- Grow Factor
Voyager is one of those bands that seemed to just come out of nowhere and knock me off my feet with their 2011 album, The Meaning of I. I’m not sure that I’ve heard a more catchy prog metal album since (or a catchier album in any other metal genre, for that matter). The level of hooks that this Perth-Australia group provides is incredible, and just about every song on that album stood out. Furthermore, their blend of modern prog metal with 80’s electronic and synth pop elements made them a band that quite literally sounded only like themselves. Basically, Voyager’s last output was so great as to create the risk of becoming a looming mountain that would potentially cast a shadow over all future output. Perhaps in light of all this, the band chose quite a bold naming scheme for the follow record: V. As should be obvious to the fans, the title itself becomes a sort of double representation, standing for both the band’s name and this record’s chronological place in their catalog. It is precisely this combination of meanings that speaks to the special place of this release, a sort of statement that this album is all about Voyager, that they’ve realized themselves as a band and that this album is here to show it. Assuming this is true, it is a bold move indeed.
V certainly starts it off right with “Breaking Down” and “Hyperventilating,” some of the most addictive tracks on the album. Right from the start “Breaking Down” is basically a buffet of hooks, while “Hyperventilating” capitalizes on its oscillation between powerful, pounding riffs, serene melodies, and fantastic use of electronics. Simone really channels her inner Steve Vai on this one as well, something that brought a seriously big grin to my face. These two tracks immediately show a band that continues the tradition of extremely focused composition and simultaneously sees them going the extra mile in the studio in terms of production qualities, perhaps even being over-produced for an extreme level of punchy-ness that brings to mind the type of production commonly seen in recent ‘djenty’ bands.
Unfortunately, after these first couple of tracks the fear started to sink in. I felt the album starting becoming ‘less interesting.’ The followup, “A Beautiful Mistake,” while not quite being on the level of the preceding tracks, had some really rockin’ drum/guitar riffs and a great female guest-vocal, but at some level, it became noticeable despite the fact that all of the right hooks were here there was something that just wasn’t grabbing my attention as I’d hoped (a trend which continued on “You the Shadow” ). “Embrace the Limitless” is perhaps the song that revealed to me what was really going on here and helped some of the middle of the album grow on me. There’s just a few of these songs that had sections that didn’t do it for me and I would kind of get lost or drift off because of it (this being the case particularly on “Embrace the Limitless,” a song whose chorus doesn’t appeal to me but is otherwise an amazing track). At the moment in which I realized that pretty much most of these tracks had some elements I loved, they finally started growing on me.
Luckily, the few middle tracks that weren’t to my liking didn’t equate to a bad album; on the contrary, Voyager’s latest offering was seriously delicious. Picking up at the 9th track, “Peacekeeper” delivers something very special with its melancholy atmosphere, huge keyboard textures, and some vocal moments from Danny that really shine. “The Morning Light” throws down a big ambient intro breathing echoing percussion in the distance under soaring synth leads and some wide keyboard textures that do a fantastic job at prepping us for a seriously headbanging mid-tempo groove. The repeating vocal motif and variations, both lyrically and melodically do just the right trick in building tension as subtle chord changes and loads of emotion carry this piece home, making it one of the strongest recordings on the album (despite the fact that it is a re-recording of an older track). Finally, the brief pop ballad “Summer Always Comes Again” breaks up the metal moods and really delivers the goods on an uplifting tune before taking us to the closer, “Seasons of Age” where heavy drums and bass allow lots of room for a distinctively modern approach to keys and guitars to come through. An excellent chorus that is fun and poppy in the way that Voyager does best, along with some surprising, but well executed sludgy riffing, make for a strong ending to V.
All in all, V proves to be a strong testament to the hard work, diligence, and all around creative prowess of Voyager. This thoughtfully composed, well performed, and thoroughly produced collection of tunes has grown on me more and more with each repeated listen, showing that despite the reputation of The Meaning of I that it had to live up to, V is a downright worthy album in its own right.