What Tomorrow Brings: Behind The Story
Long time, no blog. Hope you’ve all been well. 🙂
So, by now you would have seen we have a new EP out called “What Tomorrow Brings.” No? Check out the release page here, and the trailer below:
So just as a bit of a background, this is an EP with a 25 and a half minute long concept song title track that retraces the life of a man who has found himself at a crossroads that could mean the difference between life or death, and it’s told through a bunch of different styles and character themes, and enhanced by voice actors. I explain a little more about where the idea came from on the release page (link above) so I won’t go over that again, but what I want to talk about is the content of the song itself, and the actual story.
Just as a warning to those who haven’t heard the song yet:
*** STORY SPOILERS AHEAD***
Got it? Good! Let’s continue! 🙂
OK, so the story centres around our main protagonist (and for the sake of me not typing “the protagonist” out every goddamn time, let’s call him “Bruce” … because why not hey?). We start with him standing on a high building ledge, breathing heavy, heart pounding, the cool night wind on his face and the traffic far below. He knows this is a big step (no pun intended) – he is considering stepping forward, over the ledge and falling to his death. In that single moment, his entire life flashes before his eyes and he remembers everything that brought him to this point.
I wanted to start the song off with an overture, kind of like the theme of a movie where the credits and titles come up, rather than just jumping right into it, so from 00:15 to 2:25, that’s kind of what I’d class as the “opening credits.”
From 2:25 to 3:24, we’re introduced to “Bruce” and where he currently is, and it explains that he’s thinking back over his life. Right at the end of that section, you hear the screech of tyres but instead of it ending in a fiery accident, you hear the slap of a newborn baby’s bottom, as his first memory.
The next section is a really delicate piano part. I wanted to get across the tenderness between a mother and her child, and the speech that the wonderful Tania Moran gives as the mother really shows how proud of her son she is, and how she just knows he’ll grow up to be someone special, at least in her eyes. That speech ends up being very pivotal to the story later, but in this context, it’s just a beautiful moment. We follow along as “Bruce” grows up, all with his mother lovingly watching, feeling proud of the young man he’s growing to be.
It’s at this point that we introduce “Bruce’s” theme. Funny story about that, it was actually written by my daughter when she was 10 months old. We’d just bought her a toy xylophone and she was banging away on it, having the time of her life when she randomly played a sequence of notes that made me sit up and go “wow, that’s it!” – it was exactly the melody I was after, and that also gave me the idea of using a xylophone later in the song to reinterpret “Bruce’s” theme as his own child’s, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves! He’s got to grow up first…
For the next couple of verses, we’re seeing the life that “Bruce” had as he went from child to young adult. Awkward and angsty as most teenagers have but ultimately he was brought up in a loving environment where he never went without, his family proudly watching on as he grew up.
Lyrically, this was tough for me to write. Not necessarily from a “that was difficult to put into words” kind of thing, but more so that I really don’t like being so verbose and explicit with my lyrics as I was here. One guy I really admire as a lyricist is Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran. Think what you like about the band, but Simon is really the master of metaphors and imagery. Check out The Seventh Stranger, The Promise, or Proposition. Amazing stuff. So to write what is essentially a story rather than poetic lyrics feels a little frustrating for me, but in this situation, the story really needed to be super clear so the emotional pay off later made sense.
From 8:19, we go into a rhythm heavy, almost old-school trad/thrash part which is showing “Bruce” as a young and slightly reckless adult, as we all tend to be. He’s rockin’ out and having a good time, taking risks and just living life, having a great time. Not long after, “she” comes into his life and everything changes. From 9:48, I wanted to get the vibe closer to an 80s style melodic rock song (think Dokken, Firehouse, etc.) since a lot of that stuff was focussed on love and relationships. “Bruce” is totally smitten with this new girl and they start a life together.
11:42 – this is where their daughter was born. Again, it needed to be a really delicate piano section to denote the tenderness between parents and child. Originally it was supposed to be a son so there was a mirror image of “Bruce” himself being born but I changed it to a girl because it might have gotten confusing as to what it was referring to. A lot of that section has a very blurred timeline, where parts of the birth and various moments of his daughter being older are mixed in together, as memories tend to be. I didn’t want to dwell on that too much because we already had a big section on a birth earlier in the song, so condensing it all together really helped keep the story moving.
“Bruce’s” theme is reintroduced, this time on xylophone to bring home that the child is his own flesh and blood and that’s built up into a more powerful arrangement of his (and now their) theme. I wanted it to go from the birth of the child into a solid and repetitive section where it brought home the point that everything was together and meant to never change. You had to almost get a little mesmerised by the repeated melodies as they grew bigger and bigger as the section went along, and at 14:43. you hear the whole family’s theme hinted at for the first time, which is repeated at the end of the song. The idea of the trance-like repetitiveness of this section was also to kind of blind-side the listener when it’s suddenly interrupted by an horrific crash.
Ah, the crash. Such a terrible thing to happen, but absolutely necessary for the story. I needed to find something that was so horrific that it could push a man to want to take his own life, and losing everything that meant anything to him was definitely it. We learn that his wife and child died, and he was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The accident was nobody’s fault but the guilt of living when everyone else died was absolutely crushing to him. He looked around the darkened hospital ward and he realised he was alone.
This just wasn’t fair. How could this happen? He explodes in a fit of rage, and going into thrash/death metal to get across the extreme anger he felt was the ideal style. “I’ve lost my life!” he screams. But at the core of it, it’s far beyond the selfish feeling that everything was taken away from him. More than anything, the guilt that he lived and his wife and daughter died was what crushed him the most. He would do anything to change places with them, or at least have died with them, but instead he survived alone. How could he go on living with this kind of guilt?
The rage subsides but the emptiness and the guilt remains. From 18:49, he goes over the scenario again and again in his head. He knows the crash was nobody’s fault but that doesn’t help at all. Why should he be the only one to live? He remembers his mother’s words to him when he was a child:
“You’re going to have an amazing life.
You’ll grow up to big and strong and smart.
You can do anything, be anything you want to be.
Live and love and follow your dreams.
And I’ll be so proud. I’ll always be so proud of you.”
But how could she be proud of him now? He made such a mess of his life, he let his family die and now he wanted nothing more than to just join them. This speech that at one time was so loving, so inspiring, dragged every emotion to the forefront, which came exploding out of him all at once. His once hopeful theme, which also became his daughter’s theme returned in a much more dramatic and tragic context, and at that moment, he knew what needed to be done as he climbed the stairs to the highest ledge he could find.
And so we return to where it all started.
“Bruce” is standing on a high building ledge, breathing heavy, heart pounding, the cool night wind on his face and the traffic far below. His whole life is flashing before his eyes as he falters to take that last step.
But was his life just defined by that one horrible moment? Yes, it was absolutely tragic and has wounded him in unimaginable ways, but what about the rest of his life? He was loved. He grew up safe and never wanting. He had the world at his feet and lived a fantastic life. His time with his wife and child, right up until the final moment was some of the most amazing experiences he ever had. Could that one crash negate everything else?
We return to his theme for the song outro, which I really hear as the “closing credits” of the song, and the family theme is reintroduced and intertwined with his theme. And finally it ends.
You hear the cool wind blowing past the high ledge, the distant traffic far below, and yet no one is there now.
Did he jump or did he change his mind and try to learn to live again?
The answer is intentionally open-ended so the listener can decide for themselves as to what happened.
What do I think? Well, I have my theories but I’ll keep those to myself. 🙂 I’d love to know what your theories are in the comments below!
And that’s about it. This is a song that I’m really proud of. I think it’s some of the best playing that all of us (T.Y. included who did session drums) have done in a long time, and the special guests who contributed their fantastic voice acting really made this something special for me.
So the question is now: how are we going to top this? Quite frankly, we’re not, at least not in this context anyway. I think bands who do something as ambitious and epic as this tend to want to outdo it on their next recording and it rarely does anything other than come across as too self-indulgent and overblown. From how it’s looking at this early stage of writing (and yes, we have started already), the next LORD album will be overall a lot more immediate and very metal, but of course we’ll have our wide range of influences and styles all through it no doubt.
Will we ever do another huge epic, or another concept thing? Maybe!
You never know What Tomorrow Brings. 😉