Real Gone Music
I remember one night being holed up in a basement and working on some special effect props for a local haunted house. The stark smell of latex and dampness was accentuated by oozing metal fury of guttural death metal or blistering thrash. It was where the metalheads and art punks hung out because every corner was a picture-perfect moment of coolness for any underground kid. Zombie babies to a machete and knives made to look like they were going through your neck.
Along with the creativity of recreating rotted death or post-apocalyptic creatures came the music that inspired it all. Beyond the typical rotation of Slayer, Death, Carcass and D.R.I., one band specifically came out of left field and left an impression on us that continues to this day. Canadian metalers Voïvod had been around for a while, but it was Nothingface that made a lasting impact on us. “Holy fuck! You have to hear this band!,” someone shouted out to the universe. “It’s unlike anything else I have heard before!” And it was.
What attracted us immediately was the same thing that attracted everyone else — their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.” The band respectfully nails it. The song swirls with unrelenting chaos dripping in psychedelic science fiction. But listening back to the album, I realize how this cover song stands out from the rest of the album. It’s how the band taps into Syd Barrett’s sly stature like a seance. They get out of their head and solidify their transformation from a thrash band to a psychedelic neo-progressive metal storyteller. Nonetheless, the song is a juggernaut to the band’s catalog. Nothingface was a monument to a band coming into their own.
Before Tool impressed with their intricate time signatures, Voïvod was doing it throughout Nothingface. From the Judas Priest / Mad Max-fueled “The Unknown Knows,” their first impression is a futuristic road trip driving into oblivion. Flawless signature changes are what keeps them grounded. The song is complex without trying to be. “Inner Combustion” and the title track follow the same footprint. It’s these songs that still brings out the embers of thrash metal into the mix as chords constantly shift like a well-oiled machine.
What really mesmerized me at the time of discovery was the cover art. The metallic futuristic robot machine spiking out and conjuring strange emotional dioramas; a stark glimpse of human’s fragile reality even in a world unfamiliar to us. It reminds me of the film Future Kill and its metallic box art striking up emotive similarities. The unknown is what powers the listener’s curiosity. I have listened to this album hundreds of times throughout the years and each time, I find something that feels like unexplored terrain.
Beyond copying “Astronomy Domine” on a random mixtape here or there, Nothingface was always listened to in its entirety. The album is an experience only with the intent of the full effect. I am glad there is finally a remastered version to bring out the album’s full potential. It’s an album I will always come back to with pleasure and is memorable in such a unique way that takes aural science fiction storytelling to new heights despite its stature as being a metal classic.