Perth, Australia is the land credited with the birth of progressive rockers, Voyager, a band who found their way into a close knit and competitive sub-genre of rock and metal and were determined to stay there. While the bands who currently circle the progressive pool may not all necessarily be too precious about their given status among the sub-genre, fans within the community of this unique little sliver can be quite territorial of their favorite artists. Die hard followers of Voyager are no different. Active since 1999, Voyager, however subtly, crept their way into the ears and hearts of what is now their ever growing following who are currently eagerly awaiting the bands new album, ‘Ghost Mile’ which drops in May.
Straight off the bat, if you are new to either the band or genre that is prog, ‘Ghost Mile’ is a wonderful introduction to both. While there are tracks certainly geared more toward the already converted such as “Misery Is Only Company”, “The Fragile Serene” and album opener “Ascension” to name a few, there are also much more accessible numbers in place that could persuade and beckon the impressionable to come to the dark side. “What A Wonderful Day” acts as a solid example of this. Not sure where to begin? Skip straight to it. The tracks signature riff kicks it off and reminds one, fondly, of the same way Static-X would craft their big, crunchy yet industrial and bop worthy riffs. On top of this, when we are met with the chorus, there is lyrical phrasing happening that is reminiscent to that of when Louis Armstrong sang “What A Wonderful World”. Given the title similarities and, unless mistaken, the phrasing in the chorus, betting your chips that this track may just be a nod to another might just be a sound bet. Then, if you are feeling like being just a bit more daring, “Lifeline” should be your next step.
While on all things lyrics and phrasing, vocalist, front-man and keys player Daniel Estrin produces a vocal delivery on this record that stands out above all else. Through much trial and error since 2003’s ‘Element V’, Estrin has developed and progressed his voice by leaps and bounds here. Technical ability aside, just the sheer sound and mix of the vocals on this album are worked beautifully. ‘Ghost Mile’ certainly envelopes much more elements of rock than it does metal, by a long shot. While Estrin‘s vocals work incredibly well, there are moments when you just want the tension pierced, but musically the record never reaches that climax. Notable examples of when this does in fact reach can be found in much of the material from Symphony X, Anathema and especially Ne Obliviscaris who are masters at creating tension to the brink of no return with elements of black metal and piercing it with clean vocals and violin at the most crucial point. Much of the credit here must be given to Ne O‘s own Tim Charles who has proved he understands this better than most.Voyager are by no means do anything wrong per say, it is the choice of the artist. However it does feel like the album was gearing up to this at one moment or another but never quite reaching it, like a roller coaster climbing right to the top of the tracks ready for the take off only to begin reversing slowly. And it is not that it can’t be done, ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase’ does so masterfully, with Steve Wilson and even Porcupine Tree delivering this type of execution for many moons, now.
‘Ghost Mile’ does itself more favors than not. It is a well produced, incredibly accessible and fiercely passionate album. While it does pendulum between rock and metal all the while remaining progressive in its purest form, its only downfall is it suffers in its reach. Sounds and styles are blended comfortably, resting with ease beside one another, but there are moments you feel the band trying to push their own boundaries with regards to tension, but pulling back all too soon, and what should feel like the piercing simply feels flat. That being said, this is somewhat of a personal preference developed through exploring the genre over some years, and the trade off is getting a great prog rock record as opposed to a metal one. But hints of more metal elements could have acted as a virtue in trying to achieve with this record feels like it was going for in some areas and not always delivering. Voyager are bound to open many new doors for newer fans to peek their heads through with ‘Ghost Mile‘, and while it may not be everything die hard fans might have come to expect, it will no doubt please their fans and guide new ones down avenues to all things Voyager.