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The unfinished road to dystopia. - 86%

hells_unicorn, May 23rd, 2014

There is a certain honesty to demos, as they forgo a good number of niceties and present a band in a capacity closer to what they'd sound like in the flesh. Translated into a melodic power metal medium with a focus on Sci-Fi, this honesty could be likened to an extremely good version of a B-movie in the same genre of film. But Keldian takes things a bit further and present a parallel universe of sorts in relation to their three exceptional studio LP outings, and present a sound that is a bit rawer, but also imagery that's a bit more somber and fatalistic. Even when dealing with issues of sadness and lost within the deep reaches of space, there is a sense of optimism to their sound that is less apparent on Outbound: The Unfinished Tracks, a release that presents a road-not-taken scenario for their exceptional third studio effort.

On the surface, this is essentially a lower fidelity version of Keldian's signature sound, but their incompleteness rests only in the lack of the obligatory studio tweaks to make these songs fit for radio. "Planet Of Machines" could very well pass for an opening song in the mold of the triumphant speeder "The Last Frontier" that kicked off "Journey Of Souls". It's a concise song with a slightly denser layering of guitar harmonies than the average power metal song, but it definitely would have fit in with the arguably shorter opus that ended up becoming Outbound. The clean and glistening tenor vocal line meshed with the digitally precise double bass drumming and speed metal riffing definitely points to a mid 90s Stratovarius influence, so much so that one might mistake this for something off of Fourth Dimension were it not for the more laid back and singing quality of the lead guitar approach.

Even amid the catchy brilliance of the lone proper song on here, there is a slightly more auspicious musical character at work here in that of the brief instrumental prelude "Dystopian Skyline". It presents something that would come off as a bit more conventional by power metal standards for a band like Keldian, as it would have kicked off Outbound in way comparable to many albums that made waves in the early 2000s. It's atmospheric and distant sounding, but definitely gives off an air of pomp and glory not all that dissimilar from the faux patriotism that goes into the national anthem of a dictatorship, and maintains the constant Sci-Fi futurism that has been Keldian's staple since its inception. Yet again, comparisons to the first Stratovarius album with Timo Koltipelto at the helm (Fourth Dimension) are impossible to avoid, though the presentation is a tad bit humbler due to the restrained production value.

It's not difficult to find oneself torn regarding these songs, given that on the one hand they would have made the third studio album a bit different in overall presentation, yet at the same time making them a bit more predictable in relation to other bands of a similar mold. They are solid songs and one would hope that they get a proper final production at some point, not to mention giving the impression to any new comers of "if this is their left over material, how amazing is this band on their prime cuts?" But regardless what the final fate of these works may be, even in a demo format, the picture is as lofty as the infinite skies that have inspired the rest of their work.