There are a number of ways to be a progressive metal band in 2017. You can buy John’s Petrucci’s Rock Discipline DVD and do your best to conjure visions of Metropolis, you can get rid of that pesky headstock on your guitar and go the singerless route or you can organically meld various musical styles and push your band stylistically and technically until you develop a truly original sound. It’s clear based on Ghost Mile that Voyager has chosen the last option. Since releasing their first album in 2003 Voyager have developed a unquestionably unique sound. With each subsequent release furthering the band and cementing that uniqueness. Ghost Mile is no exception to this trend. For those unfamiliar with Voyager’s sound, they deftly fuse a myriad of influences together including metal, prog, djent and synth-pop. For those familiar, Ghost Mile has all of the characteristics we are accustomed to from Voyager but performed with heightened clarity and proficiency.
Technically speaking the performances on the album surpass any of their previous efforts. The guitar riffing is heavy, melodic, technical, rhythmic, and progressive. It is clear that the string section has been listening to their fair share of djent but there are also moments of Michael Romeo (Symphony X) strewn in for good measure. Ghost Mile is also by far the most rhythmically ambitious Voyager album. The drumming is engaging and provides quite a few unexpected turns without taking away from the songs thematically. Ghost Mile does not lack melodically either, it is thick with atmosphere provided by the keyboards and has beautifully crafted vocal melodies. It does seem that the vocals on the album are slightly less direct in regards to hooks as compared to some previous Voyager releases but it actually lends itself to a less predictable and even more interesting listen. That’s not to say the vocal lines do not contain strong hooks, by the second listen you’ll be undoubtedly be playing air keytar and singing along to every line.
Outstanding individual performances withstanding, Ghost Mile is fundamentally greater than the sum of its parts. One thing that Voyager has done successfully with their previous releases is create albums with high replay value. Ghost Mile is no different in this regard, it is the type of album that you immediately start over as soon as it ends. It is also easy for prog metal to lose the human and/or artistic elements amid all the technicality but Voyager are able to maintain the emotionally driven aspect of their sound and even take it to the next level. There are moments on the album that Voyager begin to rival Anathema or Riverside in terms of musically emoting.
Voyager have clearly solidified themselves as one of the preeminent progressive metal bands with Ghost Mile. What was a great band before have continued to hone their sound and create what will undeniably be one of the best prog metal albums of the year.
R.I.Y.L: Leprous, Threshold, Circus Maximus, Evergrey, Seventh Wonder