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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.