Metal Review – Voyager: V

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Metal Review – Voyager: V
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Voyager: V
Melodic Progressive Metal
Nightmare Records
June 3rd, 2014
Release length: 54:47
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Australia’s Voyager was formed by Daniel “Nephil” Estrin of the band Nachthimmel back in 1999. Since then a few members have come and gone, leaving the current grouping comprised of guitarists Scott Kay and Simone Down (former Noctis, drummer Mark Boeijen (Daybreak), and fellow former Psychonaut member Alex Canion on bass. In the years to come, the Melodic Progessive Metal act has issued a total of four studio full-length albums that have all received plenty of praise from everywhere including Chino Moreno of Deftones praising of Daniel’s vocals as on par with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. However, despite those defining releases, the group set out to crowd fund their fifth album, and fans everywhere chipped in to make it a reality. Aptly titled V, it was promised by the band to be “heavy, groovy and super-catchy,” not to mention “pure, polished Voyager with a modern feel.” But does V live up to the expectations, or does it take things a bit too far in the studio?

One of the proclamations made by Voyager is that V is both heavy and groovey, which it is in fairly limited amounts. “Hyperventilating” throws some Meshuggah-grade riffs at the listener in some spots with an energetic chorus that is as light hearted as the main verse is soothing and zen inducing on par with most material from fellow Progressive Metallers Jolly. The guitar solo does highlight some of the faults to such a crisp audio quality though, making that cleaner performance carry a shrill higher pitch that can make you cringe if sensitive to that sort of noise. “It’s a Wonder” is an interesting track in the sense that much of it, especially the start, sounds more like a cover of something from an eight-bit Nintendo Entertainment System game’s score along the lines of the early Mega Man series or similar franchise. This can also be said for the Science Fiction fuelled “The Morning Light,” though more like something off the Mega Man X entries.

There are times this more aggressive approach is delegated to just being a change within the performance. “Peacekeeper” finds that groovier foundation at work during the main verses, though not really anywhere else. The chorus resorts to lighter hooks, and some bridges have sort of an astral touch in the background at times. “The Domination Game” has some heavier material around the three minute mark that acts more like a groove-laced breakdown than anything, carried further thanks to some of the keytar notes or synth effects (whichever they may be) that follow. These last two are better examples of the extent of the edgier side of the music, which doesn’t quite live up to the band’s promise.

What V does live up to is the fact that it is “super-catchy.” There’s a good deal of material that stands as the literal definition of “feel good hit of the Summer,” making up a good chunk of the release. “You the Shallow” is just an infectious track that doesn’t lean too much towards the aggressive grooves that creep up on the release from time to time. Instead it allows the stable drums and twang of the bass to entice you into slipping away into the simple music before floating off in the subtle beauty of the slower break about two minutes in. Much of this can be said for “Orpheus” as well, though the beauty is replaced with an audio sample of someone talking behind deeper riffs that set up a darker tone out of nowhere around the half way point. It’s a brief downer before heading back into the uplifting music with some additional gutturals thrown in. “Breaking Down” ends up the most memorable despite being the most accessible. The tight performance that shifts between lighter Rock hooks and even a bit of a Caribbean vibe just past the minute and a half mark. That and the beautiful yet shortlived piano notes in some bridges make it a truly addicting experience that simply needs to be heard at all costs.

All that being said, there’s a major problem with V that really takes a lot to overlook, and it’s the insane amount effects utilized. This is something especially prolific in the vocals. “Hyperventilating” can actually trick you into believing Daniel had gone the route of using auto-tuning in his voice at the very start, something that could be sensed on previous Voyager outings, but really it ends up being the effects used and layering to the choppiness found in his voice during the chorus. It gets worse as the songs go on sadly, gradually delving into what sounds like bad layering and female clean singing that is, in fact, auto-tuned for the sake of establishing the latter Space Rock vibe of “A Beautiful Mistake.” While it’s groan inducing the first time through, the more you listen to V the more it becomes excusable in some cases, but not all.

V stands a shining example of an album that needs time to grow on you. While not that much different than their past few albums, it just sounds incredibly busy due to all the effects and how crisp and digital the recording is. Yes this is a trait that often works best within the Progressive Metal world, but here it leads to a good deal of studio interference in the effort of unnecessarily doing too much in too small a space, as if listening to something put together by someone with ADHD in the middle of a pixie stick high. But among that craziness are so many memorable performances that will reach to fans of the style new and old you can forgive it most of the time, though after a number of spins. For many, V is an album you will find hard to get into on the first spin alone, possibly not even by the tenth. Voyager set out to create something dedicated to the fans, primarily those who donated money to make this album happen, and if you put patience into it, your time will be well rewarded.

01. Hyperventilating – 4:41
02. Breaking Down – 4:36
03. A Beautiful Mistake – 5:02
04. Fortune Favour the Blind – 1:02
05. You the Shallow – 4:33
06. Embrace the Limitless – 3:06
07. Orpheus – 4:19
08. The Domination Game – 4:30
09. Peacekeeper – 4:47
10. It’s a Wonder – 5:11
11. The Morning Light – 5:58
12. Summer Always Comes Again – 2:21
13. Seasons of Age – 4:40
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Voyager
Voyager

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nightmare Records via Fresno Media.