Second full length from Arctic Circle Norwegians Tomorrow’s Outlook makes bold promises, aiming for a sound somewhere between Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Coming six years after debut album 34613 (2012) and a bunch of trouble getting the album on the shelves, A Voice Unheard finally hit the ears like a slap and a half in mid April. The album follows the concept of a coming dystopic future and the impending end of the world. Bleak as fuck to say the least, and certainly, the sound does capture this to some effect. The promised tinges of 80’s melodic leads with distinct rhythm fills are there, complete with the gallop rhythms and twisting solo intricacies. Add to that the melodics that hinge on power metal and some progressive elements that, while never taking the driver’s seat, helps elevate the music above average. While he’s certainly getting lots of help, Øystein Kvile Hanssen (Cyclophonia) and his riveting lead guitar dominates much of the sound. The bountiful instrumental lead passages see him make solemn magic throughout the album, and while bassist Andreas Stenseth adds the level of dignified density with his bass lines, Hanssen and his often catchy, often swiveling, always perfectly delivered leads and hooks mark the album in the greatest sense.
Vocalist Tony Johannessen (Thunder) share vocal duties with none other than Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), who lends his magnificent vocal chords to six songs of the twelve. Arguably these songs are the strongest on the album; opener Within The World Of Dreams and epic single Fly Away. Scheepers voice has matured better than most, and his many recent guest sessions outside Primal Fear shows how well other styles suit him, the progressive heavy flair here hitting particularly hard. His soaring voice and high falsettos always seem to lead the music, rather than be lead by it, and it’s his input that makes the album truly stand out. That’s not to say Johannessen is by any means a bad vocalist; mid paced melodic romper Outlaw sees him driving the music well and following the leads of Hanssen quite well. Scheepers is just one notch above the rest, if not two. Still, with Scheepers you’re always getting Scheepers, so the variation with Johannessen tossed in as well is still a good thing, though I’d rather have seen a few more duets between the two - they lift each other hella good during the shared moments on title track A Voice Unheard - rather than shifting lead vocals between the tracks.
The album is finally concluded with two half interesting covers, of originals by Bruce Dickinson and Aria. These could rightly have been skipped entirely, or added as bonus tracks to those obscure Japanese album versions. Unmistakably, the most interesting material on the album is where the band members themselves get to shine, as their songwriting skills and musical chops are above the need for covers. There is so much here to appreciate; how the melodic vocals in Fly Away brightly contrast the galloping rhythms to the twister of a conclusion to the story, narrated by Danny Webb and emblazoned melancholically and epic both by Hanssen’s lead guitars. A Voice Unheard may not take a natural place in between the monumental greats that are Maiden and Priest, but with its bountiful melodic hooks, driving rhythms and interesting riffs it should be well received by fans of traditional metal, as well as fans of modern progressive and power metal. Despite a couple minor missteps and one or two lackluster tracks A Voice Unheard is a surprisingly high quality release, showcasing plenty of talent and passion for the craft. Here’s hoping for a sequel, to whatever end.
Standout tracks: Within The World Of Dreams, A Voice Unheard, Fly Away