Live Review: Vola – Bristol

Live Review: Vola - The Fleece, Bristol
27th September 2022
Support: Voyager, Four Stroke Baron
Words: Richard Oliver
Photos: Paul Hutchings

Progressive metal is in a really healthy place at the moment with an excessive amount of excellent bands in the genre pushing metal to new boundaries. Three such bands gathered together for an international evening of progressive metal music at the sold out Fleece in Bristol as part of their European tour and what a jaw dropping evening it was.

Kicking things off were U.S. band Four Stroke Baron. These were the band I was the least familiar with having only heard a couple of songs ahead of the show and they are definitely not a band you can pigeonhole. A vast array of influences could be heard in the music from Devin Townsend to Type O Negative to Tears For Fears. The mix of progressive metal, new wave, 80’s pop and shoegaze elements was an interesting concoction in songs such as Friday Knight, Planet Silver Screen and Khera though I don’t think a lot of people in the audience quite got or understood the band. Four Stroke Baron were a solid unit with the bass player being easily the most enthusiastic member on stage not staying still for a second, determined to get the crowd moving and posing relentlessly for the photographers. The band were quite reliant on backing tracks for the keyboards and a vocoder effect was used on the vocals meaning that the performance felt a little processed but it was still an enjoyable way to start off the evening.

In the main support slot were Australian progressive metal band Voyager. This was definitely a massively anticipated performance judging by how rammed the venue was by the time the band hit the stage. This was my first time seeing Voyager perform live and I had been told by several friends how good Voyager were so expectations were high and to be honest Voyager just absolutely smashed them. Their mix of 80’s pop sounds, AOR influences and damn heavy progressive metal was just simply joyous and Voyager ensured that the audience experienced a prog metal party.

The stage was ablaze with bright neon lights pulsating and flashing with those vibrant 80’s style synths and songs such as Colours, Breaking Down, Brightstar and Hyperventilating had the crowd clapping and singing along in unison though one of the most enthusiastic responses was to Dreamer the song Voyager submitted as a contender for the Australian entry for Eurovision showing that a metal crowd enjoys a good pop song as much as anyone else. The band's performance was magnificent with excellent vocal interplay between frontman Daniel Estrin and guitarist Scott Kay whilst the guitar playing from Scott and Simone Dow was absolutely slick as hell. There were big cheers when Daniel brought out the keytar throughout the set though some of the synths were covered by backing tracks. From start to finish Voyager were absolutely phenomenal and I could have happily watched them play for much much longer but the best was still to come...

The evening’s headliners were Danish progressive metal band VOLA. This band has become one of my firm favourites in recent years and I was lucky enough to see the band perform earlier in the year supporting Devin Townsend in the Royal Albert Hall. That was a spectacular show and I was interested to see how the band would compare in a far smaller and more intimate venue. I needn’t have worried as VOLA quite simply blew the roof off The Fleece. Easily one of the best sounding shows I have seen in the venue and as well as sounding spectacular it was a visual feast with plenty of neon and strobe lighting all across the stage and even affixed to the bands instruments. It was a sixteen song set which covered all albums with some of the band's most beloved songs alongside some deeper

cuts. The band opened with 24 Light Years building up anticipation and momentum before dropping into one of my personal favourites Alien Shivers, With this being the tour for latest album Witness there were a great number of songs from said album such as Napalm, Head Mounted Sideways, Straight Lines and a truly crushing rendition of Those Black Claws. Deeper cuts such as We Are Thin Air and Your Mind Is An Endless Dreamer were great to hear. It was a really well constructed set with nice amounts of variation. After some of the heaviest songs VOLA brought things right down with a gorgeous acoustic version of Enter which lead into the brilliantly poppy Ghosts. Both these songs provided a nice breather before the heaviness returned in force. The vocals from frontman and guitarist Asger Mygind along with the backing vocals from bassist Nicolai Mogensen were sublime and the heaviness of both the guitar and bass tone was truly crushing at times. The keyboard and piano work from Martin Werner was truly excellent and Adam Janzi is proving himself to be one of the finest drummers in metal at the moment with his jaw dropping playing a highlight of the set. An encore of chuggy Whaler and the stunning Inside Your Fur brought the evening to a glorious conclusion and left the crowd very much wanting more.

This was a jaw dropping evening of progressive metal and some of the best performances I have seen all year. It was testament to the quality of the bands how packed out the venue was and it was fantastic to see the love and adoration the bands deservedly getting from the crowd. VOLA are a band that deserve to be much bigger than they currently are and we can only hope that more people come to their senses and gain this amazing band the level of popularity and respect that they truly deserve..

Photo credits: Paul Hutchings

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