawl. There's a tiny fragment of a weird spacey tone before the next track cuts in.
Dognation
Jasonic's fat bass cuts in with a throbbing beat to anchor this crunchy rocker. This has the sound of something from the "Dimension Hatross" album, but stripped down and rocked up. Snake's vocals are noticeably gruffer on this one and Piggy's totally unique guitar sound has never been more evident. Nobody could ever be mistaken for him.

Mr. Clean
This has an upbeat feel to it, with a strong pulsing rhythm, but the track moves around a bit more than the first two. "Mr. Clean says last call for the rascal!" Snake's lyrics relate. Piggy cuts loose with a great rocking solo and then there's more catchy vocal work from Snake, coupled with up tempo riffing. "Nice and clean society / Long live democracy!"
After All
This cut lurches into view with an uneasy, choppy feel to it and develops into another driving rocker with a deliberate pace. This has the claustrophobic, off-kilter vibe of "Dimension Hatross," ending with repetitive, staccato riffing.
Odds and Frauds
This track is based around a riff that's so catchy, it's almost instinctual. It sounds familiar, but I can't place where I've heard it before. The lyrics are scathing in their denunciation of greedy politicians and their money fix: "I'm talkin' millions / Behind closed doors / The politicians / Always want more." I think they let this one go a little bit too long.

Red My Mind
A tentative reaching into a dark corner, this gradually gains drive and coherence but maintains a general gloom. Away keeps up a constant pounding drumbeat, almost tribal in nature. This is far from the easiest track to get into, despite its relatively simple structure.
Silly Clones
A very quiet acoustic segment pops up before this gets under way. This cut reminds me of nothing so much as a more metallic Devo, with a kind of New Wave vibe to the vocals. Don't let the New Wave comparison scare you away, because the track has its more forceful, riff-based moments. Snake's chorus again grabs the listener with its catchy refrain of "In the valley of silly clones / ripping people to the bone / In the valley of silly clones / where people turn to stone / In the valley of silly clones / people made of Styrofoam / In the valley of silly clones / where people die alone." There's a weird change of pace towards the end that finishes the track on a really awkward note.
No Angel
I didn't care much for this. The main verse riff is simple to the point of stupidity and there's a bad group chorus singing "You're no angel" that almost sounds like it came from a glam album. The "na-na-na" stuff doesn't work either. This should have been left out.
The X-Stream
Things recover very nicely here, with a fast, heavy cut that's right up there with "The Getaway" in terms of punchy, memorable songwriting. Unlike "No Angel," the simplicity here helps to lure the listener in - it's got more of that punky feel to it. You'll be humming along with this at several points and I especially like Snake's "countdown" from one thousand up. Clever wordplay has always been a hallmark of Voi Vod and the double meaning of the title here is pushed for all its worth.
Polaroids
This starts as another strong rocker with a bouncy riff but more of that peculiar "nervous" feeling Voi Vod is known for. The chorus here has a drifty, melancholy feeling that's incredibly cool. The best part of the track is when Piggy cuts loose with a really scorching solo. It hurts to realize he won't be doing any more of those. In fact, the whole album is tempered by that sad realization. After the main cut concludes, there's one final bit of spooky minimalist guitar/synth work from Piggy that seems to mirror that gloom.

 
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