Despite emerging from the well-populated thrash metal explosion of the mid-'80s, VOIVOD never sounded remotely like anyone else. Courtesy of the late, great Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, even the band's first few records were defiant in their refusal to rely on the same musical tropes that everyone else was gleefully exploiting at the time. As they evolved, VOIVOD steadily became the idiosyncratic force for creative good that we know and revere today, but there was never any real chance that the Canadians would conform.
"Morgöth Tales" is a potted history of that intuitive non-conformity: one song each from nine of the band's first ten studio records, re-recorded by their current lineup and bolstered by two further tunes from opposite ends of VOIVOD's ongoing temporal stretch. Considering their form over the last few years — both "The Wake" (2018) and "Synchro Anarchy" (2022) were widely and rightly hailed as new peaks of potency — this thing sells itself.
First, the two non-album cuts. "Condemned To The Gallows" is an unearthed gem from VOIVOD's legendary "To The Death!" demo circa 1984. A snarling blast of VENOM-fueled thrash, it's a riotous way to kick things off. The title track, on the other hand, is an absolute joy. An intricate but free-flowing tsunami of crackpot ideas, it sits somewhere between the progged-out majesty of "The Wake" and the snappier freakouts of "Synchro Anarchy", and suggests that VOIVOD's next move will be as unmissable as usual.
The rest of "Morgöth Tales" is an unpredictable scurry through one of the most original and fascinating catalogues in heavy music. A testament to how much VOIVOD have changed over the decades, without ever sacrificing one iota of identity, it also makes admirable drop-ins at unexpected points along the timeline. In particular, "Rise" salutes the oft-maligned era of frontman Eric "E-Force" Forrest, who was recruited after the departure of Denis "Snake" Belanger in 1994. Originally from the criminally underrated "Phobos", the second and best album of Forrest's VOIVOD tenure, it features Forrest on vocals and bass once again, and fits perfectly between a joyously demented "Fix My Heart" (originally from "The Outer Limits", 1993) and a fiery "Rebel Robot". The latter comes from VOIVOD's self-titled 2003 album, which marked the assimilation of Jason Newsted ("Jasonic") into the lineup. Revived here with Newsted back on bass, it starts in straight-ahead alt-rock mode, before dissolving into eerie, skewed psychedelia, and still sounds utterly contemporary.
Elsewhere, "Macrosolutions To Megaproblems" and "Pre-Ignition" (from 1988's "Dimension Hätross" and 1989's "Nothingface" respectively) are as sublime now as they were back in the prog metal day, and if a vivid and vital return to dusty deep cut "Nuage Fractal" can bring some attention to 1991's perennially underrated "Angel Rat" then "Morgöth Tales" deserves even more praise. As it stands, this exceptional band have wandered down memory lane and brought us back yet more shiny chunks of genius. Aren't we lucky?