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Aussies Voyager play their first ever London show

Voyager Aeon Zen Agent poster

Fittingly for a band with their moniker, Voyager have come a long way to be in this small London venue tonight. Natives of western Australia – itself the bass-ackwards side of Down Under as far as touring goes – they’ve taken the leap to come and tour Europe – recently stopping at Euroblast and Prog Power – and now they’ve stepped over to the UK to play a handful of dates across the country.

Their opening support at Camden’s Barfly were fellow southern hemispherites and Incendia stablemates Agent. The New Zealanders impressed during their slot supporting Cyclamen at Camden’s Unicorn earlier this year, but tonight we were in more ‘for-purpose’ venue, and the upscale in staging did them wonders. The hued lighting, combined with their video montage backdrop, gives the set extra gravitas.

The sound is also fantastic, and it’s a theme throughout the night (massive props to soundman Dave Billings). Agent’s material sounds excellent; James Donaldson’s vocals in particular soar, and Alex Alvarado’s drums pummel something fierce, but there’s clarity across the board and it’s a great start to the evening.

If there’s one minor criticism, it’s that Agent’s riffs aren’t as ear-wormy as they might be – yet – but honestly this is probably partly my unfamiliarity.

The only Brits on the bill, Aeon Zen are a brand new experience for me. I managed to miss their set at Tech Fest a few months ago, so this evening was a chance to put that right.

Back at the helm is vocalist Andi Kravljaca, who missed that festival slot, and it seems that he was certainly missed then too. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious; he bounces around like a proggy puppy, and lends a real likability to the band. His voice is intensely good too – a true power/prog style with highs, mids, and great control.

The band’s keys feel somewhat anonymous at times – except for some sporadic moments when they do shine through – and they feel more like a background instrument, which is a hard task when up against the driving force of the guitar and bass.

I had always imagined the band’s driving force, Rich Hinks, might play guitar, but he’s in resplendent form on bass this evening, and the instrument gets a real spotlight at times. The band work through moments from their already impressive back-catalogue, but it draws heavily from new album Ephemera, and the material on show is attention-arresting.

If I’m honest – and I was with their press rep – I have had trouble getting on with Voyager on record. Their latest offering V has been widely lauded as an absolute triumph, confirming the notion that you should take my opinions with a pinch of salt, but struggle I did.

Make that a rather large dose of salt.

Voyager are like an experienced lover; much like Finch from American Pie taking his steps into that basement recreation room, I was drawn in by the seductive Stifler’s Mom that is the Aussie five-piece. It’s clear from the outset that Voyager love what they do – guitarist Simone Dow has a grin plastered across her face almost the entire time, and there’s plenty of between-song banter – but they’re also very good at it.

I find myself remembering more than I thought I did of V; “Breaking Down” and “Hyperventilating” mix with less familiar tunes, but all take on new life in person, and for me at least, left an impression that wasn’t there before. Many of the crowd – and a good sized one at that, especially for a rainy Monday night – clearly knew the songs, and gave back in kind.

Mid-set the band broke into a medley of re-imagined classic songs and themes, including Backstreet Boys‘ “Backstreet’s Back“, “What Is Love?” by HaddawayGhostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop and Rage Against The Machine‘s “Killing In The Name” – all with a prog metal twist. It takes confidence to do something like this, and could have been a mis-step, but it totally worked. If anything, it was a couple of cuts too long, but a nice touch nonetheless.

All of the members are absolutely on point. Simone and Scott trade off riffs and shredding solos with real bravado, and they’re a great team. Daniel Estrin’s voice is smooth and powerful, and his his presence charismatic, whilst Ashley Doodkorte and Alex Canion are a powerful rhythm section.

Genuine calls for extra tunes at the end were well deserved, and the whole shebang left smiles on lots of faces. If they’re in town, miss them at your peril.