Charles Mingus was an American jazz legend, whose unique style drew on such diverse musical sources of inspiration as gospel, blues, free jazz, and classical music. His music was as dramatic as his notoriously bad-tempered personality. The legacy of his music is huge, reaching over genre boundaries. Just months prior to his death, Charles Mingus collaborated with such an unlikely artist as Joni Mitchell on her 1979 album “Mingus.”
VOIVOD, in turn, is a Canadian progressive metal band that refuses to fit neatly into any category, mixing cheerfully the sonic aesthetics of, say, KING CRIMSON, BARTÓK, and KILLING JOKE, into an interesting brew of music. It is more than appropriate that VOIVOD has then incorporated brass instruments into the reworking of their track, “The End of Dormancy,” in the spirit of this famed jazz colossus. The song was originally released on the 2018 album, “The Wake,” and now the “jazzified” version will serve as the title track on the band’s upcoming EP, to be released on 10 July 2020, via Century Media Records. This new serving of cosmic metal consists of three tracks, two of which are live recordings from the band’s performance at Montreal Jazz Fest in 2019. The live songs are, respectively, the live rendition of the title track and “The Unknown Knows,” which was originally released on the band’s landmark album, “Nothingface,” in 1989.
On paper, this release might seem as if it was aimed exclusively for diehard fans only as it has no new material whatsoever, but that is not necessarily the case. The jazzed-up version of the title track is quite a treat! The addition of the live version is justified, if not indispensable even, by the additional, improvised tenor saxophone solo section, which channels the ghost of John Coltrane quite beautifully. The original album version of the song is a clever play of quartal harmonies over a pedal point – a feature quite often used in vintage jazz. When the band was offered the chance to play at a jazz festival, the idea to spice up this particular track with some genuine jazz chops must have sounded quite natural. In addition to the instant MINGUS-vibe, the brass arrangement for saxophone, trombone, and trumpet also has a distinctive Ben Hur feel to it. You can almost conjure up the mental image of Charlton Heston making wheelies in the chariot race at the Colosseum. This new rendition of the song definitely has the element of surprise, despite the fact that VOIVOD is world-renowned for its unpredictability. Metal bands that flirt with jazz are few – and if we count off the bands that incorporate jazz elements to their music in the form of the sporadic, “Careless Whisper”-tinted saxophone solo, the number of metal bands narrow down even more. With this bold artistic move, VOIVOD joins the ranks of such jazz-inflected prog-metal bands as THANK YOU SCIENTIST, RIVERS OF NIHIL, and NE OBLIVISCARIS. A metalhead with the guilty pleasure of 1960s hard-bop jazz couldn’t possibly be happier.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- The End of Dormancy (Metal Section)
- The End of Dormancy (Live Montreal Jazz Fest 2019)
- The Unknown Knows (Live Montreal Jazz Fest)
Dennis “Snake” Belanger – Vocals
Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain – Guitars
Dominic “Rocky” Laroche – Bass
Michel “Away” Langevin – Drums
Century Media Records