Tomorrow's Outlook - 34613 4/5

Reviewed: 5-1-12





Tracklist:

1. As darkness falls
2. Gate to freedom
3. Glass mountain
4. A song for you
5. Doubt
6. The ethereal dream
7. 34613
8. White lightning
9. Liquid scream
10. Kill again
11. March of the demons
12. Red rum
13. The ethereal dream (reprise)


Here’s an unconventional one. Back in 2007, in the remote and icy wastelands of northern Norway, in a place called Sorvik “Rock” City, 2 friends named Andreas Stenseth and Trond Nicolaisen had a dream of creating a melodic heavy metal project. For the next 3.5 years, they labored tirelessly to build Tomorrow’s Outlook into a living, breathing, tangible entity. It was tough sledding. They recorded on a song-by-song basis from early 2007 through late 2010. Securing a record label and distribution delayed the project’s completion further. Finally in 2012, Australia’s Battlegod Productions released the Tomorrow’s Outlook debut CD in a 6-panel digipak format, chock full of informative, comprehensive liner notes explaining the origins and history of the band, the story behind the genesis, creation and recording of each song, the CD cover art, and even the cryptic CD title (which is in some kind of “nerd language” translated into ‘EAGLE’).

An obvious challenge confronting the Tomorrow’s Outlook braintrust was who would actually perform these clever songs they were penning. Stenseth is a bass player by trade. Nicolaisen is a songwriter/manager/PR guy who apparently didn’t play or sing a note on this CD. (That’s not to belittle Trond’s artistic contributions and dedication to ‘34613’, by the way. It’s just unorthodox to the extreme for a co-founding band member not to be credited with singing or playing on the recordings. Kinda like Kurdt Vanderhoof on Metal Church’s ‘Blessing in disguise’ opus, perhaps?) Well, somebody buy these Norwegian chaps a beer and a trip to the sauna because their solution to this personnel dilemma was nothing short of remarkable. They hired an assemblage of skilled session musicians from Norway (including a guitar player from a tribute/parody band called King’O’War) and the USA (including noted shred guitarist Michael Harris). To handle vocal duties, Tomorrow’s Outlook utilized respected cult American singers Ski (Deadly Blessing, Faith Factor, etc.) and Scott Oliva (Wind Wraith, Oceans of Night, etc.), as well as the previously unknown Mike Gorham. But here’s the amazing part: They also prevailed on legendary Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Impellitteri, MSG, etc.) to sing on a pair of songs and Michael Kiske (duh!) to sing one.

Okay, so Tomorrow’s Outlook have an unusual configuration. Is their CD any good? You betcha. There are no obvious guidepost bands here, although Nicolaisen says they are influenced by 80s heavy metal and video game music. (Don’t let the latter remark frighten you. There are no cheesy Dragonforce/Powerglove video game noises on display here.) My inability to pin down an obvious comparator is a tribute to the diversity of the material, all of which fits comfortably under the banner of melodic heavy/power metal. In some places, I hear Helloween. In others, Iron Maiden. Elsewhere, Crimson Glory crops up as an audible influence. And Tomorrow’s Outlook covered Lizzy Borden’s classic “Red rum”, so that should give you an idea of where they’re coming from. The songwriting and performances are uniformly strong. The Bonnet tracks were the first to blow me away, including a powerful, galloping (almost Iced Earth-lite) tune with ripping guitars called “Glass mountain”, and the aforementioned “Red rum”. Bonnet must be well into his 60s by now, but his voice still carries a steely full-on ferocity that coalesces brilliantly with these cuts. Also, the mellower, soothing “Ethereal dream” version that closes the CD is a devastating highlight, as Kiske’s ethereal tones soar over a beautiful song.

Sure, Bonnet and Kiske may attract the bulk of the spotlight (and rightfully so, given their stature), but let’s not sell the other singers and songs short. Sure, the name-brand dudes may lure you into the ‘34613’ listening experience, but the other guys will keep you there, transfixed. I had never heard of Mike Gorham, but his clean, melodic, expressive voice is a treat to behold. Check out how he absolutely nails the soft-to-heavier-to-soft-again dynamics of “A song for you”, a spine-tingling number that sounds like something that could have been on Crimson Glory’s ‘Transcendence’. And Ski knocks adrenaline-fueled fare like “Kill again” and “March of the demons” out of the park (notwithstanding his born-again scruples to some of the lyrical content). Without name-checking every song or performer, suffice it to say that Stenseth and Nicolaisen did a superb job of matching each vocalist or player to their songs, and of getting the best out of everyone.

Given the piecemeal manner in which the recordings were done and the parade of guest musicians, one would be forgiven for being skeptical that ‘34613’ might sound cobbled-together or disjointed. But that would be incorrect. This CD is surprisingly cohesive from beginning to end, which is a credit to the focus and vision of its creators. Tomorrow’s Outlook should be well received by aficionados of well-written, well-played melodic heavy metal worldwide. Let’s raise a toast to Sorvik “Rock” City, Norway, and its finest (only?) heavy-metal export.



KIT




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