Voivod Guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour Dies Of Cancer At 45

Canadian thrash-metal icon died Friday after slipping into a coma.

Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, a founding member of groundbreaking Canadian thrash veterans Voivod, died late Friday in a Montreal hospital from complications of advanced colon cancer, according to the band’s Web site.

The Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil reported last week that the 45-year-old guitarist had been diagnosed this summer and that the disease had spread to his liver, rendering the condition inoperable. On Thursday, D’Amour slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. He was surrounded by family and friends at the time of his death.

D’Amour, frontman Denis “Snake” Belanger, drummer Michel Langevin and bassist Jean-Yves Theriault formed Voivod in the early 1980s, carving out a distinct sound marked by unconventional musical tempos, prog-rock elements and futuristic, apocalyptic-leaning lyrical themes. The influential band is credited with paving the way for dozens of other Canadian thrash and metal bands.

With landmark releases like 1984’s War and Pain, 1986’s Rrroooaaarrr! and 1987’s Killing Technology, Voivod managed to attract the attention of several major labels. The band eventually signed with MCA, which released 1989’s Nothingface, perhaps Voivod’s most commercially successful LP, thanks to “Astronomy Domine,” a cover of the Pink Floyd classic; a headlining tour with openers Faith No More and Soundgarden followed.

Voivod experienced numerous lineup shifts over the course of their career, the first being Theriault’s departure, which followed the release of 1991’s Angel Rat. Three years later, Belanger abandoned the group and was replaced by Eric Forest, who pulled double duty as the band’s vocalist and bassist. But in 2001, the departure of Forest led the rest of Voivod to call it quits. The band regrouped just months later, however, with Belanger back in the mix and former Metallica bassist (and Voivod fan) Jason Newsted on board (see “Jason Newsted Says His New Band Can Kick Metallica’s Ass” ).

Voivod signed a deal with The End Records this past June and had spent the last two months in the studio working on their 11th LP — the follow-up to a 2003 self-titled outing — which was being eyed for an early 2006 release.

“We are all devastated by the tragic passing of a true legend,” The End Records said in a statement. “Piggy and the rest of Voivod have already become family to our team here at The End, and they are the nicest people to be around. Piggy was a big inspiration to us. We feel lucky for the privilege of getting to work with him and to know him. No words can describe our admiration for him. Piggy’s guitar playing was always full of energy and innovation and life. In many senses, he will always be alive through his music.”

A number of bands have issued statements regarding the guitarist’s passing. Karyn Crisis, frontwoman for New York art-metal act Crisis, called D’Amour “a consummate artist and innovator who understood that music goes so much deeper than catchy riffs and stylish trends; that it is a force which can move, inspire and empower people.

“It is a testament to the power of their art that Voivod had the courage to stay true to their vision, refusing to compromise or call it quits when the success and broad recognition they so duly deserved eluded them,” she continued. “But such is the path of the pioneer; to challenge the status quo and not necessarily be accepted by it.”

A statement from Canadian death-metal act Kataklysm said D’Amour’s guitar influence “was felt worldwide. His work in Voivod opened the doors to many metal bands in Canada and gave all of us hope for better things in this scene. He was the nicest guy you could meet and the most humble person you could talk to. We are sad to see you go, brother, but your legacy will live forever. We will see you on the other side.”