By now, a significantly greater number of people are likely aware of Voyager’s existence than ever would be previously. Or, at least, they’re potentially stillaware; it’s unclear whether or not Voyager have fallen into a status of pop-culture footnote like so many other unsuccessful Eurovision acts. But hey, the fact they got there at all is impressive enough, as the representatives of Australia boasting a neon-flecked prog-metal sound that—both figuratively and literally—is half the world away from their Eurovision peers. And while a similar lead-in will inevitably be used for every possible bit of coverage that Fearless In Love will glean, it’s worth noting that Voyager have had seven albums before this one, with some legitimate establishing in their almost 25 years of existence, as opposed to just a flash-in-the-pan supernova a couple of months ago.
That’s not to write off those Eurovision miles entirely though, as they’ll inevitably have gotten some through the door into a brand of prog that prides its ease of access. On Fearless In Love, the pop intention is more flagrant than ever, even for those who might otherwise be out of the loop with this sort of thing. But the question remains—is it enough? Well, kind of, but it’s more a matter of perspective. If you want a prog album brimming with gaudy maximalism in every direction, Fearless In Love can satisfy; for one that can translate that into the sort of depth that sticks around though, that’s a bit of a different story.
It’s not exclusive to Voyager though; that needs to be stressed. It’s more the runoff that a modern prog album would have to work miracles to escape, even if it’s covered a bit more effectively on Fearless In Love. The clandestine air is less oppressive, thankfully, as Voyager overload songs like Dreamer and Promise with buzzing, crunching synths and beats with inherently some more colour to them. It’s where the ‘pop’ end of Voyager comes in the most full-force, reflected in a generally manageable runtime as well. A prog album that resists the temptation to go years at a time will always be smiled upon much more favourably, and this is no exception. Believe it or not, Voyager get close to actual songs on Fearless In Love, instead of spiralling nothingness you wouldn’t have a hope in hell of ever recalling.
Though that’s where things get a little awkward here. Yes, this is way more streamlined than their genre usually goes, but Voyager still aren’t exactly disturbing the rafters as far as the scale of their effort goes. They, too, can lack some drive and punch that’d make their material feel more crucial than it is. It’s why the big synth passages or the squalling hair-metal solo at the end of Ultraviolet are its most memorable features—they’re gaudy enough to stick out. For all the grandeur that Voyager attempt to court, they don’t do it in a way that feels all that purposeful. Instead, they’ll coat themselves with appeal that plays to the cheap seats, only to remain lodged in the same old prog space once all the pageantry has cleared. The underlying blockiness is still there, as is the austere vocal technique from Danny Estrin that further highlights how unmoving this thing can be.
And when it’s all said and done, the feeling that Voyager—for all their efforts—are still lagging behind the vanguard of progressive music is tough to shake. When bands like Polyphia are doing so much that’s new and creative, and even staples like Devin Townsend continue to follow an arrow that’s all their own, a lick of paint over what’s otherwise the genre’s bread-and-butter fare. And even though Fearless In Love isn’t bad, it’s lacking more of what it should for this to be a legitimate breakthrough. Voyager did score a charting hit this year, but that was with their Eurovision song, and Fearless In Love makes it apparent that that probably wouldn’t have happened without such a colossal boon. After all, it’s not like people just starting paying attention out of the blue when you’re a quarter of a century deep.
For fans of: Black Orchid Empire, VOLA, Wheel
‘Fearless In Love’ by Voyager is released on 14th July on Season Of Mist.
Words by Luke Nuttall