A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there was a time of big hair, spandex, and bigger guitar riffs. Yes, I’m talking about the 80’s. Being of an “advanced age”, I grew up in a time when bands like Journey, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Dokken, and others ruled the airways, MTV (when they still played music), and arena concert stages. This was a time before social media, iTunes, and YouTube, when the only way you discovered new bands was either word of mouth or print magazines like Circus, Hit Parader, and Metal Edge.
Then came the dark times, the 90’s, in the U.S. the music scene seemed to change over night. Gone were the flashy costumes, party attitude, and hard rock anthems, replaced with grunge music, a genre of music that featured tortured individuals like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, the poster boy for this new movement, singing about their pain and a “life sucks and then you die” mentality.
Luckily, a new generation of musicians has taken up the mantle for arena rock, bands such as Brother Firetribe, Dynazty, Pink Cream 69, Voodoo Circle, and others have carried on the tradition of huge melodic choruses, rocking riffs, and stadium ready anthemic rock. You can also include Sweden’s Eclipse in this new breed of hard rock.
Formed in 1999 by singer Erik Mårtensson , the band has just released its fifth studio album titled Armageddonize. If the title reminds you of 80’s era Def Leppard you are not alone, but Eclipse’s sound harkens back to earlier harder rocking Def Lep albums like High & Dry or Pyromania rather than the pop rock of their Hysteria/Adrenalize years.
Now let me be clear, Eclipse may play 80’s style arena rock, but this is no retro act or parody comedy band like Steel Panther. Eclipse play energetic, high voltage, kick ass rock n roll with a slight metal edge. Mårtensson has the perfect blend of lead vocal swagger and charisma to power the band as its frontman. Mårtensson and guitarist Magnus Henriksson are also skilled producers and songwriters, working with a vast amount of bands and projects, from the successful W.E.T. albums (together with singer Jeff Scott Soto and Robert Sall from Work of Art) to Toby Hitchcock, Giant, Jimi Jamison, Dalton, and Adrenaline Rush.
That hard work shows as the production and sound quality of Armageddonize is HUGE and powerful. The album kicks off with an AOR anthem called I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry, filled with melodic hooks and a fantastic catchy chorus. The next track Stand On Your Feet keeps the energy flowing with a monster riff and another soaring killer chorus. The next song, The Storm is AOR/hard rock perfection with a soaring vocal harmony and the tight thumping rhythm section of Robban Back (drums) and Magnus Ulfstedt (bass) gets the spotlight on a song that was made to be performed in 20,000 seat arenas on a song that has a classic Journey vibe.
Blood Enemies is a fist-pumping rocker with a sing-a-long chorus (although slightly repetitive) with down and dirty lead vocals, and a bluesy rocking guitar riff. Keyboardist Johan Berlin adds a sweet keyboard melody to the ultra-melodic Wide Open and guitarist Henriksson shows his talents on the fretboard with a killer solo. What would an AOR hard rock album be without the requisite power ballad? Well Eclipse has that covered on Live Like I’m Dying Every Day. This is a powerful ballad that will have the audience’s lighters flickering (or cell phones for the new generation!).
The band shows of their bluesier side on the steady pounding bass drum rock of Breakdown, complete with rocking slide guitar and some great blues vocals from Erik. The band shows of their heavier side on the fast and furious Love Bites. Despite the title, the song reminds me more of current Pretty Maids than Def Leppard. This song is an absolute monster track and shows the band can turn up the adrenaline when needed.
Caught Up In The Rush is another nasty heavy rocker that will have fans clapping along to its steady driving rhythm and killer chorus. One Life – My Life is another great hard rocker where Mårtensson shows off his vocal range with great success. The album closes with the heaviest track on it the reckless and rocking All Died Young, yet another gem on an album full of classic AOR/ hard rock brilliance.
This album won’t change the world, but listening to Armageddonize made me nostalgic for hard rocks great past as well as optimistic for the future of rock. Highly recommended for fans of H.E.A.T., Pretty Maids, Pink Cream 69, and Brother Firetribe.