Despite being aware of this Swedish melodic hard rock sensation for many, many years, it took me all up until 2015 and their last record Armageddonize to surrender and discover just how great this band is. The fact that I have dug lead singer and main song writer Erik Mårtensson’s other projects such as W.E.T. and Ammunition makes it even weirder that I haven’t tried to pick up any Eclipse releases before. But after just a few spins, Armageddonize made me go back and check out Eclipse’s back catalogue and what I found there was a little bit of this and that. Albums such as Bleed And Scream (2012) and Are You Ready To Rock MMXIV (2014) (a re-recording of said 2008 album) were both great records whereas the two first albums The Truth And A Little More (2001) and Second To None (2004) were very underwhelming and sounded like a band that hadn’t really come top terms with their sound and was still learning as song writers. So I must admit that Armageddonize took me somewhat by surprise by its extremely high quality and that album made me a fan right away. The high quality of that album also – and on the other projects Mårtensson had been involved with, such as last year’s magnificent Nordic Union album added to the list – has of course put some pressure on the guys to come up with an effort at least as good as the rest of their stuff and to me, the expectations has shot like rockets into the atmosphere!
Judging by first single “Never Look Back” (I’ll get back to that one in a bit) I had nothing what so ever to worry about, but hey, there are ten more tracks on the album and you can’t get by on one track alone. But I’m ahead of myself by one track here so let’s take it from go, shall we. Opener “Vertigo” goes full tilt with a heavy beat, a rocking groove and a perfect mix of metal riffing and melodic rock melodies that glues themselves to the brain and brings a huge smile on my face. If my expectations were high before hearing the song, they’re even higher now – brilliant stuff! The single I just mentioned, “Never Look Back”, follows. It takes on a pretty fast pace, but it comes with some amazing harmonies and a smooth main melody that, combined with the ultra-catchy chorus deserves to be a big hit – Eclipse take no prisoners with this one! “Killing Me” is a more pop laden rocker – it has a hard rock foundation that is pivotal here but AOR lies all over the tune and the chorus is so catchy it could brainwash even the most hating of haters. Three songs in and I’m already hooked.
“The Downfall Of Eden” is Eclipse moving out of their comfort zone a bit. Sure, it is a rocker with a big pop vibe and yes, the main melody screams Eclipse but the tune has a darker mood and the Thin Lizzy-like Celtic influence makes it both differ a bit to what we’re used to and makes it a stand-out track – a tune impossible not to love. The ballad “Hurt” is a big one, this too in a darker vein. But the melody is huge and the astonishing refrain can move mountains – there’s nothing cheesy or daft about this one what so ever! “Jaded” is a spot on pop pearl that rocks all the way from start to finish, very distinct and direct. There’s no escape here, peeps, just say yes! “Born To Lead” is here to kick your ass and make no mistake, it will. It’s a fast, in-your-face melodic hard rocker on a metal influenced ground. I have a feeling this one will have a safe spot in the live set. “For Better Or For Worse” continues this march for musical victory and it sure keeps the flame alive. It’s a big melodic rock stomper with a pumping rhythm and a refrain that totally kills. A part of me thinks Nordic Union when I hear it because I can very easily hear Ronnie Atkins’ (Pretty Maids) voice on top of this one – splendid.
“No Way Back” starts out with a guitar lead part that actually had me thinking of Iron Maiden – very cool, I must say – but the song soon turns into burning hard rocker with hooks enough to catch every fish wherever there is water and I don’t think I have to point out just how addictive the chorus is. “Night Comes Crawling” is an uptempo catchy rocker with a somewhat darker undertone. The refrain strikes with a contagious sing-along melody that is just unescapable – once it reaches your ear, it will be etched to the brain forever. They close the album with “Black Rain”, a tune that is probably their heaviest to date. It’s not quite heavy metal even though the influence is there, but to call it heavy rock isn’t wrong at all. On top of all that comes a melody and a chorus that hits like a fist in the face and even though I love all the songs on the album, this one is probably my favorite on the album, if I have to pick one. I also want to make a note and say that the Japanese edition includes an acoustic version of “The Downfall Of Eden”, a version I haven’t heard yet, but for me, it’s not worth the extra green no matter what. I’m just not that big on acoustic versions.
After the brilliant Armageddonize, it was impossible not to expect something brilliant from this band but the fact that they managed to top that album with the new one was something I wasn’t sure they would do – but they did. Yes, this is an extraordinary record by a band that has turned in to one of melodic hard rock’s finest, in my book. It also helps that Eclipse have a sound of their own, much because of the melodies, arrangements and Magnus Henriksson’s very personal guitar sound and style. What is also very impressing is just how much music Erik Mårtensson seem to have inside of him. I mean, the guy practically sweats out songs – since 2015 we have gotten two Eclipse records, Nordic Union, a new Ammunition album is on the way and it looks like a new W.E.T. record will see the light of day this year as well – and he has been delivering music to Frontiers’ projects forever, all that without giving in on the quality one inch. So, if you’re a fan of melodic hard rock then there’s no reason what so ever not to buy this album. Me, I bow down and surrender. Pure brilliance, folks.
Other Eclipse reviews:
2. Never Look Back
3. Killing Me
4. The Downfall Of Eden
7. Born To Lead
8. For Better Or For Worse
9. No Way Back
10. Night Comes Crawling
11. Black Rain