Two things leapt quickly to mind during the early tracks of this album, which is Eclipse's eighth in a couple of decades. Firstly, this is energetic stuff for melodic rock. I'd call it hard rock that isn't far off heavy metal much of the time and gets there on a few occasions. There's energy oozing out of its very pores and in quantities that far exceed most of the undeniably metal albums I've listened to lately. And secondly, holy crap, these are astoundingly clichéd lyrics!
It kicks off with Roses on Your Grave and the familiar refrain of "only the good die young". Then it moves into Dying Breed and the old "born to lose but always live to win" chestnut. Saturday Night (Hallelujah) highlights that "nobody's getting out of this world alive" and "we'll sleep when we're dead". And the next song is called Run for Cover... is there an original word anywhere to be found on this album? I caught myself almost unwilling to continue because I was cringing too much.
I have to point out that Eclipse are Swedes but they sing in English and I have little idea what their fluency levels are. Lead singer Erik Mårtensson certainly seems to be totally fluent and he did on the W.E.T. album that was my Album of the Month in February. The E in that supergroup's name is for Eclipse, with the W being Robert Såll from Work of Art and the T Jeff Scott Soto of Talisman. I also have to point out that I absolutely continued because this is such dynamic stuff that I couldn't bear to stop, however clichéd the lyrics became. Yes, the line before "run for cover" in the chorus of that song is "you'd better run" and the one after is "run, run for your life". How did you guess?
The energy levels simply can't stay this vibrant throughout or we'd be worn out. Carved in Stone is an acoustic ballad to slow things down substantially. It's just as clichéd, starting with "If the stars refuse to shine", but it's a soft ballad that doesn't piss me off, even with overblown choral backing vocals, and that's quite the achievement nowadays. It pumps up somewhat for its finale too and it cuts off wonderfully at the end. Poison Inside My Heart plays with soft guitar too, without being a ballad.
And so we go. The first five songs tell me that this is a tight band just aching to play and their vim and vigour is contagious. Sure, it's a 2/10 lyrically, if not an absolute bottom of the barrel 1/10, but it's infectious musically and it's impossible not to move. I think I have a broken toe so it's not good for me to tap with abandon and dance in my office chair but I couldn't stop. Eclipse should rename to the Pied Pipers because it really doesn't matter what they do, we follow them anyway. Deep in the Twilight, they even wrap up with Beethoven's Ode to Joy and it somehow seems like the most natural thing in the world.
Mostly this is exactly what you can expect from checking out any random song on YouTube, but it's not without its surprises. The soft guitar on Poison inside My Heart is folk rather than rock, with a Celtic flavour that showed up earlier on Run for Cover. That flavour returns on Things We Love, an indicator that, while Mårtensson doesn't sound remotely like Phil Lynott, whoever writes songs in this band has been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy and maybe some more poppy contemporary Irish acts. There's also some LA hair metal here, especially on Bite the Bullet, the heaviest song on offer, even though it plays with surf rock in the middle.
Oddly, the other influence I kept hearing was Bryan Adams because, while this is certainly heavier and far more guitar-focused, the hooks in songs like Twilight and Things We Love are reminiscent of Adams's more energetic early songs like Cuts Like a Knife, Run to You or even Summer of '69. It may explain why this sounds so fundamentally commercial, given that it's often heavier and more driving than anything we're likely to hear on mainstream American radio.
So yeah, this definitely continues in the vein it started off in, with enough energy to keep you up all night, hooks so powerful you can't stop humming them and melodies that will haunt you. But it rots the brain if you listen to the words. It's not as good as the W.E.T. album from earlier this year, but I might well have gone for an 8/10 if it wasn't for those lyrics. I have to drop a point and ought to drop a couple. I don't think I could live with myself dropping it to a 6/10 though, so 7/10 it is.