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Eclipse Prophecy is a young up and coming band from Canada, and their debut Days of Judgment is well-meaning, if not very exciting. I feel bad for ragging on these guys because they have a good intention here, and the music is clearly not pandering to any kind of trendy mainstream ideals. This is pure metal all the way, except I have to say it’s just not that great.
This is “heavy” power metal, in the mold of Iron Savior, Running Wild and Paragon, except this has a few more keyboards and a sense for the epic. The weird thing about this is that the aesthetics and the sound is all done right – the vocals are gruff, the guitars are crunchy and the production is loud and clear. But the songwriting is really just not good. Every song here really kind of lacks momentum, and they all chug along without much in the way of hooks or memorability. There’s very little dynamic here, and while the guitar tone is good, the riffs are stock and the songs just repeat and repeat without variation. All of these songs are way too long, as well, and wear out their welcome well before the runtime ends because the band doesn’t vary up their songwriting ever or add any kind of interesting hooks. They rely on the tried-and-true heavy metal tropes, but really only do them marginally well.
It’s just too one-dimensional. I guess “Under Shadow’s Veil” is OK, with a pretty good riff and some nice, aggressive vocals in the Running Wild vein, but just try sitting through this until clunkers like “A Dying World” or “Legions of the Cross” – pretty much just snoozeworthy. If you just listen to the beginnings of a lot of these songs, you’d think this was a real A-list album, but the thing is, the band never really changes up their songs from those initially good openings. Instead we just get the same ideas repeated again and again. In some bands this style of songwriting can be hypnotic and even captivating, but Eclipse Prophecy just doesn't have a good enough command of sound dynamics and atmosphere to really pull that off. If the riffs were better, maybe this would be a good album, but they're mostly pretty average C-list stuff, and when they get inevitably driven into the ground by the repetitive songwriting, it's hard to find any of it very engaging.
Again, Eclipse Prophecy has all the parts together – a cool singer, crunchy, clear guitarwork, instrumental proficiency – but they lack the fundamental key to tie everything together; songwriting. It all sounds good, and if you turn it on as background music it isn’t too bad, but Eclipse Prophecy’s Days of Judgment just doesn’t stack up to the best of the year’s power metal crop.
There is something truly magic about the heroic, albeit steep in cliche, exploits of power metal. Much like the high fantasy novel genre that largely provides for the lyrical content of said style, the music has an instantly recognizable formula to it that, when done properly, hits pay dirt every single time in spite of its generally limited evolution since the early 80s. Eclipse Prophecy, a band possessed of one of the less original names within the scene, has conformed itself all but completely to this grand tradition, deviating from the formula only insofar as a couple of stylistic tweaks borrowed from a great infusion of speed/thrash into the fold that goes just a tad further than the boundaries set by Helloween and Blind Guardian. Consequently, when approaching their debut album "Days Of Judgment" one will note a heavy amount of familiarity accompanied by a higher level of energy and aggression.
Starting off with an ambient keyboard instrumental that passes after just over a minute, one would tend to guess that a prototypical European approach is to follow, which is about 2/3rds true. All the familiar devices employed by Hammerfall, early Dream Evil and Manowar come in with a vengeance right from the onset of "Under Shadow's Veil", tending towards the somewhat more traditionally oriented sound that's been coming out of Sweden for the past 16 years now. But along for the ride is also a greater level of keyboard involvement that transcends the typical atmospheric devices and brings in a slight Stratovarius feel into the equation, as well as a much more aggressive, nearly thrashing riff approach that takes about as much influence from Jon Schaffer as from Ross The Boss or Gus G. Similarly, vocalist David McGregor has a rawer, dirtier vocal approach than the typical keyboard happy power metal band and comes off a lot like a younger and slightly lighter sounding Eric Adams.
Even though this album proves to be an epic colossus of speed and heroism, it's not without a few noticeable flaws. Like any album that relies pretty heavily on speed to captivate the audience, a lot of emphasis tends to get placed on the drums, and here the programming approach taken tilts the album in somewhat of a mechanical direction that clashes with the organic guitar and vocal sound. Songs such as "Circle Of Torments" and "Inferno" tend to suffer from this more than the others given the constancy of the speed beats, though they do manage to remain powerful anthems in spite of this. The album also takes a slightly confuted turn at its conclusion with this really shallow sounding piano outro which almost sounds like a comical homage to Eric Clapton's radio hit "Layla", only with an electric piano sound that lacks any significant dimension of sound to fill the arrangement. One could basically skip the last minute of this album and leave with a much better impression of it.
The stubborn thing about cliches is that, in spite of their heavy emulation and repetition, they keep coming back because there is something enticing about them. Metal can't survive without innovation, but that doesn't mean that it needs to obsess only over that aspect of the creation process, and Eclipse Prophecy are inclined to stay rooted in familiar territory. Nevertheless, the technical aspects are a bit more heightened than usual in this end of the metal spectrum, and someone who normally looks for the slightly progressive tendencies of bands like Labyrinth and Pyramaze could probably appreciate the keyboard and lead guitar gymnastics that chime in from time to time. But the target audience here is of a much more old school nature, and they play it to them far more often than not.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 5, 2013.
I remember the time when power metal was at the peak of its popularity. From the beginning to mid 2000's, you could see like 2 or 3 power metal shows per month with good bands like Hammerfall, Helloween, Blind Guardian and so on. But like every trend and this one particularly, it gets old. Epic battles, warriors and quests for magic stuff had their hour of glory, but it's long gone and now it tends to fall into pure and horrible cheesiness. Eclipse Prophecy is not an exception.
The riffs are probably the only highlight here. Nonetheless, after a while you really have the feeling that it's running in circles with overused power chords and chugga-chugg/double bass drum duo. Talking of the drums, it is just flagrant that the guys used drum machine. I mean come on! They have Unexpect drummer Landryx, a very talented musician and we can't even hear him on the album? The mix isn't great either, drums and rythm guitar are too loud, lead guitar is not loud enough!
The flaws of the album? I can give you more than one! First, the keyboard is so cheap that it sounds ridiculous and it's clear that it's all made by computer program. Next time just hire someone who can actually play! The biggest flaws here are surely the vocal and the lyrics. Let's say things this way, David Mc Gregor is not a very good singer and his voice lacks power and range. Keywords here are : random high pitch vocal ripping my ear-drums apart. And do I really have to talk about the lyrics? Just take a look at the song titles, you'll get it pretty fast. Dragons, demons, battles, mighty warriors, that's about it folks! Good lyrics must come naturally, and it looked so forced that it makes it bad!
The battle is raging down on the hills
Demons and dragons are ready to kill
A feast for the flames and life on the edge
The valley is blazing without any grace
Seriously, why would you write lyrics like this when so many bands did the same over the last 30 years?
Eclipse Prophecy? No interest!