When At The Gates and Voivod join up to release a split, it kind of feels like there should be more hype behind it than we’ve seen so far. (Even more so since this is a limited release, on a bigger label—Century Media—and both bands are coming off relative high points in their careers and respective genres—At War with Reality and Target Earth, respectively.) Oh well, at this point, neither band really needs any introduction so instead, let’s hop into the burning questions: namely, do they bring it on this thing? Read on and we will explore.
Billed as a collector’s item, this split is a limited release of 2,000 copies—available in three different colors and boasting some really nice artwork from Voivod drummer Away. At the Gates offers up “Language of the Dead,” recorded during the At War with Reality sessions and originally released on the deluxe version of the album. The track is melodic and heavy in the breakdown parts but injects hints of a progressive nature through some higher-register guitar noodling that for me was a nice surprise. In its original context on At War, it felt like one of the weaker tracks but on this split it can be taken singularly, and once you’ve heard both sides, it’s easy to see that it fits quite well here.
On the opposite side, we have Voivod’s contribution, “We Are Connected.” The band embraces its proggy side throughout the track, yet retains their nifty mix of thrash and punk that any fan will appreciate. Admittedly, it’d been a long time since I took the time to listen to Voivod, but this is a totally satisfying return for my ears. The odd time signatures and trance-inducing proggy passages are here, along with some really heavy, slower parts, reminiscent of their fantastic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.” I’ve listened to this track countless times and am always finding something new in the mix—which, for me, hasn’t always been the case with Voivod. Even at more than seven minutes in length, the song feels like it’s over in a flash and has me beyond excited for some more new material.
Ultimately, both sides are a fun ride, but if this were a battle royale, Voivod would win. They continue to push their own boundaries by creating new and fresh material, while At the Gates rely a bit too much on the past. I’ve worn out more copies of Slaughter of the Soul than I care to mention, and thus far, their new stuff simply hasn’t given me enough of a reason to move forward with them.