Review by Mabh Savage
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Classed as Progressive Metal, I’m expecting something weird and wonderful from Voyager, especially as this is their fifth (hence title ‘V’) studio album. This is only the second album to produce a single, suggesting that Voyager expect great things, perhaps even more mainstream things from this album.
The single and first track, Breaking Down, is for me a sad disappointment. It’s radio material. It has a repetitive hook, clean vocals and catchy yet predictable lyrics. As for progressive… I can’t find anything that is stretching boundaries or even that far from the middle of the road. The production is clean, the vocals are perfectly layered with no dynamic changes; it’s technically perfect but completely lacking in any passion or gusto.
However, singles are often like this. Most singles are released in the hope of air play, and often it’s the tracks that the band are closer to that are the gems. So of course, I persevere in the hoping of mining something precious. Hyperventilating, the album’s second offering, is vocally similar to Breaking Down but with some rather joyous guitar work, with Eastern undertones that speaks of The Tea Party in places. With A Beautiful Mistake we actually start to move towards a Metal sound, for what seems like the first time on this album. Drummer Ashley Doodkorte really shines in this song; and the vocals move away from the stereotypical ‘layer them to death’ sound and we even have a guest appearance from Žemyna Kuliukas. Her vocals, for me, really make this track; her voice is raw emotion and searingly beautiful.
Above: Žemyna Kuliukas
With interlude track (it’s only a minute long) Fortune Favours the Blind we wallow in some Massive Attack-style electro before launching into You the Shallow, the heaviest offering yet. Soaring guitars and a darker melodic line flow along a crunching rhythm section to create a surprisingly sing along track. In the break, the track feels too slow as it reprises the Fortune interlude, but this gives way to space for an awesome solo from guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay, clearly illustrating why the band has been suitable to support acts such as Steve Vai in the past!
Embrace the Limitless drops the Metal ball a little, although the guitars are still crunching happily away. We’re back in synth land, with the focus on clean sound and a slightly, slightly Floyd-esque vocal line. This track has a fade out… I didn’t think anyone did those anymore?
Orpheus opens with a Gary Numan-style synth line (not a bad thing in my book!) but quickly escalates with aggressive guitar work and some guttural growling underscoring the (now typical) melodic vocals.
At this point I feel like the album is hopping from ‘a track that’s a bit Metal’ to ‘let’s be Heavy now’ to ‘OK that’s enough of that, get the synths back out!’ The vocals tie the album together stylistically, but the overall musical choices seem to be a bit inconsistent. The Domination Game is atonal and crunchy; Peacekeeper is drum heavy and a bit ethereal. It’s a Wonder brings back some of the Eastern tones we heard in Hyperventilating. I can’t help but feel that this is trying to be some sort of concept album, where I’m lost as to what the concept is.
I like this album, but that’s as far as I’d go. It’s not ground breaking; it’s barely progressive and only about half of it really falls into the metal bracket, so it certainly doesn’t do what it says on the tin. But ignoring labels (which I do) and marketing (likewise) then musically, although technically gorgeous, it’s has a tendency to be a little generic and derivative. Having said that, I adore some of the melodies and drum work; I can see this album going on in the car a few times, but not being a regular on Spotify. I’d enjoy it a great deal more if there was more of Žemyna Kuliukas. Three and a half stars from me.