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A safe journey around the melodic metal block. - 70%

hells_unicorn, February 22nd, 2012

Contrary to popular opinion, there’s a pretty good history of bands springing up going by a name identical to a famous album by an older one in a similar genre, and often times not sounding like the other as well. The German Mob Rules only carries loose similarities with the Dio era of Black Sabbath that numerous other power metal bands also carry, the Romanian outfit Magica bears a closer similarity to the likes of Nightwish and Oratory than the famed Dio LP of 12 years prior, and evidently the Austrian born Ecliptica is not an outright Sonata Arctica clone. While the latter of these 3 examples would seem to be a recent newcomer to the field, this is only due to a lack of label support up until just recently, and with it has come a posh album cover and production job to boot, hence the creature that is “Journey Saturine”.

As far as breakout albums go, this one definitely conforms itself to the tendencies of the present. Unlike the late 90s era where this style was noted for its speed, soaring high vocals and epic sensibilities, what is found here is much closer to the mid-tempo, rock infused sound that has been pushed by the likes of Masterplan and Battle Beast. Granted, this is an album that isn’t terribly keyboard heavy either, but the rudimentary riff work and slower tempo is definitely indicative of this approach. If it were not for the signature arena-style chorus refrains and the familiar chord scheme that the power metal style is known for, this album would probably find a more appropriate home amongst the recent string of traditional heavy metal revivalist acts that Battle Beast falls into.

There are really two driving forces that keep this album from becoming redundant in spite of the extremely formulaic and simplistic songwriting, namely the vocals and the lead breaks. Tomas Tieber has one of those stereotypically clean yet somewhat gravely styles that is pretty indicative of a 80s metal influence, probably taking a fair share of nods from Jorn Lande and Jon Gioeli. The female vocalist is a bit weaker, not quite being able to fully commit to either a dirty style in the mold of Doro Pesch or the more stereotypically gothic sound common to most female fronted bands. Her performance on the lone throwaway song “Without You” (arguably the worst ballad ever written by a power metal band that even the likes of Tesla probably wouldn’t touch) goes back and forth from being grating and merely uninspiring. The lead guitar work is where things really slide, conjuring up images of the stellar material that Roland Grapow has been putting out since exiting Helloween, mixed with a little bit of Henjo Richter.

While this is not really the greatest thing to ever come out of the genre, those who like their songs catchy and to the point will find plenty to grab onto here. The greatest weakness this album has is that despite the male vs. female vocal niche that hasn’t been quite as common in this genre lately, the songs do tend to run together a bit. Nothing really stands out as being the song to isolate from the rest of the pack, apart from maybe “Condition Crest Falling” which sneaks in a slight hint of the older speed metal infused approach to this style and has a strong driving melody to it. With the exception of the last song, nothing on here is weak, nor is anything overtly spellbinding. It’s just one solid straight line of celebratory metal that will likely rope in plenty of diehard fans of Hammerfall and Dream Evil.

Don't quit your day jobs, guys (and girls) - 41%

Metal_Detector, February 21st, 2012

I do have to give Ecliptica some credit. After looking at that band name, that vaguely (ahem) familiar logo, and even the somewhat flashy cover art, I think most would reach the same hypothesis as to what to expect here. However, Ecliptica throws an unexpected curveball; they are, in fact, not an exact copy of Sonata Arctica, as you no doubt noticed I was suggesting earlier. However, they don't completely escape the lull of humdrum genericism, either. Journey Saturnine is a (mostly) inoffensive, but entirely predictable and formulaic album.

For the most part, Ecliptica plays par for the course, safe power metal songs. This isn't the kind of PM with extreme, florid keyboards or speed, however, and frankly I'm not sure whether the band could handle such a style. There isn't exactly evidence of a plethora of unique talents showing through here, but that could simply be the result of just how restrained this material is. Nothing is particularly offensive about Journey Saturnine (apart from one abysmal song); it's just sort of... well, there. Too many midpaced clunkers with shoddy, simplistic riffs crowd the track-listing, and too few of the songs deviating from this repetitive scheme contain any convincing hooks to remember.

The most questionable department here is definitely the vocals. They're so hit or miss it's almost unbelievable. Thomas Tieber gives a decent effort without showing too much range, reminding me of Evergrey's vocalist in some respects. Apart from his average, clean performance, however, the other attempts fail on a sometimes humorously awful level. Some harsh vox are provided in a few tracks, and both their utilization and execution are awkward at best. The female singing is absolutely atrocious. I can't tell if their overt throatiness or tone of apathy are intentional, but I do know for sure that it's not working. Like, at all; maybe for a 70s blues band, but not Ecliptica.

The absolute nadir of Journey Saturnine comes in the form of "Without You," which basically redefines how low one can go with a power ballad: putrid vocals, coma-inducing melodies, and truly mind-numbing songwriting. If this track had come in the middle of the album, I honestly would have stopped listening to it entirely. It's that bad. As it stands though, this is just a slightly below average power metal album that will fade from memory shortly after listening. It's not bad to affront the senses, but if I was in Ecliptica, I certainly wouldn't quit my day job just yet. Just try harder next time.

(http://metallicfaithimmortal.blogspot.com/)