Review Summary: Running the gamut
Voyager, a progressive metal outlet from Perth, Australia, have been around since 1999; Ghost Mile
is their 6th full-length release, following up V
from 2014. Their overall sound on Ghost Mile
can be described as a marriage of progressive metal and, interestingly enough, 80s synth-pop sensibilities; sprinkle on the drama and drive of power metal and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the accessible bombast that Voyager have. They spare no effort at getting the low-end punch to shine through in the production here - the bass and percussion are a strong, consistent presence in the mix. And speaking of consistent, that’s a word that applies to the core of Voyager’s songwriting: the drums are treated as a reliable backbone rather than the deliverer of complex rhythms, and the action of Ghost Mile
is more or less constant; within tracks, the energy never really dips.
Technically speaking, Ghost Mile
is heavy (at least in the sense that the lower frequencies are emphasised). The much-maligned term of djent can be accurately used as a label, as Voyager do bring in those drop-tuned chords; the title track “Ghost Mile” makes good use of this aural brute force with a section of extreme rapidity, and whatever your thoughts on djent may be, it’s undeniable that “Ghost Mile” has a wondrous, primitive power. “Ascension” also has a outro that makes this stylistic decision quite clear. “Disconnected” is cold and dark, with one of the rare instances of harsh vocals on Ghost Mile
; it’s as dissonant as the album gets, though the guitars appear to have been tuned a bit higher to compensate. Voyager’s use of repetition in their chords isn’t a mark of laziness or lack of creativity; their minimalism is in fact quite purposeful. The guitars of Ghost Mile
work to establish clear harmonic frameworks and structural parameters, which factors into Voyager’s poppier influences. Staunch proponents of insane shredding, abstract chord theory and ostentatious technical displays, you may be disappointed.
“80s synth-pop sensibilities” is probably not a trait commonly associated with prog metal bands, but Voyager combine this along with a dramatic vocal delivery and lyrics reminiscent of power metal to form their particular amalgamation of metal. The warbling synths and inspirational-piano-ballad opening of “This Gentle Earth (1981)” are an obvious throwback to the era mentioned in the title of the track. “What a Wonderful Day” inserts another twist by throwing in an industrial beat; it’s probably the closest you can get to a metal synth-pop anthem. It’s these unusual touches and self-aware genre allusions that make Ghost Mile
the fascinating, multi-coloured beast that it is.
The strongest moments of Ghost Mile
are when Voyager attains either peak conciseness or its most adventurous developments. The way the vocals climb up to falsetto range in the chorus of “Misery is Only Company” is extremely satisfying; however, the most credit must be given to its simple yet highly effective riff. The solid foundation that it provides allows the existence of a counter-balancing atmosphere created by supporting electronic elements and an instance of angelic harmonisation. “Lifeline” has one of the lengthiest guitar solos (if not the lengthiest) on Ghost Mile
, and it’s a surprising but welcome interruption from its stomping refrain. The bluesy motif of “The Fragile Serene”, combined with its ethereal background, is a stand-out because it’s not territory covered elsewhere on Ghost Mile
. “As the City Takes the Night” is the appropriately ambitious and grandiose closer, with the longest running time out of the tracks; I immediately fell for it upon hearing the elegant piano intro and then proceeded to swoon further as I heard how Voyager were able to change the refrain with its every appearance.
is lean and taut, with a vivid set of feathers. It’ll be quite the hunt.