A little something. Je ne sais quoi. The last mile. All of these expressions capture a simple but beguiling fact: although we’d prefer to pretend otherwise, our emotions, likes, dislikes, and opinions are far from understandable and mechanical. Beyond “just” context or mood, most of our justifications are elusive because we either don’t bother examining them or, when we do examine them, they just don’t “collapse” into something easily digestible and explainable. Thus, we are left with a quite annoying feeling, where we find ourselves unable to articulate, even to ourselves, why we feel or think something.
This used to be the case with me and Voyager. Everything should have worked out fine; I enjoy well made, modern progressive metal. I like pop music, especially when it’s heavily electronic and nostalgic. And yet, every Voyager release left me more frustrated; I’d listen several times, initially enjoying myself, only to ultimate find their albums drifting away from rotation. I couldn’t quite explain it; there was just something, a little something, missing and no matter how much I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t. Luckily, this paragraph opened with “this used to be the case”. With Colours in the Sun, Voyager have seemingly managed to inject their music with that last bit of cohesion and passion that I needed for it to fully click.
Naturally they didn’t so on my account but, nonetheless, this transformation has left me even more emotionally connected to the album. At the base of Colours in the Sun is the sound towards which Voyager have aimed themselves from the get-go; the guitar tones are pleasingly modern in their sensibility, thick tones hovering at the edge of djent (and sometimes going over that boundary, to good effect). The leads also take their style and composition from djent-adjacent genres, flirting with ideas from nu-prog as well as plain old progressive metal, creating the kind of emotional sounds that have informed the genre for well over a decade now. “Brightstar” is a good example of both of these sounds; listen for the nostalgia drenched lead hiding “behind” the vocals and the chords throughout the track and then try not to head bang on the chunky breakdown closer to the track’s ending.
Add pronounced drums, rich synths, and grumbling bass and you have the Voyager formula. Naturally, no discussion of their style would be complete with a special emphasis on the vocals, one of their main selling points. And here, perhaps, we start to glimpse what this album better than previous iterations; it’s not that the vocals are better, since they were always technically accomplished, but they’re utilised in more varied and interesting ways on this release. This creates both a richer contrast and a more cohesive cooperation between the vocals and the rest of the instruments, making the album more engaging and fascinating.
“Saccharine Dream”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, is the best place to look for that. During the intro, the vocals take on this larger than life dimension that sets the mood for the track right off the bat, coupled with a powerful opening riff that just sets your heart ablaze. The chorus is more standard fair for the band but some of the highs throughout the track (mostly on the bridges) just work so well with the riffs and the reverb effects laid over them that you want to scream with joy. The same kind of joy runs through the following track, “Entropy”, where the vocals of one Einar Solberg (Leprous, as if I needed to add that), are expertly used to set off the main singing. This couplet of tracks is some of the best work that Voyager have ever released (“Entropy” also has amazing synths and an irresistible groove, beyond just the guest spot) and turns the middle of this album into a ferocious powerhouse of momentum that sends a jolt of energy through your bones.
Bottom line, things just come together better here, better than ever before. The vocals, the guitar tones, the drum grooves, the synths, the guest spots, the very feeling of laying your hands on the heartbeat of a city, of neon condensed into music, everything just works together to create one hell of a fun album. This is the Voyager of days past but elevated, a certain je ne sais quoi (see how I brought us full circle there? I’m good like that) setting it apart from everything the band have released before. If you’re a longtime fan of Voyager, prepare to love this album, as you knew you would. If you’re just hearing about them, prepare to fall in love with it. And if they’ve never clicked with you in the past, give them another chance. I did and my life has been made better for it, filled with one of the most energetic, earnest, and bright progressive metal albums of the last few years.
Colours in the Sun releases on November 1st via Season of Mist. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to pre-order it.