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At some point after the release of the popular and well-rounded Odyssey album, the ‘classic’ lineup of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising force was dissolved. At the height of his popularity, Yngwie wasn’t about to just lay down and die, so he dropped the “Rising Force” from his band’s name and embarked upon what would come to be known as his solo era, a period of underrated and at times brilliant power metal that never quite caught on like his early material. Eclipse is the first of these, representing a continuation of the power-meets-pop metal sound of Trilogy and Odyssey.
Eclipse is a curious release from Yngwie, as it contains equal parts innovating and recycling, aspects that are polar opposites when it comes to songwriting. On one hand, there’s a lot of “new” to be found on the album, such as different directions in songwriting, new synthesizer sounds, etc. But on the other hand, the listener will find themselves a mixture of pleased and confused as Yngwie attempts to crank as much mileage out of his older riffs as possible (how many times have we heard that “Making Love” riff before?). Indeed, even many of the new ideas hearken back to past experiments in his sound. “Bedroom Eyes” finds Yngwie experimenting with blues/funk in the solo section (which he first attempted during “Déjà vu” back on Odyssey), while chug-happy “Devil In Disguise” finds the use of lower-tuned guitars and a slower tempo (see: “Dark Ages” or “Disciples of Hell”). “Faultline” is in this vein as well. Surprisingly, there’s only a single instrumental, “Eclipse,” capping off the album in a very “Marching Out” manner. There are a few authentic ideas (“Judas” sounds like the illegitimate father of some Sonata Arctica song), but most of this is simply Yngwie Malmsteen as we’ve already come to know him.
In the end though, that’s not really such a horrible thing. Even where the album lacks originality, it still manages to stay entertaining. New singer Goran Edman, the fourth new singer in the last four albums, lacks identity as a vocalist (his voice reminds me of guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson’s, which is to say that it’s much more appropriate for pop than for metal), but delivers a convincing performance throughout. And those synthesizers are just plain awesome, however campy they may come across at times. Malmsteen himself continues to do what he does best: writing catchy riffs and playing wild solos. He may have been starting to play himself into a corner as far as writing is concerned, but a lot of the ideas on this very album would go on to influence the first Symphony X record (just listen to the vocal melodies/harmonies of “See You In Hell (Don’t Be Late)” and some of the guitar rhythms and try and deny it).
Basically, if you’re a fan of Malmsteen’s work, this album is a pretty safe bet. There’s some hiccups in the form of rejected Whitesnake-style glam metal garbage (“Save Our Love” particularly), but otherwise it’s a pretty decent record.
A latecomer in my quest to listen to and review every Yngwie release to date, Eclipse marks a rather sour time in Yngwie's career. The apogee of his career, Odyssey, had just passed, and many other landmarks (Marching Out, Trilogy) had passed as well. His mother had recently died, and he had also UNLEAHSED THE FHOOKIN FYOORY on that FHUKKEN BITCH on the plane to tokyo.
Is it any good?
Well, yes and no. There are obvious cookers on this release, as well as a couple midtempo rockers that get the heads banging. However, on the other hand, there is a distinct glam flavour to most of the songs, with few exceptions, and the first three songs on the album turned me off of this album completely for almost a year. As well, the album's strengths take a bit of time to appreciate, as when I first wrote this review I didn't. However, there are some niggling faults with Eclipse, and they only get worse with time. So let's get on with the analysis.
At first, I didn't mind the singing of Goran Edman, even though he reminded me of that guy from *gak* Poison and his voice was kinda forgettable. But as time grew on, I grew on to like songs like Devil in Disguise and Demon Driver, with their dark and majestic solos and acoustic passages - and Goran Edman's voice ruined those songs, sounding like he was running out of breath half the time. His voice clearly isn't suited to Yngwie's style, and while it merely restrained Fire and Ice from achieving its full potential, here it just ruins the album. If only Joe Lynn Turner had been allowed to stay on the boat, or Jeffrey Scott Soto, or Mark Boals, or if Yngwie had chosen Vescera in the first place... Simply put, when the music demanded power, Edman had the power of a 1/2 horsepower garage door opener. What Yngwie needs is a fukken 650 horsepower cooker.
Onward, the music isn't all that bad all the time. However, an alarmingly large amount of the time, it is pretty bad. Making Love is interesting only in the sense that it's horrendously gay (and the video doesn't help, either) and commercial. Bedroom Eyes is a catchy song at first, but gets old quickly, and IMO I Don't Know (on Seventh Sign) did the same thing but better. It is also alarmingly commercial. I won't even speak of Save Our Love, it's that bad. I could really go on, because those aren't the only crappy or mediocre songs. The songwriting is obviously influenced by the trends at the time, and at a time when Yngwie needed to separate himself from the crowd, not date himself to the glammy cheese of the period, he made a half assed effort to join it. It cost him many fans in the long run, and he sorely missed those fans during the mid-90's when commercial support dried up in America. As well, there is an appalling simplicity in many of these songs. The material simply isn't there. What Do You Want is as generic as the title would imply, with an interesting keyboard line being the only thing propping the song up. All the material is played as written, with none of the slight deviations from the formula that make it human. Faultline opens up rather mystically, but devolves into a real snorefest, too, plodding along lifelessly and by-the-books.
However, when this album cooks, it cooks. The aforementioned Demon Driver, Motherless Child, and the Eclipse (the song) are fast paced cookers with amazing as usual solos, harmonized with organ and harpsichords the way it should be. Songs like Judas and Devil In Disguise are mid-paced rockers with heavy drum lines and riffs, unleashed (pardon the pun) with great fury. Before I go on, I must say that while the actual drumming is rather uninspired on Eclipse, the drum sound is superb, and Yngwie never got a better drum tone. Anywho, all that being said, the music is rather restrained by three things:
One, the keyboard tone is atrocious. While Mats Olausson's sound got better and less cheesy on the following albums, here they're obnoxious and lo-fi. While Olausson's playing is not to be disputed, the tone here is atrocious.
And Two, again, is Edman's singing. He can't deliver the power on those songs.
Finally, again, the drumming is simply substandard. Subtlety is a thing that is lost on this drummer, as he spends a great deal of time making sure the drums are the one thing you won't remember from this album. The sheer passion of Anders Johansson from the Rising Force incarnation and the technical proclivities of Bo Werner, Mike Terrana, and Shane Galaas on the following three albums isn't present here. Yet again, which is disappointing, cuz the snare's sharp crack is wasted here.
Unfortunately a lot of the songs here are crap radio rock, which damns this album completely, as the Good song:Bad song ratio is too small. The way I counted it, it's about Half and Half, or, out of 11 songs, there were 5 good songs, 3 mediocre songs, and 3 absolute crap songs. As an album it's alright, but as an album made by a man who calls himself "master" in swedish, I can't give it any higher than a 65/100. Download Demon Driver, Judas, Eclipse, Demon Driver, Devil In Disguise, and Motherless Child, the rest of the album is forgettable, definitely not worth buying unless you're a serious malmsteen collector.
This was an extremely low point in Yngwie's personal life, even when considering the monster comeback he had made from a horrible car accident and the death of his mother with his successful 4th album "Odyssey" and the following tour. You can get the sense that he was under a bit of stress in the music on this release, which has several songs on it with rather negative themes such as "Motherless Child", "Judas" and "Faultline".
In addition, all of the other members of Rising Force, consisting of both the Johannsen brothers and vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, had gone on to other projects, spelling the end of the band. It is for this reason why the name Rising Force was dropped from subsequent release in the 90s. Although most of the new musicians that fill the shoes of the old maestros are highly capable (especially Mats Olausson, who is an amazing keyboardist), they don't carry quite the same power that the others had.
The weak link in this line up is obvious. Although Goran Edman is not by any means a bad vocalist, he is not suited for this kind of music. His voice is far too clean sounding, and gives much of the music on this album a highly Glamish sound. Although this doesn't destroy the atmosphere, it does take away from some of the otherwise faster and heavier songs on here.
We've got some pretty solid fast tracks here. My personal favorite is "Motherless Child", both for the sad and thought provoking lyrics, as well as the driving beat of the double bass pedal matched with the fast paced guitar riffs. "Demon Driver" is another decent cooker, though the lyrics are a tiny bit cheesy. "See you in Hell" is the heaviest of the three faster tracks, although the vocals kind of clash with the rest of the arrangement.
Slower heavy tracks include "Making Love", which lightlights some of Yngwie's craziest soloing and some of nice heavy riffing. "Faultline" has some interesting quasi-oriental keyboard sounds mixed in with a classic sounding power chord riff. "Devil in Disguise" is probably the heaviest song on here, although the intro is a rather intricant sounding classical solo guitar etude, showcasing Yngwie's versatility as a player.
Some heavily keyboard oriented work that features new keyboardist Mats Olausson include "Judas" and "What do you want". Although lyrically the former is stronger, the latter has a much more interesting synth line. Both are mid-tempo and have a good deal of Malmsteen madness going on. These songs are also the ones where Edman's voice fits in the best.
As this is the first solo album in the Yngwie catalog we are also introduced to something that would become standard through much of his early 90s work, a more classic rock sounding 2nd track. In this case, "Bedroom Eyes" sounds a tiny bit like a Jimi Hendrix song, at least when listening to the main guitar riff. We also get some really decent wah shredding on this. Unlike some pentatonic wankers such as Kirk Hammet, Yngwie shows his wisdom as a player and opts not to overuse the wah pedal.
"Save our love" is the only ballad on this album, but it features a highly technical keyboard intro courtesy of Mats Olausson, which pretty much equals the virtuocity that Jens Johannsen had displayed on previous works. The acoustic guitar line at the beginning reminds me slightly of "Don't let it end", although the rest of the song is much slower and less triumphant sounding as it's predecessor, and that Edman is clearly no Jeff Scott Soto.
The closing track carries the same name as the album, and like the previous 2 releases, gives us a rather brilliant concept of which to draw imaginary visuals from while listening. This one is alot more catchy and simplistic at times than the other two, but then rips into some radically more technical shredding once the tempo gets kicked up a notch. Although I am partial to "Krakatau", this one gives it a good run for it's money.
In conclusion, this is not quite up to par with past efforts by Yngwie, all of which were supported by the amazing Johannsen brothers. It would be alot better if Yngwie had found a more intense sounding vocalist, but when you consider the musical scene in 1990, metal in the US was basically about to suffer a very painful death due to a lack of innovation, and in that environment, Goran Edman may have been the best that Yngwie could have hoped for. I recommend it to core Yngwie fans, and other admirers of guitar shredding.
After experiencing some commercial success with his 1988 album “Odyssey”, Malmsteen decides to take that mainstream edge to his music up a notch (or several) on his 1990 effort “Eclipse”, which would prove to be his last album on Polygram before being unceremoniously dumped.
And to be honest, it’s not hard to see why. This album is typical of Malmsteen’s mid-career work in the sense that it’s too solo orientated to really cater to the mainstream and yet at the same time too commercial to really cater to the dedicated metal fan base. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad album as such. It isn’t. It's just not very good.
The album kicks off with “Making Love” which is undoubtedly an excellent song whichever way you look at it. Great vocal from new frontman Goran Edman and excellent lead work from Yngwie all the way through. Surprised this one wasn’t a hit.
The next track “Bedroom Eyes” is lacking. Just very cheesy in a bad way, and lacks any power.
“Save Your Love” is a nice ballad that I have a real soft spot for. Awesome solo here too which really adds to the power of the song, accentuated by a very good vocal performance from Edman again.
“Motherless Child” is dross. Ridiculous lyrics here, and no structure to the song whatsoever. Cheesy to the nth degree to boot. Bleuch.
“Devil In Disguise” is okay and so is “Judas”. Nothing special, just passable Malmsteen standards.
“What Do You Want” features a nice keyboard intro from Mats Olausson which leads into a nice riff from Yngwie Malmsteen but unfortunately the song gets repetitive from there and disappoints.
“Demon Driver” is a fun little song, with more solid keyboard work that complements Yngwie’s soloing very well. Again, nothing special though.
“Faultline” is up next. Nice heavy riff that runs through the song and good work from Edman and Olausson on vocals, but a lack of deviation in the pace of the song makes this far more boring than it should have been.
“See You In Hell” follows and is another average offering, and “Eclipse” finishes up the album standing up well as one of Malmsteen’s better latter day instrumentals.
To close, I will say that a lot of the material on this album does have the potential to be a lot better than it is. You just get the feeling that if Malmsteen swallowed his pride and got a good, proven songwriter in to help him out, the uneven songwriting and over-emphasis on soloing could be reigned in and would allow for some far more interesting song structures.
Like that would ever happen though. Malmsteen is too stubborn and that’s his downfall. That’s why this is getting just above half marks. Could do better.