Album Review : Voyag3r’s ‘War Mask’

Detroit’s Voyag3r have steadily been building a reputation as one of the best progressive/heavy synth bands making music today. The trio, over the course of 6 years, have released a steady flow of sci-fi and horror-inspired albums that act as soundtracks to some lost B-movie from the late-70s or early-80s. Their blending of analog synth, electric guitar, and drums brings to mind artists as diverse as Zombi, Goblin, Rush, and 80s Tangerine Dream.

On the band’s latest album, the moody and aggressive War Mask, Steve Greene, Greg Mastin, and Aaron Greene take all they’ve explored and built in the past and work it into their newest opus. With nine songs at over 45 minutes, War Mask is Voyag3r at their absolute best, and at their most powerful.

In terms of opening an album with just the right song, “The Terror Is Gaining on You” fits the bill. Exuding a heavy dose of sonic dread, solid music prowess, and just the right amount of late night 80s film score seediness, Voyag3r mix it all with a prog rock finesse that puts the band into a category all their own. Bubbling synths coalesce with rock guitar and powerful drums, giving us something to sink our teeth into. The guys follow that up with the prog-heavy “The Donning”, a mixture of early 80s Rush and Genesis, combined with the right amount of attitude. “The Donning” succeeds in gearing us up for the far out and galactic title track “War Mask”. There is a tribal quality to the rhythms here, which  accentuate the otherworldly nature of the synths. Aaron Greene’s tasteful guitar tows the line between 70s prog and 80s metal with a modern twist, giving the song just the right amount of heavy crunch without weighing it down.

There’s a nice surprise hidden in the middle of the track list in the tasteful and on-point cover of King Crimson’s iconic “Red”. The attention to detail is jaw-dropping, and the practically note-for-note rendering will make even the most devoted Robert Fripp fan boy sit in awe at the guitar/synth interplay that captures the angular and steely delivery of the original to a tee. The heavy synth rendering of a prog rock classic is pure delight.

Another absolute highlight is the epic “Ambush”. Mixing elements of Pink Floyd, Goblin, and even Grace Under Pressure-era Rush makes for an all-out masterpiece of melody, nuance, and power trio muscle. What these three Motor City musicians accomplish together here is staggering and inspiring.

Over the course of nine massive tracks, War Mask delves into 80s film scores, prog rock tendencies, and just the right amount of power trio aggressiveness to remind you that this is a band and not just a guy programming, sequencing, and oscillating alone in a room. Voyag3r hits the mark once again on their third full-length, proving they are indeed the masters of the battle chamber.

Grab a copy of War Mask over at Voyag3r’s Bandcamp page. Or snag a vinyl copy at Bellyache Records.

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