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VOIVOD - The End Of Dormancy

Whenever a metal fan states "I hate jazz", somewhere in the world a kitten dies from the cringe of this assertion. Of course you can dislike certain jazz varieties or artists, but this absolute claim about the whole of jazz is so massively oblivious, it almost hurts. And it kills kittens.

Beside the fact that without decades of jazz being the main driving force of popular music, the evolution of rock'n'roll would be unthinkable - and Black Sabbath would probably have missed their rhythm section -, the world of this over a century spanning music tradition is simply so vast, that anyone who seriously denies all of it can only belong to those poor people who actually have zero interest in any kind of music at all.

But why am I even rambling about this?

Well, even with Voivod fans generally having a less leather and barbarism fundamentalist mindset than your average metalhead, the Canadians have now successfully managed to trigger that ew jazz! reaction within parts of their crowd with their latest EP.

The fun thing about this whole jazz allergy thing however:

There hardly is any jazz on "The End Of Dormancy".

VOIVOD - The End Of Dormancy (light blue vinyl 12" EP) (2020)

So what happened?

Last year Voivod were invited to play the Montreal Jazz Fest, which of course isn't the most obvious choice. But then many unlikely bands have played "jazz" festivals around the world.
A great many of those festivals regularly feature artists from other genres, which isn't even a sign of openness in all cases, but became a sheer necessity to keep those grown events alive in times of the decline of jazz's popularity. Yet today, as jazz is going stronger again, it's fair to view Voivod's invitation as a special honour.

As a thankful nod to the occasion they decided to put a little surprise into their show by performing "The End Of Dormancy", the quasi title track of their stellar 2018 album "The Wake", with an added horn section.

The live recording of this song (plus the classic "The Unknown Knows" from the same show) builds the B side of this EP, which is available as a vinyl-only release in black and various limited vinyl colour versions, of which I got the blue one.

Looks and sounds great!

The A side contains the studio version of "The End Of Dormancy" with the added metal section. So two of three tracks recorded at a jazz festival and the usage of trumpets, trombones and a tenor saxophone. That's quite a lot of jazz, right?

No, not really. And that's not a complaint, just an observation. The only moment that outright screams jazz is that added breakdown with a bold sax solo in the live version of the EP's title track.
The other brass parts are often performed with a jazzy attitude, yet the arrangements itself are much closer to what winds and strings would play in a movie soundtrack of the 1950s to 1970s.

Which is no giant surprise, because the song - and damn, what a mind-boggingly fantastic beast of a prog/thrash metal tune this is! - already has this very cinematically storytelling structure with many parts successfully intended to echo that very same score feeling in the first place.

Now with the proper instrumentation this notion is represented in an even more authentic manner. This doesn't make the original version redundant, as I think that one still works better in the context of the album (which already had a similar idea with its use of string quartet), but it's a very exciting touch, elevated by the fact that you can clearly hear that this is not just a dry job for some classical/jazz musicians whose hearts are not in it. The fine playful details in the perfomance just speak another language.

The greatest portion of the manifold brass parts are fanfare-like march themes and long suspense-packed notes, basically things which Voivod's fellow pioneers Celtic Frost already introduced to the world of extreme metal in the 1980s.
With its noir touch and its elaborated and incorporated form (just listen closely to the fast staccatos and quick mini improvisations!), this arrangement is clearly a couple of steps further in the evolution of this kind of niche gimmick within the metal world. The closest relative in intention as well as in execution can very likely be found in the avantgarde black metal of Imperial Triumphant - who interestingly enough will have a Voivod cover version on their forthcoming new album... looking forward to that!

I love this EP - alone for the effect that the epic, but also somehow joyful metal section pushes Voivod's whole appearance so much more in the direction of the French zeuhl legends Magma, whose analogon in the realm of metal Voivod have always somehow been anyway.

My single luxury complaint here would be that I wish they had also given one or two other songs from the cataloque the brass treatment. That would surely have been more interesting than the "regular" live track (which of course kicks ass as expected) on the B side. 

But hey, this is awesome!

And of course there's also a hilarious music video to enjoy.

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