Lord are coming to America in 2016. This is a really big deal. Lord Tim and his merry Australian mates have been creating high-quality slabs of Euro melodic power metal (accented heavily with elements from other genres, from thrash and extreme metal to prog and AOR) since they released the ‘Resurrection’ album under the Dungeon moniker back in 1999. The Dungeon / Lord discography is deep and extraordinarily consistent. Until now, however, it had always seemed like an idle pipe dream to contemplate them playing a gig on U.S. soil. But they’ll be here, playing one of the opening nights of ProgPower USA in Atlanta in September 2016. In honor of this happy fact, it’s only fitting and proper to take a look at their latest release, a 47-minute, 6-track EP entitled ‘What Tomorrow Brings.’
The obvious centerpiece of this EP is the title track, a sprawling 25.5-minute piece with no fewer than 10 “movements,” if you will. Conceptually, “What Tomorrow Brings” tells the story of a man’s life, from birth to adolescence to adulthood to tragedy and redemption. Musically, the song is an emotional rollercoaster that captures all the texture and heft of what’s happening in the story even during the passages without vocals. The resulting near half-hour ride is incredibly diverse. Sure, it’s built on a backbone of Euro power metal, but there are lengthy atmospheric sections that recall Dream Theater / Queensryche (circa ‘Mindcrime’), bouts of bloodthirsty rage and gutwrenching anguish set to music, and lush pop harmonies. There are terrifying sound effects, comforting voiceovers (in a delightful Aussie accent), keyboard arrangements and a variety of vocal delivery styles from Lord Tim. Say what you will, but Lord are not afraid to challenge themselves or their listeners. God help the band and the audience alike if Lord attempt to perform this entire monster in a live setting. I tip my cap to the lads for not playing it safe, for stepping outside the box and pushing the envelope. That said, my initial reaction to “What Tomorrow Brings” was not so favorable. I felt like the track had too many wussy parts; was too self-indulgent, pompous and bombastic; and failed to cut loose and rock as much as Lord usually do. Those are fair criticisms; however, the listening experience has opened up to me on subsequent attempts, and I now can appreciate the artistry and, indeed, mastery that Lord display here. And yeah, there are plenty of rockin’, guitar-slinging parts sounding exactly like classic Lord / Dungeon efforts. Besides, it’s not like Lord / Dungeon have ever been a pure power metal band. These other elements have always been part of their sound, so it’s totally understandable for them to explore and indulge them a bit more than usual in the context of this EP experiment.
Other than the title track, the remainder of the EP consists of one original (a rather ripping tune called “Haunted” that gets right to the point and kicks ass, in stark contrast to the overwhelming epic that precedes it) and four covers, as to which listeners’ mileage may vary. For my part, I dig the hell out of their cover of “Someone’s Crying,” an oft-overlooked speedy Helloween gem from the ‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape’ album. Lord’s take on The Police’s hit “Message in a Bottle” works well too, if only because I’ve always enjoyed the tune (in spite of myself and my true metal heart) and yearned for a more metal presentation of it. Lord fits that bill nicely with amped-up, edgier guitars and punishing drums as they send an S.O.S. to the world. Cool version. The other two cuts are an A-Ha cover and a Little River Band cover, enjoyable enough for what they are but not exactly highlights from my standpoint.
Longtime Lord fans should buy ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ posthaste, with the caveat that the title track does showcase the more progressive, experimental side of the band more than the slammin’, balls-out headbanging side. Newbies to the Lord / Dungeon canon might be best-served by checking out earlier Lord albums like ‘Ascendance’ or ‘Set in Stone,’ or better yet, the best-of sampler in a cardsleeve available from the band directly. Whatever you do, give Lord a listen and buy your tickets to the ProgPower USA warmup nights (Wednesday and Thursday shows) when they go on sale next month so you too can witness Lord Tim & Crew in this unprecedented personal journey of ascendance to U.S. shores.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~