When I first heard the first single of VOJD, Behind the Frame, I wondered why the band’s sound felt so familiar. It was not only until reading the press release of their full length, The Outer Ocean, that I found out that this is the new incarnation of Black Trip – whose last full length Shadowline was one of my favourite releases in 2015. The main giveaway though, should have been vocalist Joseph Tholl’s signature singing style – one that so closely resembles Paul Di’Anno’s works with Maiden.
But the question remains for fans of Black Trip – how would this compare to the works of Black Trip, and does the name change mark a shift in the musical style of VOJD? Yes, and no. The entire feel and sound of The Outer Ocean remains rather similar for those already familiar with the works of Black Trip. I remember drawing comparisons between Black Trip and the Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden because of Tholl’s vocals, and also that punkish vibe that they had on Goin’ Under. Yet unlike Goin’ Under and Shadowline, there is a marked decrease in heavy metal elements as the band indulges in a more hard rock-oriented sound this time.
The first obvious hint is the mid-pace that the band adopts on The Outer Ocean, with a less aggressive edge compared to their works on Black Trip. Guitarists Peter and Linus infuse lots of bluesy, and melodic elements into their lead guitar playing, where one is reminded of the works of bands like Deep Purple on songs like Dream Machine. This especially so on songs like the title track, where that dreamy soundscape resembles a cross between Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The layering of the vocals of Joseph is also a nice touch, like on Secular Wire that further emphasises that old school touch of their music.
Through the production quality as well, VOJD manages to retain that classic hard rock sound of the album, and The Outer Ocean sounds nicely balanced between raw and polished. The one thing though that I particularly liked is the tone of the guitars on The Outer Ocean, as the solos often have a sound that is oh-so-creamy, contrasted by that overdriven rhythm tone.
Too many bands have taken the route of becoming faster, heavier, or more extreme with each record that they release. VOJD has taken a rather different approach throughout their career, and every new release presents a more melodic side of their music. The overall feel-good vibe of The Outer Ocean is certainly a breath of fresh air. The Outer Ocean would have fit perfectly in the 70s and 80s, and with the excellent quality of the material here, it is hard to believe that this is a 2018 release.