VOYAGER
"V"

(IAV/Nightmare)

01. Hyperventilating
02. Breaking Down
03. A Beautiful Mistake
04. Fortune Favours the Blind
05. You, the Shallow
06. Embrace the Limitless
07. Orpheus
08. The Domination Game
09. Peacekeeper
10. It's a Wonder
11. The Morning Light
12. Summer Always Comes Again
13. Seasons of Age

RATING: 7.5/10

Suffice it to say, there are and have been in the past handfuls of bands named VOYAGER, but we're focused here on the Australian prog metal unit who have more going on with their music than a Ringling Brothers promenade. This is a band that's either for you or it's not, but the vibrant aptitude showcased inside VOYAGER always makes them an interesting listen, even if the results often vary so much you're to be warned as much as you're to be encouraged. Their fifth album, "V", is the same as before, an intriguing, hyper-talented and sometimes peeving effort that will at least please their diehards.

"Hyperventilating" is an interesting choice of title to lead an album off with. If this were a death metal record, assuredly the listener would be suffocated by blast beats, rumble chords and hard pukes. In VOYAGER's case, it's nearly a bipolar opposite. There are edgy sections to this song, manifesting on the intro, choruses, bridges, solo section and a ratchet-driving breakdown. In-between are placid pastures filled with more than competent singing from bassist/vocalist Alex Canion. The suspenseful duality VOYAGER lays across "Hyperventilating" serves a better purpose than merely bludgeoning it to pieces.

Breezing through the hard rock gust of "Breaking Down", Alex Canion utilizes his clean swoons to maintain a pleasurable loft as Simone Dow and Scott Kay groove their riffs upon steadfast patterns until a signature change sways the direction of the song after the second chorus. Ashley Doodkorte all but skids his thrusting drum pattern while Canion and Daniel Estrin play chant and response as the pace kicks back up. Estrin also serves as VOYAGER's keyboardist and his elusive in-and-out sprinkles on "Breaking Down" gives it sweeter vitality.

Keeping the energy level up through "A Beautiful Mistake", one of VOYAGER's neat tricks is how they dissect their breakdown to create a stitching effect as the track swells melodiously at every other turn. A collision between organic tribal and digital beats opening "Fortune Favours the Blind" sets up for a stamping agro course held together by Alex Canion's bass plants and elevating vocal pitches. Without the acumen of VOYAGER's ensemble, this song would be a bit of a dud, yet everything is snapped tight and it has a nice pickup in key after the solo.

Daniel Estrin's calliope parts on "You, the Shallow" nearly turns it into a swerving video game, and the song's un-metal pop flavors will either be a turnoff or charming addiction, depending on your tastes. Estrin does likewise on the much heavier "Embrace the Limitless", a song that yields promise with its speed bursts, but shanks due to inane barf growls and extracurricular electronica designed to be neoclassical, yet add to the song's gross sensory overload. Estrin again figures into the "Terminator" borrowed intro and outro for "The Morning Light", and his intended luminescence is engulfed by successions of metallic snuffs. More hard growls peek into "The Morning Light" and they're equally out-of-bounds.

"The Domination Game" retains a brisk opening tempo and a brushing density on the riffs as Alex Canion next hits falsettos to outshine the burrowing riffs and the spacious bridge on "Peacekeeper". "It's a Wonder" hits stratospheric heights with its brisk opening bars and compressed chords, but don't expect the speed to be a constant. VOYAGER sends "It's a Wonder" in a hundred directions, giving it mystique along with verve, but if you're not a serious prog head, you're advised to keep your ears glued closely in order to pick up all the pieces.

As ever, VOYAGER proves themselves fearless in mixing up theories and they could be viably considered the Aussie DREAM THEATER. A lot of what VOYAGER presents on "V" is wondrous and spellbinding and on merit alone, they're worth talking about. However, it's by now evident this is music cultivated for themselves, even when random backfires and overstuffing impede them from reaching a higher level of a very complicated craft.

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