Album of the Year 2017 – Number 2

Welcome to day 29 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

The penultimate day in my most epic end-of-year series yet – I hope you have all enjoyed the ride as I near the home stretch for 2017.

I have always tried to steer clear of other ‘best of’ lists as much as I can so as not to be influenced in any way with my choices. I think I have done a pretty good job of it but inevitably, a few have slipped through my net. And what occurs to me is just how different my tastes are to others who also refer to themselves as metal fans. It demonstrates that there is so much variety within our beloved genre and proves that no two opinions are ever going to be the same.

That said, I am heartened by the amount of times I have received a positive comment about a particular choice, meaning that I do share common ground with many of you. And I’m even happier that I have managed to pick a few albums that are new discoveries to some of you. I hope you end up liking these albums as much I do.

The ubiquitous quick reminder that links can be found below for all of my previous posts in this year’s series, along with a couple of ‘honourable mentions’ posts and the entire series from 2012-2016. If you explore any of these, I hope you enjoy what you read.

And now, on to the runners-up prize and all I can say is that it’s a good job that music is more important to me than sport. Otherwise, it would have really hurt to award the number 2 spot to a band that resides in the same city that willingly played host to the brazen theft of The Ashes from the English in broad daylight in the last few days…

Number 2

VOYAGER-GHOST_MILE-coverHI

Voyager
Ghost Mile
IAV Records

“And now finally and joyously, album number six is upon us. Entitled ‘Ghost Mile’, you very quickly realise that this is yet another impressive body of work from the good ship Voyager.

… Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focussed and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.

… in a very similar vein to ‘V’, ‘Ghost Mile’ is impeccably produced… it sounds slick, polished and smooth. The music is provided a great depth and clarity which is vital given the subtle nuances at play within Voyager’s sound. But being a metal band, Voyager like to crack out the heavy occasionally and when they do, there’s plenty of muscle to back up the aggression, losing nothing in the mix.

There are definitely ingredients of many different bands within the Voyager sound, many influences. But the final result is just so unique that these reference points are rendered redundant. In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.

The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.”

Read the full review here.

voyager band

I have talked a lot within this series about music having the ability to move me on an emotional level. That’s why many of my choices have achieved the positions that they have in this 2017 list. Normally when I talk about emotional depth in music and its ability to move me, the music will be sad, raw or challenging. In the case of today’s pick, the opposite is true.

‘Ghost Mile’, the sixth album from Australian melodic progressive metal band Voyager is an album that made an instant impact upon me when I reviewed it back in the spring. It made me feel alive, made me feel overwhelmingly positive and happy. For someone that fights anxiety and depression on a daily basis, this is a pretty remarkable feat. But that can be the power of music sometimes. And now, several months later, it continues to have the same effect on me. But what’s more, the album has become like a friend to me. If my mood is low and I need a pick-me-up, I put this record on and life is just that little bit better. I’ll often reluctantly take the dog out for a walk but within a few minutes of ‘Ghost Mile’ working its magic, I’ll be nodding my head, air-guitaring (or keytaring in this case) and grinning broadly. And even though I am in public and in plain sight, I’ll probably be singing. Badly, but I will be singing. After all, very few of us are blessed with a voice like Daniel Estrin’s.

For me to do all this, it can mean only one thing: this is one hell of an infectious album. It is a record where the choruses and melodies are consistently and expertly laden with hooks and memorable material. But despite the overtly melodious nature of the music, ‘Ghost Mile’ is also an album with remarkable longevity.

This longevity, as I have discovered, is because the compositions contain a fair amount of progressive intent. The riffs, the time signatures, the subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in direction are all interwoven remarkably smoothly into a rich musical tapestry that is deceptively technical and complex. On the one level, you feel like you are listening to something altogether mainstream and accessible. But if you listen more deeply, you realise how wrong you are. This is intelligent music of the highest order.

Voyager are also very quirky. Take the inclusion of the keytar for example and the bold 80s synth-pop overtones which then blend with bang up-to-date guitar tones, complex arrangements, thunderous rhythms and the silky voice of Daniel Estrin which occasionally descends into gruff territory. These are not necessarily immediate bed-fellows and the result is impressively original. Put simply, Voyager do not sound quite like anyone else.

It was rather apt that ‘Ghost Mile’ was released in May because it has the feel of a summer album about it. Indeed, many a time I found myself driving around my sleepy, rural market town in the warmer months with my windows open, blasting out the glorious sounds of ‘Lifeline’ or ‘Misery Is Only Company’. The swathes of dreamy synths and the pop sheen that bathes much of the material lends itself to the brighter summertime as far as I’m concerned. Mind you, as I write this piece, it is below freezing outside and it is still having a positive effect on me as I type.

Ultimately, there are many, many reasons to justify the placing of ‘Ghost Mile’ so high up my end-of-year list. I could have chosen the strength of the individual compositions. I could equally have chosen the huge, irresistible choruses. In fact, I could have chosen the fact that it has cemented Voyager as one of the most unique and exciting acts in today’s metal scene. Heck, I could even have awarded this on the strength that the band members seem to be genuinely lovely and humble people, something I hope to confirm when finally our paths cross in person.

However, the reason above all others as to why ‘Ghost Mile’ sits at number 2 in this year’s list is because of the way in which it makes me feel. Not only is it fun, heavy, technical and beautiful, it has the ability to change my mood for the better in a heartbeat and has been like a loyal friend to me during 2017, at my side when I needed its cathartic powers most. Simple really.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 3
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 4
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 5
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 6
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 7
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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