Long, long ago, before I was the eccentric metal blogger you all know and love, I was an 8 year old girl who loved the Spice Girls. It all started when I saw an ad on TV for their first album and realised I’d heard that “Wannabe” song on the radio and quite liked it, and so my parents brought me their album for my birthday. And, if you lived at this time alongside other 8 year old girls, you’ll know the rest of this story.
Have you ever heard an album and realised you were listening to something that’s going to get big? Have you ever realised that soon you would be sharing.your enthusiasm for this album with thousands of people all over the world? Do you know when you’re hearing something that’s on the cusp of being one of those milestones in a genre’s history?
The Spice Girls were like that. You heard that album, and saw their music video and you knew they were going to be part of your musical identity for a long time. And although I don’t expect to see them strutting their stuff in six-inch platforms and Gucci dresses, Perth’s progressive metal mainstays Voyager’s album The Meaning of I has the same effect.
This is progressive metal the way it should be done. Odd, unconventional, driven by melody and the powerful vocals, The Meaning of I is an album that gets stuck in your head. I could make comparisons to Nevermore, to Anubis Gate, to Scar Symmety or Sun Caged or Star One, but it would be pointless, because Voyager sound like none of them.
What they do sound like, is awesome.
On the first listen, you may be struggling to see what the hell I’m so excited about. By the second listen, you’re humming the melodies under your breath while waiting in line at the supermarket. By the third listen, you’re contemplating a Voyager tattoo.
Each song stands out as a complete part – the tracks don’t bleed together like other progressive albums. Voyager follow, for the most part, conventional song structures, lifting each track from the mediocre with their uncanny melodies and catchy choruses. I’m talking stadium singalong, arms waving, power metal catchy. The prominent keyboards, melodica and electronic elements never overwhelm the guitars and bass, but if you don’t like a bit of righteous melodica, you’re not going to be a Voyager fan.
And the vocals … Daniel Estrin gives a solid, penetrating performance, dramatic without the power metal falsetto that turns so many people off clean vocals. “The Pensive Disarray” is a perfect exampe of his range, versitility and emotive resonance.
The masterpiece of the album, “Iron Dream: In Memorium (Peter Steele), a tribute to the late Type O Negative frontman, demonstrates Voyager’s skill with melody. Whoever is doing the vocals at the end needs to join a Type O Negative covers band. They’d make a killing. “Iron Dream”, along with songs like “Broken”, “The Meaning of I” and “She Takes Me (into the Morning Light) have the potential to become hits.
But The Meaning of I is not perfect. It is, if anything, too polished. The clarity and rich tone of the album strips the music of much of that chunky, emotive quality we metalheads love. I’ve been told a Voyager live performance is something magical, and hope to see them one day.
Lyrically, the themes of personal struggle wear thin – the lyrics in many places see odd – as if they were placeholders for the real thing. In “Iron Dream” the poetic verse ending with the lines “What is life / but noble rot?” said with such cynical lasciviousness and haunting conviction remain the only truly memorable lyrics. Everything else smacks of “woe betide me” 90s alt rock.
These are minor niggles, and do nothing to diminish the quality and mastery of The Meaning of I. Without a doubt this is Voyager’s best album yet, and it will be the albums that brings the metal world’s attention to these prog metal boys from down-under.
To the Voyager boys: I’m sorry I compared your album to the Spice Girls. Please don’t think less of me.