Katorz (The End Records)

Knowing that his time was short, guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, founder of Voivod, the long-running, ever-mutating Canadian prog-thrash band, laid down loads of riffs and solos, along with instructions on their use for his bandmates -- singer Denis "Snake" Belanger, drummer Michel "Away" Langevin, and ex-Metallica/Supernova bassist Jason Newsted -- before cancer claimed his life last year at the age of 45.

Piggy's compadres haven't let their fallen leader down; Katorz, Voivod's 14th disc, is the most satisfying to come from the group in ages. Opting for an elemental metal attack with a somewhat sinister edge, Voivod guides standout tracks "The Getaway," "Dognation," and the politically charged crusher "Odds & Frauds" -- the bulk of the album, really -- into Queens of the Stone Age and Motörhead territory, merging dynamic, propulsive crunch with melody aplenty and just a few trippy twists to keep things interesting. Though this kind of posthumous project often proves deplorable, Katorz is a blistering exception to the rule.

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