Voyager - Element V - 2004 - DVS Records
|Track Listing1. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi|
2. To the Morning Light
3. Cosmic Armageddon Pt. 1
4. Towards Uncertainty
5. The Eleventh Meridian
6. This Bitter Land
7. The Ancient Labyrinth
10. The V Element
11. Cosmic Armageddon Pt. 2
12. Kingdoms of Control
13. Time for CHange
14. Echoes of Old Terra
Element V comes as the debut album from Aussie power metallers Voyager. These guys have chosen a somewhat uncommon path when it comes to power metal these days. Most bands will fall right into the well-established mold of style set by the likes of Helloween and Gamma Ray. Usually these bands are very good and immensely enjoyed by most power metal fans across the world. Voyager, on the other hand, borrowed some tips but didnít copy the mold. Instead, they have integrated a few other aspects of metal and music in general into a solid European power metal base, giving them a very unique feel.
The two defining characteristics of this album are the vocals and keyboards. The drums and bass are solid, and the guitarists shine with frequent solos (the one at the beginning of Cosmic Armageddon Pt. 1 stands out as extra-special), however they really arenít anything too out of the ordinary. Funnily enough, vocal and keyboard duties both fall to one man, Daniel Estrin. The bandís approach to handling vocals is a bit odd, especially for this type of band. I donít know if itís because he canít or because thatís how theyíre writing their music, but Estrin never hits a high note the entire album. His mid-range vocals are a nice change from the typical super high voices of so many other bands, but on the flipside, thereís no variation at all with the clean singing. Daniel has quite a nice voice but after a while the lack of any octave change left me a bit bored. Voyager has also thrown in a decent number of lines to be sung in pretty harsh grim vocals Ė now these are impressive. Not only is Estrinís voice good for this sort of thing, but their limited use and calculated placement makes these moments all the more exciting.
Despite his less than perfect vocal performance, Estrin does an utterly fantastic job with the keyboards. It is beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is the driving instrument of the band Ė in almost every song it takes on the dual role of lead melody and some backing atmosphere. Element V puts the keyboard to better use than any new band Iíve heard in a while. Still, the little problem with Danielís voice remains, although we mustnít be too hasty to call it a problem just yet. If he does indeed have the ability to sing some nice high notes once and a while, itíd do the band a great service to write some of those into their music next time around. If not, then, frankly, itís possible theyíd be better off with someone else at lead vocals. Iím not by any means suggesting to remove someone from the band Ė heíd still be able to tear it up on the keyboards and do the aggressive vocals as well.
With all that said, there really isnít a bad song on the album. In several places there is room for improvement, but the entire album is quite enjoyable to listen to. The Eleventh Meridian starts off a bit dull, but redeems it self later on with dual soloing guitars, which Iím a sucker for (and I imagine a lot of you out there are as well). In addition, the last verse of the song is in German for some reason, which is a nice albeit quirky change of pace. Everyone positively shines, however, on The Bitter Land. Itís probably the most diverse track on the album, with varied vocals, pace, and melodies. A few, like Miseria and Towards Uncertainty, are very short, and, for those familiar with Kamelot, act just like their ďinterludesĒ do. Again, though, there isnít a bad song on here and Iím sure everyone will have different favorites.
Ah, recommendation time. Always comes at the end of the review, doesnít it? Well, as far as drawing comparisons go, itís very tough as Voyager seem pretty unique in what theyíre doing. Thereís definetley something here for power metal fans looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, and fans of prog metal should pick this up as well. I donít know how good this would sound to a fan of strictly extreme metal, but if youíve got an open mind Ė well, there are some screeches! Despite its minor flaws, Voyager set out to do something very tough and did a damn good job Ė if you donít pick this up youíll be missing out.