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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review: Tomorrow's Outlook - A Voice Unheard


Tomorrow’s Outlook is a project band from Norway that plays heavy/power metal and that operates with a core line-up supplemented with guest musicians and vocalists. As of this year the core line-up went from a duo to a trio consisting of Trond Nicolaisen, Andreas Stenseth and Øystein K. Hanssen. After releasing their debut 34673 in 2012 they decided to kick things up a notch. Or maybe ten notches would be a better description. For A Voice Unheard they went as far as to release a genuine trailer as if we’re dealing with a full-blown Hollywood blockbuster. The reason for this is the fact the guys from Tomorrow’s Outlook not only see themselves as musicians and composers, but also as storytellers. Due to the fact A Voice… is a concept album the idea of approaching it as a blockbuster is not that weird in my opinion. In fact, to be perfectly honest I personally think it’s a brilliant idea, which they executed to perfection. It’s theatrical, bombastic, Michael Bay would be proud. Introducing your album in this rather daring, unusual and spectacular fashion inevitably raises the bar of expectations to very high where it comes to this release. In addition to that there’s an impressive list of guest musicians, among which we find Tony Johannessen from Thunderbolt and Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear, and two well-known voice actors (Danny Webb and Jamieson Price). To top things off they also managed to have their work produced by the illustrious Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Judas Priest, Halford). Oh, and as far as the story goes, it’s about the Apocalypse and a solitary hero that deals with it. Pretty cheesy to be honest, but it is what it is. Having said that though, I strongly suggest to look past that and take the time to thoroughly delve into the elaboration of the story, because that more than makes up for all the cheesiness of the subject. Easily.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say everyone knows having an impressive story, line-up, producer and marketing strategy in no way guarantees a great release. It all comes down to the music and the execution of it to be able to determine whether all efforts were in vain or A Voice Unheard really is worth your time. Well, rest assured the latter is the case here. Not only does the impressive list of musicians live up to the combined fame of the guys on it music-wise, the songs that are composed to support this line-up are equally great. It kicks off with Within The World Of Dreams, which clearly sets the musical boundaries for the entire album. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this album is filled with melodic heavy/power metal songs with a very strong reference to the similar type of metal that was extremely popular in the eighties. You will inevitably hear some Maiden and Priest, but this is in no way a cheap copy of their music. Of course there’s no denying they have had some influence on Tomorrow’s Outlook’s music, you might even say a significant influence at times, but it definitely has its own identity. And that right there is where this album distinguishes itself from many other attempts to rewrite the eighties success metal. The quality of the musicians is undisputed, regardless whoever you look at and despite the fact the majority is not a regular member of the band, that is never audible. If I was told they have been playing together for over a decade I’d buy that right away without giving it a second thought.

The howling guitars, the often high-pitched, somewhat nervous vocal lines that are typical for the genre, the tightly orchestrated riffs interspersed with a variety of solos, the relentlessly fixed rhythm of the strikingly discrete, yet unmistakably strong and determinative rhythm section, it all breathes the same high quality. I’m not going to describe each song individually, doing that would take a huge chunk away from one of the strongest points of this album, if not THE strongest point: The overall experience of this album as a whole. I’m also not going to choose one or more favorite songs, simply because I don’t have any… or because they all are. There is no weakness to be found here, this is hands down one of the best releases of this year. I’m convinced it will show up in a couple of year lists at the end of 2018. To top things off they have added two daring, yet expertly executed covers to close the album, daring because of the fact they’re taken from two of the big players in the heavy/power metal scene. The first being a Bruce Dickinson cover, more or less the personification of the genre and the second is a cover of an Aria song, a Russian band that is also well known within the heavy/power metal genre, though mostly in the Russian scene. To make things even more interesting it so happens that two of their members also contribute to this album. If you have ever wondered what eighties metal would have sounded like nowadays, this will end your quest and fulfill your needs. However, even though this is more than enough reason to give this a fair amount of spins, this one is more than simply a modernized trip down memory lane. The quality of the compositions, the execution, the production, the subtly complex elaborated story and even the marketing with that bombastic video show the huge potential this band has. Their only weakness could be the fact they don’t have a fixed line-up. Even though never audible on this release, that might prove to be a ‘problem’ when (and if) there is going to be a tour. Fear not, though, they got it covered. There are plans to form a full line-up and start touring to, and I quote, ‘melt faces all over the world’, whatever that may be. And to end with another positive note: Apparently the new album is more than half finished, so it shouldn’t be too long before that will be released as well. This is a bunch to keep an eye out for. Definitely.

Written by Henric van Essen

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