REVIEW: VOYAGER - COLOURS IN THE SUN
With the amount of buzz that’s suddenly popped up around Australia’s Voyager, you’d think they were a relatively new band on the cusp of stardom. They’ve certainly made some big commercial strides in recent years - this album in particular that I’m going to talk about reached the #1 spot on the Australian Independent Albums Chart on the week of its release! Whilst the latter part of that statement may certainly be true, the former part definitely isn’t. Colours In The Sun is the band’s 7th album over a 20(!) year period of activity (although they didn’t release their first album Element V until 2003). The band have had more than their fair share of lineup changes over the years, but the current lineup of vocalist/keyboardist Daniel Estrin, guitarists Scott Kay and Simone Dow, bassist/vocalist Alex Canion and drummer Ashley Doordkorte has been stable since 2011.
Having a stable lineup for a long period of time has done wonders for the consolidation of the band’s sound, moving from a more traditionally ‘ProgPower’ sounding affair to something much more in tune with modern progressive metal. Their previous albums V and Ghost Mile have had more than their fair share of djenty moments due to the band’s switch from 6 to 7 string guitars in the early 2010s. Daniel Estrin’s vocal stylings have also changed a little bit too over the years, becoming more mature in his tone and more willing to explore the higher register of his rich and unique Australian-accented baritone. With all this in mind, I dived into Colours In The Sun expecting yet another solid collection of prog metal songs.
The album starts off with a bang via “Colours”, one of the album’s main singles. It’s a song that sets the tone of the album perfectly, full of huge guitars, expansive and atmospheric keyboards and some beautiful Simon LeBon-esque crooning from Daniel Estrin. Anyone who’s been a fan of Voyager’s previous two albums before this one will love “Colours” right away. “Severomance” introduces some more subtle textures at the start, carried along by almost jazzy chord progressions before the chorus kicks in that features a fantastic vocal duet between Estrin and Alex Canion. Whilst “Severomance” may seem to be one of Voyager’s most melodic efforts, there’s still some seriously heavy riffs in there, frantically pummelling drums and a fantastic shreddy guitar solo to remind you that first and foremost Voyager are a metal band.
“Brightstar” is another one of the album’s standout tracks, as well as being the first song we got to hear from the album before it was released. It’s one of the band’s most beautiful songs to date, drawing heavily on the band’s influences from the 80s to create an epic pop-metal masterpiece of a track. “Saccharine Dream” turns things in another direction with sludgier, slower riffs more reminiscent of Type O Negative (one of the band’s biggest influences - "Iron Dream" from 2011's The Meaning Of I is dedicated to Peter Steele!) before picking up into a faster pace that’s more typical Voyager.
The real standout of Colours In The Sun is “Entropy”. You know something really special is happening as soon as the piano arpeggios kick in, but it properly gets into gear when we get to the chorus. There we get treated to the incredible operatic vocal talents of Leprous’ infamous frontman Einar Solberg, who twists and turns through his incredible melody whilst Daniel Estrin backs him up in a lower register. “Entropy” also has a fantastic stop-start bridge section full of huge, lush chords that’s easily one of the best moments of the album.
“Reconnected” is easily the heaviest song on the album, focusing on flurries of keyboard work and riffs and drums that seem almost chaotic. There’s even a few little grunts of harsh vocals here and there, although the majority of the vocals are melodic as is typical with Voyager. Daniel Estrin even displays some of his multi-lingual abilities (and not for the only time on this album either - it’s not uncommon for him to sing in Russian or German on certain songs) during the song’s breakdown section! Whilst this is one of the heaviest offerings Voyager have ever given us, the consistent use of melody helps to keep things glued together very well.
“Now or Never” is a short interlude track that goes into the proggiest and most synthwavey elements of the Voyager sound, focusing almost entirely on Daniel Estrin’s vocal and keyboard work. He also brilliantly incorporates some German language lyrics into the very end of the short piece in a very beautiful way. This leads into the fantastic pop-metal anthem “Sign of the Times”, another one of the album’s best songs.
The final section of the album consists of “Water over the Bridge”, a noticeably very heavy and doomy song dominated by huge chugging 7 string guitar riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Katatonia album. Despite the more doomy and languid feel, there’s still a catchy Voyager chorus in there as well as a brilliant change of pace in the outro that very much reminds me of “Seasons of Age” from V. The album closes on the fantastic “Runaway”, a very keyboard heavy song that even includes a rare keyboard solo from Daniel Estrin!
Voyager are one of those bands that just keep on delivering solid and inventive heavy music. Colours In The Sun is absolutely no different. It’s yet more proof that the latter-era Voyager formula of huge metal riffs, anthemic pop chorus and the willingness to dip into the more progressive end of things is a surefire hit. With musical quality as incredible as this (as well as their reputation for putting on incredible live shows), it looks like Voyager could be just about ready to enjoy a 20 year overnight success! Maybe, with all that considered and their willingness to more than dive into the realms of 80s pop, they could be a Eurovision entry for Australia one day? We can dream!
ROCKODILE RATING: 9/10
Words by Robert Percy