Inoperable cancer didn't leave Voivod guitarist Dennis "Piggy" D'Amour much time on this planet, but somehow he managed to demo a couple of dozen songs before he split this mortal coil a year ago. Afterward, bandmates Snake, Away, and Jasonic (a.k.a. ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted) put words and rhythms around the riffs on tape. It worked, because Katorz sounds as immediate, unforced, and together as if Piggy were sitting in the studio with them. The metal equivalent of the Saints' 1978 soul-punk screed Eternally Yours, Katorz (the veteran Montreal band's 14th album) shares the older album's white-hot anger, pointed lyrics, and nearly impenetrable bad attitude. But hang in there; tracks like the prickly "Mr. Clean" will help Katorz worm its way into black little hearts. Pissed off at urban gentrification, Snake announces "the last call for the rascals," and barks out a roll call of everyone who's gotta hit the bricks in this brave new world: "The homeless out!/The poor out!/The punks out!" Even more moving—in a grumpy, grinding way—is the closer, "Polaroids," which is like "Space Oddity" cast with stranded winter warriors from a Tolkien story. With a climbing, tense riff, ticklish cymbals, and a rumbling bass, Snake's phased, tormented vocals swirl around the instruments like a freezing flurry of flakes: "Our worst nightmare/No more supplies/Nor food to share/All the strength I've left behind/Now that I die." But when he sings, "It doesn't matter/Not anymore," it's as much defiant shout as it is lament.
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