Voivod : May 20, 2023 @ the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, TX

Quebec’s Voivod, Canada’s progressive sci-fi metal innovators, returned to the United States for the 40 Years of Morgöth Tales Tour. The 12-date tour started in Asheville, NC on May 9 making its way through eastern parts of the US. From there, the tour routing made its way west thus concluding in Texas on May 21. As for Texas, there were only two dates, Houston on May 20 and the Austin show.

The brief trek was part one of Voivod’s 40 Years of Morgöth Tales Tour. The band did spend some time in the studio prior to hitting the road. The band was finishing up a special studio release titled “Morgöth Tales” which will be released in July.

New York’s Imperial Triumphant served as main support for the tour but for only ten of the 12 dates. The experimental metal trio’s first show on the tour was the third date, May 11 in Philadelphia. 

For the Houston show at the White Oak Music Hall, Night Cobra served as opening support. Even though they are locally based, Night Cobra is more of a regional touring band. There’s a reason why the band was put on the bill, their performance spoke volumes.

The fans that were already gathering at the entrance were given a hint of what to expect from Night Cobra. The sound check was easily heard as the band blew through “In Praise of the Shadow.”

After Night Cobra’s soundcheck, the doors would remain closed for another 40-minutes. The Houston locals would take the stage promptly at 8:00

Night Cobra vocalist Christian Larson. Photo by Brian McLean

Relying on the material from their 2022 release, Dawn of the Serpent and the debut EP, In Praise of the Shadow, the band easily slithered through their set.

It was immediately noticeable that sound adjustments were not needed. Each member was locked and dialed in.

Night Cobra quickly established themselves on stage and charged forward..  There was a brief greeting from frontman Christian Larson several songs in but that was it. 

There’s a reason why Night Cobra is tapped for special shows that roll through the White Oak Music Hall. Their set from start to finish precisely illustrates why. 

Checking in from another part of the metal spectrum, Imperial Triumphant brought their unique style of musical presentation to Houston. 

Over their career, Imperial Triumphant’s musical endeavors have evolved. The band’s musical and lyrical content stems from their home city of New York.

Imperial Triumphant has released material with Neoclassical Black Metal, Avant-garde / Technical Black / Death Metal with themes touching on History, Anti-Christianity, Futurism, Philosophy and Urban decay.

Donning a black wardrobe that included hooded coverings and gold facial masks, the trio presented a unique set. Anticipation of what would or could happen was nonexistent. That’s how unique the Imperial Triumphant set was and it showed from the crowd response.

There was a point where bassist Steve Blanco did shower the stage left side of the crowd with a champagne spray. Those anchored on the metal barricade didn’t seem to mind at all.

Even though the band’s last show on the Voivod tour was a day later in Austin, Imperial Triumphant continued. Those shows will consist of stops in Dallas, Fayetteville, Oklahoma City, Iowa City, Milwaukee and Indianapolis. The Milwaukee date will see the band play the Milwaukee Metal Fest. The final date comes on May 28 in Cleveland.

Imperial Triumphant bassist Steve Blanco and guitarist Zachary Ilya Ezrin on the WOMH stage.
Photo by Brian McLean

It’s been nearly four years since Voivod has played Houston. To be more precise, it was October 2019 at the White Oak Music Hall on a co-headlining tour with Revocation.

This time around, Voivod was the sole headliner.

With only two dates for Texas, the Voivod’s show proved to be special. Fans flocked from all over the Houston area and as far as Midland, an eight hour drive.

Starting things off, the band reached back to 1987’s Killing Technology‘s title track bringing the Voivod machine life.

For the set, Voivod pulled selected tracks from a hefty sampling of their releases. Albums such as The Wake, Dimensions Hatröss, Voivod, Angel Rat, Nothing Face and Outer Limits were represented. Each album had one selected track in the set.

Synchro Anarchy and War and Pain saw more than just one track pulled for the song list. 

“Sleeves Off,” “Holographic Thinking” and the title track were pulled from Synchro Anarchy. As for War and Pain, the title track and the highly obvious “Voivod” which served as the encore.

As Voivod worked through their 13-song set, the energy level from both Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (guitar) and Dominic “Rocky” Laroche (bass) were maxed out. Whether thrashing, banging their heads or moving from opposite sides of the stage, their energy was nonstop.

Like Mongrain and Laroche, vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger was one not to stay put at center stage. Along with his never unlimited kinetic energy, Bélanger himself was unpredictable. Where he would end up or what he would do was guess work and anticipated.

Michel “Away” Langevin, the longest residing member of Voidvod was behind the kit. Though not nearly as visible as the others, Houston showed him plenty of appreciation.

This time three years ago, society came to a halt and the impact is still being felt. Voivod was away for nearly four years between appearances in Houston. The band was welcomed back with plenty of enthusiastic metal fans for one of only two Texas dates.

The robotic metal Voivod giant easily didn’t disappoint.

Tools of the trade for Voivod bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche sit in their road case just outside of Night Cobra’s dressing room. Photo by Brian McLean