Voyager - V - (9/10)
Published on May 10, 2014
We are Voyager… V
Voyager has, thus far, enjoyed a stellar fifteen year career, forming in 1999 and completely demolishing their way through four full length albums. The band has become known as one progressive metal’s most engaging and entertaining acts: whether it’s because of their impressive live show or the fact that they really don’t sound like anyone else, I’m not really sure. The band’s fifth album, the appropriately titled V, was independently produced and released by the band, thanks to an immensely successful fan funded Kickstarter campaign. I’m sure it helped that the band has amassed a huge cult following in the years since their formation.
With all creative control squarely in the hands of the band, expectations were extremely high throughout the band’s fan base. The band’s previous albums were full of infectious hooks, chunky groove laden guitar work, an impressively pulsating rhythm section and the otherworldly vocals of band founder Danny Estrin. Thankfully, fans of the band’s earlier albums should still find everything that they love about Voyager in plentiful supply on V. This certainly is not just a band rehashing old glory days, as they have progressed more in the last three years than they have throughout their entire career.
Perhaps it’s the vocals of Danny Estrin that bear the brunt of this progression. Voyager’s vocals have always been one their most defining features, with Estrin’s vocals sounding like a mix of the melodious vocals of Peter Steele with touches of Roy Khan and early Geoff Tate. Estrin’s vocals have always had tinges that could make waves within popular music circles, but on V he really begins to touch a more emotive, pop style. It’s not difficult to place Estrin’s voice among the likes of Duran Duran and Coldplay, especially alongside the subtle strings and melodic nature of tracks like “Summer Always Comes Again” and ethereal, new age styled intro to “Fortune Favors the Blind”. It’s not surprising, then, that the band even considers themselves a stylistic combination of eighties synth pop and progressive metal.
I don’t want to say that the band has softened up at all because some of their heaviest riffing to date can be heard on tracks like “It’s a Wonder” and even “Orpheus” showcases some of bassist Alex Canion’s growls again. The guitar work of Simone Dow and Scott Kay combine their chunky rhythmic style with plenty of melodic patterns and some impressive leads. Despite this impressive guitar work, I can’t help but shake the impression that something is missing from the music. There is definitely something different here, but what? I mean the thumping bass lines are still intense and driving and the drum work of Mark Boeijen is still every bit as technical, as precise and as powerful as anything the band has done. The keytar / keyboard work of Danny Estrin is still impressive, mixing ringing and spacey atmospherics with the progressive power metal style of more keyboard driven bands like Stratovarius and the like. So if all of the instruments sound great and the band’s performance is stellar, what gives? What sounds so different?
This certainly sounds like Voyager, but it’s missing some piece that made the earlier albums so special. After sitting through countless listens on this album, I’ve come to the determination that this is an amazing Voyager album and it’s miles ahead of their contemporaries, but it can’t really be compared to their other albums. Sure, the band even remakes a track from their debut album, “The Morning Light”, but V moves Voyager into foreign realms. It’s a Voyager more focused on subtle melodies and less focused on catchy riffs and hooks out the wazoo; gone are the constant bouncy runs like “White Shadow” and “Are You Shaded?”. Maybe Voyager has decided to grown up, maturing past the stage of constant hook laden progressive metal. Sure there are hooks, but not as many hooks as The Meaning of I or I Am the Revolution.
Honestly though, if you liked anything Voyager has released to date, then you will dig V. I really like it too and it truly is an impressive album, but I have to admit being somewhat let down. I wanted more hooks and more speed. Danny Estrin’s vocals are still that perfect combination of eighties pop and Peter Steele and the instrumentation is practically flawless, but it just lacks those bursts of speedy catchiness that so wonderfully saturated their earlier material. Bottom line: V is an awesome album and a great, great addition to Voyager’s catalog, but I’m a little disappointed with the lack of strong, forceful hooks.