Metal's relationship with Eurovision is a long and complicated one. From arguably the most famous of metal's invasions of the event, Lordi's candidacy in 2006, clad, as they were, in their flamboyant costumes, and all the way to Apocalyptica's somber attendance, metal has made its mark on the contest. But is metal simply a curio, an anecdote, to the people who run and watch the show? Put bluntly, is the relative success of metal in this international, widely viewed event simply down to the value of novelty, further cementing metal as something odd and "other" in the eyes of the more mainstream sensibilities that otherwise dominate and dictate Eurovision?
To be honest, I couldn't care less. Eurovision has many limitations but serves one main purpose - introducing people to at least a few great acts a year. This is also true for me; if it weren't for 2023's iteration of the contest, I would never have heard one of the best bangers of the year. This year's edition of Eurovision, however, also had another personal connection for me, as Australia sent Voyager as their candidate. I have had an interesting, long, and complicated relationship with Voyager. First, I was frustrated with the gap between how much I wanted to love the band and how much I felt something was missing. Then, I was able to fully give myself up to them when they released Colours in the Sun, a true step forwards for them and their sound.
So, following their successful, if not victorious, Eurovision run, I was left with a question. I knew a new album was coming; I know Voyager's management (hi Lulu!) and I know the band and I knew they wouldn't miss the obvious opportunity to put out new music following the increased attention they received from Eurovision. And, lo and behold, I was right as today sees the release of Fearless in Love. But what sort of album is it? What have the band done since their last release? Will the global attention do right by them, encouraging the sides of their sound that I liked or will it scatter their attention, creating something that might be more appealing but less Voyager?
Luckily, Fearless in Love has completely destroyed any doubts I might have had. It is, in every way, an improvement on Colours in the Sun, already a fantastic release, highlighting exactly the aspects I love about Voyager. Not only that, but it's very clear that these highlights also mesh with what ended up winning the band their candidacy and success at Eurovision. Namely, this is the tension, the contrast between the heavy and the pop-inflected elements of their sound. In perhaps a desire to amplify that novelty which draws mainstream crowds to metal, Voyager have doubled down on the heavy, metal elements of their sound, producing chunkier, louder, and more satisfying breakdowns and riffs. On the other end, they have stayed committed to the brighter, more electronic parts of their sound, creating a delicate, balanced, and immensely cathartic release.
Check out the second track, "Prince of Fire", for an example of that renewed heaviness. Not only does the main riff of this track go harder than pretty much any other Voyager riff, but this track also includes one growled word that leads to a massively weighted and impactful breakdown that creates a veritable well of gravity near the end of the track. On this track the electronic elements wear the dark, "urban" shade that has escorted Voyager along their career, creating a scintillating sort of foil for the heaviness of the track, bouncing off of the more central guitar riffs as expertly crafted and effective transitions. They end up amplifying the heavier instruments and the beautiful, emotive vocals that have always lain at the center of Voyager's appeal.
But heaviness, darkness, and "edge" is only one part of the equation behind Fearless in Love, as we said above. It wouldn't be a Voyager album without the lighter, more hopeful side of things. Flip over to the ninth track, "Daydream", for all the brightness your heart desires. The electronics here are much brighter, EDM-inflected runs building up the tension of the track which, naturally for Voyager, funnels into the incandescent and moving vocals. The guitars are still there and they are still chunky but the riff is so much more lighthearted, agile, and focused on the synths rather than the guitars. This makes the track feel much more chromatic and hopeful, drawing on an uplifting catharsis rather than the melancholic and more forecful ones elsewhere on the album.
In the tension between these two tracks lies the appeal of Voyager, as it always has. Perhaps it has nothing to do with Eurovision; perhaps all of these tracks were conceptualized and recorded before their attendance of the contest was even a dream. Perhaps it's actually the opposite; because these tracks show a renewed dedication by the band to their sound did they end up securing their candidacy and their success at Eurovision. At the end of the day, who cares? Eurovision 2023 has come and gone and Fearless in Love, another incredible step forward for Voyager, remains. Voyager deserve every inch of success and fame they now enjoy; hopefully it turns into fuel for yet more releases from one of metal's more refreshing, competent, and exciting bands.
Fearless in Love was released today, July 14th. You can buy it from Voyager's Bandcamp. Shout-out to Voyager for still having a Bandcamp by the way.
P.S for some silly reason, I didn't include anything about the final track, Gren (Fearless in Love) in the above. It is one of my all time favorite Voyager tracks and is simply an incredibly song. Make sure you don't miss it.