It’s no secret that yours truly is an unabashed, unapologetic, total fanboy of all things Voyager. Since I was first introduced to the music of the lady and gentlemen from Perth, Australia in 2010 with their third album, I Am The ReVolution, through 2014’s V, I have been an outspoken champion of Daniel Estrin (keys/lead vocals), Simone, Dow (guitars), Alex Canion (bass/backing vocals), Scott Kay (guitars), and Ashley Doodkorte (drummer). Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to listen to and review the new album.
It’s hard to believe that its been three years since their last album, but prepare yourselves, Voyager are about to return on May 12, 2017 with their most diverse and introspective album yet titled Ghost Mile. For those of you who are fans of Voyager’s unique brand of melodic modern prog mixed with electronica, pop, and metal, Ghost Mile is an album that will take multiple listens to truly appreciate the intricacies and deeper meaning within the songwriting.
The band has been through so many lineup changes since their debut in 1999 (Estrin being the founding and only original member remaining). It’s hard to believe that Ghost Mile is only this lineups second album together. The progression and growth as a band is quite clear as the band have become a well-oiled machine both live and in the studio. On Ghost Mile there aren’t any songs that are as immediate and ridiculously catchy as Hyperventilating (from 2014’s V) or The Meaning of I (title track of the bands 2011 release), however, the evolution of the trademark Voyager sound is undeniable. Ghost Mile picks up where V left off and ups the ante in terms of musicianship and adding new soundscapes and musical ideas to the collective Voyager vision. The ten tracks that make up Ghost Mile are meant to engage the listener and take them on a musical journey. Each song telling a story and when listened to as a whole, the cohesive nature of the album becomes that much clearer. The album was mixed by Matthew Templeman and mastered by Simon Strutters and maintains the same quality production that fans have come to expect.
The album begins with the first single/video Ascension, a progressively ethereal song that starts with a melodic wave of synths and clean guitars that transform into a wicked heavy guitar riff, punchy basslines, technical drum work from Doodkorte, and Estrin’s vocal work sounding as emotive and rich as ever. The use of vocal effects and Canion’s growling vocals add a unique flavor to the song.
The next song, Misery Is Only Company was released as a single/video in 2016 as a way to whet the appetite of Voyager fans while they completed work on the new album. The song has all the trademarks of Voyager’s sound, beautiful melodies, brilliant soaring lead and backing vocal harmonies, and those riffs, those wonderous proggy riffs that only Simone Dow and Scott Kay can produce, making them one of the best guitar duos in progressive music today. Doodkorte’s prowess behind the drum kit is second to none and adds the perfect blend of groove an technical ability.
Lifeline is another progressive metal track with stop on a dime time changes courtesy of the rhythm section of Canion and Doodkorte. The vocal melodies of Estrin remind me at times of classic Type O Negative, filled with melancholy and conversely uplifting at the same time. The guitar work here is nothing short of brilliant with Dow and Kay showing their chops and ability to play with technicality and with feeling.
The Fragile Serene is a somber slower tempo song that features Estrin’s trademark keytar used to perfection to create an atmospheric sound. The guitar rhythms are almost doom-like in their sheer heaviness. Once again the song is accented with amazing guitar work and Estrin’s vocals get more intense as the song moves along, especially when his vocal goes up an octave at the songs crescendo.
To The Riverside is a short piano-driven interlude filled with an angst and Estrin’s emotional unique vocal performance and blends seamlessly into the title track, and what a track it is! Ghost Mile, the song, is everything a Voyager fan could ask for. There is heaviness, technicality, keytar wankery, and those brilliant harmony vocals that soar during the chorus, and even blast beats thrown in for good measure!
What A Wonderful Day is another trademark Voyager song and at the moment, my favorite song on the album. This up-tempo song is an example of what Voyager does best, blending electronica, killer hooks, melodic vocals and progressive elements to create an incredible moment. Out of all of the tracks on Ghost Mile, this song is the one that captures every era of Voyager’s discography perfectly.
Disconnected is without a doubt the heaviest song on the album, punctuated by Doodkorte’s speedy footwork on the double bass drums and incredible guitar riffs. The guitar solo section is tasteful yet shredding and the vocal melodies and harmonies are in perfect synchronicity with the flow of the song, punctuated by Canion’s Opeth-esque growls.
This Gentle Earth is another piano based track that highlights Estrin’s powerful vocals that are complimented by beautiful sweet vocal harmonies from bassist Canion. The song is uplifting and strong. When Estrin sings the lyric I have never felt so alien, the emotion and passion is immediate and powerful a moment as you will ever hear on a Voyager album, almost Devin Townsend-like in its beauty and transcendence.
The albums last song and its longest (clocking in at over six minutes), As The City Takes The Night, is modern prog at its finest, with the individual technical expertise of each member on full display. The song begins with Estrin’s solitary piano, adding sweet guitar riffs and melodies, and the percussive skills of Doodkorte. Alex Canion’s basslines are a standout and show why he is one of the best bass players in the modern prog genre.
It is every bands goal to create a sound that is uniquely their own and impossible to compare to anyone else (although many critics will attempt to try). Ghost Mile has once again reinvented Voyager, reinvigorating their sound to not only entertain their listeners but to challenge them as well. I’m looking forward to their next trip to the U.S. to hear these songs performed live with one of the most entertaining live bands not only from Australia but worldwide. With Ghost Mile, Voyager continues their ascent to the upper echelon of modern prog music.
Pre-order Ghost Mile here