Taking a tip off from a fellow photographer from Australia, I found myself at Camden barfly to see Aussie Prog band Voyager. First up was an interview with guitarist Scott Kay, who I got talking about other Australian bands and influences outside of music, which you can listen to HERE.
Following a little downtime, it was then up to London based New Zealanders Agent to get the night going. I hadn’t seen the guys in Agent for a couple of years, during which time they have added a second guitarist and changed drummers after the last one I saw swapped drum sticks for diapers!
I was instantly impressed with the improved depth of sound of the band that came out of the addition of the second guitarist, this has certainly been a smart move on their part.
There were some sweet drum rolls early on and heavy bass line leanings throughout the set, which was filled with riffs galore and some tidy syncopation and slap bass. Unfortunately, the vocals were hard to hear through the mix from where I was stood a little in front of the speakers, which was a shame as there are some decent lyrics in there. That aside, the music rained out with punk vibes during Lunatic and a contrasting atmosphere was created through an echo effect on James Donaldson’s vocals, combined with a meting pot of sounds and an array of images projected on the back screen including a graceful jellyfish during last song Vondelpark. Don’t be fooled by their releases, Agent are a much heavier band live than on record, in a good way.
I have to be honest Cambridge prog rockers Aeon Zen were not to my musical taste and so I don’t feel I am able to comment musically on their set. However, they have been getting significant praise in the music press and there were a number of people who had come specifically to see them and who were thoroughly enjoying the set.
Singer Andi Kravljaca is an energetic man who gives The Magic Roundabout’s Zebedee a run for his money. He uses vibrato on his vocals with restraint and has the power metal ability of hitting some high notes. He was also facially very expressive constantly seeking to engage his audience, all of which made him an excellent front man.
Their set took songs from their new album Ephemera including The Entity, Soul Machine and Unite, the latter for which the band filmed a video this summer about an IT Tech loosing his mind. My tastes aside, Aeon Zen put on a good performance and were entertaining to watch live, a feeling which seemed to be backed up by the crowd.
As for headliners Voyager, I was completely taken aback by their show. It was pure musical entertainment. Their more melodic sound was right up my street. They call themselves a prog band, but there is so much to their sound. Guitarist Scott Kay had mentioned in my interview with him that he is also in a hardcore band in Perth and that showed through both in elements of the band’s music, as well as his stage performance. Voyager sound like someone has taken a handful of albums from my CD collection at random, and thrown them in a cauldron and this is what came out.
Halfway through the set they played a musically diverse medly that included Backstreet Boys’ Backstreet’s Back and the Ghostbusters theme tune. What was striking was how very well they blended these songs from one to the next. The audience loved it, it had everyone smiling and laughing.
Vocalist and keys front man Danny Estrin beams from the front of the stage enticing the audience forward. His smile is so blinding and infectious, the band would do well to seek sponsorship from the likes of Colgate, Aquafesh or Macleans! His long curly brown hair that he has shaved off on one side casts viking sensibilities into the band’s image, but I digress on a path of salivation, so let me find salvation, as I am here to review the gig!
Like Aeon Zen’s Andi Kravljaca, Danny engaged well with the crowd and is a great front man, he clearly loves being on stage and being on stage with the other members of Voyager, all of whom are clearly having fun together. When we reviewed their latest album V HERE, our reviewer wrote that Voyager “played with an obvious enthusiasm and joy” and that came across on stage on several occasions and made them all the more enjoyable to watch as a result.
Their single Hyperventilating, which followed the medley is catchy and blends heavy hardcore chords with pop influenced synthesisers, middle eastern echoes, metal tones and clear, warm enticing vocals.
The thing with Voyager is that they truly are a band. They are very much the sum of their parts. They are all very accomplished musicians in their own right each bringing their own quality to the sound and blend of musical influences that helps to make Voyager the rather unique band that they are. There was however one band member who truly stood out for me guitarist Simone Dow, she was fantastic to watch play and boy could the lady play that guitar! I found myself drawn to watching her, she combines enigmatic and endearing with passive-aggressive, see oozes quality, the like of which I have not seen in a female band member for a long time, it was so refreshing to see someone so damn good at what they do.
Whilst Voyager played hit single Breaking Down as an encore, for me, The Meaning of I was the stand out track (along with Hyperventilating), as it works so very well live.
Voyager are like a fizzy cola bottle, there is an underlying sweetness in the melody but the tangy sugar exterior of the metal and hardcore riffs, that is blended with the bass and drum lines gives you something that you keep wanting to go back to for more, you want that hit again and again and again.
You can bet your bottom Aussie dollar that Voyager‘s back catalogue is at the top of my Christmas list and I implore you all to go and check them out live next time they are in your neighbourhood. It has been almost three years since I saw a band who I was unfamiliar with that simply blew me away with their live performance, but that is exactly what Voyager did tonight and for that Simone, Danny, Scott, Alex and Ashley, I thank you
Voyager Set List – The Domination Came, You the Shallow, Lost, Stare Into the Night, Medley (Backstreet’s Back, What Is Love?, Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Icarus Lives, Highway to Hell, Killing In the Name), Hyperventilating, Iron Dream, Morning Light, The Meaning of I, Encore: Breaking Down
Aeon Zen Set List – The Entity, Soul Machine, Downfall, Time Divine 2.0, Unite
Agent Set List – Autodestruction, Dark Dreams, Collecting Scars, MAde of Gold, Kingdom of Fear, Luatic, Vondelpark
Voyager – http://voyager-australia.com/
Aeon Zen – http://www.aeonzen.com/
Agent – http://www.agentband.com[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157646412181274″ size=”z” count=”100″]