Often tipped for big things, Aeon Zen might just have hit the proverbial glass ceiling.
Predicated on Fear Factory, Meshuggah and Dream Theater, their sound is firmly sharp and heavy, but they lack incisive, memorable songs. Only Time Divine 2.0 sounds in any way promising, and even this has a temporary impact. Also, frontman Andi Kravljaca, while having a powerfully evocative vocal style, is rather annoying. Some of his banter is puerile, with his perceived jokey bonhomie actually coming over as cringeworthy. This part of his approach needs work. Voyager don’t live up to expectations at all – they go far beyond them. The Australians are sensational. They mix up Queensrÿche, Opeth and Devin Townsend, with drips of industrial feed and daubs of melodic hard rock. And the result holds the attention. Daniel Estrin leads the band with force yet charm, and he adds the occasional foray with a portable keyboard to his vocal prowess. Flanking him, Simone Dow and Scott Kay are dual guitarists who meld into each other’s sound yet also have their own individual space. While the music is obviously serious, there are moments of humour to lighten the load. Estrin good-naturedly takes the piss out of bassist Alex Canion, suggesting they’d found him at the side of the road on the way to The Barfly, and he’d only just learnt how to play his instrument. Canion takes the ribbing with a laugh, as Ashley Doodkorte repeatedly, and mockingly, strikes up the opening drum sound to the next song. There’s also a quite brilliant, and hilarious, medley that engages in snippets of songs from The Backstreet Boys, AC/DC, John Farnham and Rage Against The Machine, plus the Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop themes. But for the most part, what holds everyone awestruck is a set of Voyager songs that really do catapult across the spectrum from furious and frenetic to toe-tapping and tuneful. The scene is set perfectly with The Domination Game and You The Shallow, two songs with a hard, gritty swirl, storming guitar inflections and devastating, attention-grabbing vocals. The band are quickly into their stride, proving that whatever their qualities in the studio, they are so much better onstage. This is a performance where the music really comes alive. They mix up songs from current album V with more established material, such as The Meaning Of I and Iron Dream. Yet the older songs come across with the same freshness and imagination as newer tracks like the opening pair and Hyperventilating. The deservedly rapturous reception the band get here shows they could light up 2015.