Album Title: Wired
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 8 October 2021
For a number of years now, Eclipse have been one of the biggest names in melodic hard rock circles, and one of my go-to bands when a dose of hard rocking and hook-laden music is what I need. Released around a month ago, it has taken me a while to source the music, something that has only been made possible thanks to a very kind and generous friend (you know who you are, Fluffmeister!) And even then, when playing catch-up, it has taken this long to allow ‘Wired’, the ninth album from the Swedish quartet to receive enough attention to enable a proper review that’s not rushed and half-hearted.
I’m glad that I have taken my time too, because after a first listen, I contacted the aforementioned friend to say that I wasn’t that keen on the album. His response was incredulity to the power of ten, before urging me to try again. In the intervening period, I took his advice and I can honestly say that my opinion has drastically changed. I’m still to be entirely convinced that ‘Wired’ represents their best work, as I still hold 2008’s ‘Are You Ready To Rock’ as their standard-bearer. But the fact is, the more I listen, the more enamoured I become with it, to the point where back-to-back listens have taken place on more than one occasion, and not just because I had to review the album.
Happily, the original duo of Erik Mårtensson (vocals) and guitarist Magnus Henriksson remain at the heart of everything that Eclipse do, with Mårtensson being the catalyst and ring leader. On ‘Wired’, they are joined by drummer Philip Crusner who has been onboard since 2015, and his brother, bassist Victor Crusner who most recently joined Eclipse in 2019.
Now I am well aware that melodic hard rock is a much more commercial style of music than other genres that I happen to listen to. As such, I say the following with care: with ‘Wired’, Eclipse have created an album that is a very commercial and accessible beast, with plenty of aspects that will appeal to an even wider audience than arguably ever before. Part of this has to do with the fact that the music on ‘Wired’ doesn’t solely plunder the 1980s for inspiration; there is a much more modern, contemporary feel to many of the songs that give it the more commercial edge that I hear throughout. And, if I’m honest, this may have been part of the reason why I was a little underwhelmed at the outset. I expected something, I don’t know, a little different I suppose, and ‘Wired’ threw me initially.
What’s not in doubt though, are a number of things, namely the energy, the eventual catchiness of the music once it makes its mark, and the way that the album genuinely rocks hard from beginning to end. There are a couple of slower numbers as is the way with this style of music, but for the most part, the riffs are powerful, the tempo is upbeat, and the songs are strong and infectious. It’s party time and Eclipse are the life and soul.
The opening to ‘Roses On Your Grave’ had me momentarily thinking this was a live record as the sound of a crowd ushers the first track into existence, before a slick, sleazy riff dominates. The verses allow the bass guitar to throb whilst the drums lay down a solid beat, around which Erik Mårtensson belts out his lyrics to great effect. The chorus is big and brash, featuring multiple vocals, whilst the ensuing lead guitar solo is a frantic, dirty affair. It’s a huge statement right out of the gate, one that is maintained as the hook-laden tracks continue apace thanks to the full-on pulsating grower that’s ‘Dying Breed’, the party-time hard rocking stomper that’s ‘Saturday Night (Hallelujah)’. The latter lays on the cheese rather thick, but after the melodies get to work, it’s hard not to get caught up in its infectious positivity.
Then there’s ‘Run For Cover’ that has the vaguest country vibe deep within the bowels of the song, particularly within the arena-sized chorus. It’s a swaggering affair with lots to enjoy, most notably the lyrics which are somehow a little at odds with the music, given their dark vibe. “You’d better run, run for cover, run for your life.” But it all works and culminates in a stonking hard rock song that’ll sound huge on stage, of that there’s little doubt.
By contrast, ‘Carved In Stone’ opens delicately and serenely, with a hint or more of melancholy as the acoustic guitar strums along the crooning Erik Mårtensson. As it develops, it ups the ante until it explodes with real power and intent, the first bona fide anthem on the record – that’s not to denigrate the previous songs, it’s just that this ballad-like number really lets go and delivers in spades.
A word has to be reserved for ‘Twilight’ too, because it’s one of my favourite songs despite the unexpected inclusion of a reprise of the religious hymn ‘Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee’ towards the death. Not sure what it sounds like? One listen to this song and you’ll recognise it, trust me. Alongside the arena-friendly ‘woah-ohs’, it’s a rousing finale to a high-power track, easily one of my favourites on the record.
Elsewhere, I love the sheer unadulterated heaviness found within the bulldozing ‘Bite The Bullet’. The rhythm brothers do a fabulous job at setting a strong beat, drums and bass working almost telepathically together. But the riffs from Henriksson are equally as striking, full of fully flexed muscle and bravado, adding to the darker tone that this song sets overall. It’s proof if it were ever required that melodic hard rock can be properly heavy without ditching the hooks. The final act is rousing and so strong that it begs repeated listens, immediately.
However, for me, the best is saved for last in the form of ‘Dead Inside’. The sound of thunder brings the song to life before a killer melody is unleashed; this is arguably the most 80s-influenced over-the-top rocker on ‘Wired’ and it is irresistible. Erik Mårtensson delivers a devastating vocal performance particularly within the rousing chorus, whilst the synths are turned up to eleven, and the melodies continue to make me weak at the knees. And therein lies the one bone I’d pick if I had to – I would have loved a couple more tracks like this that sound fresh and invigorating whilst also paying homage to the past a little more. That aside, it’s fair to say that the Mårtensson-mobile otherwise known as Eclipse, has delivered another fantastic album full of hard rocking, melodic, feel-good music. When it’s done this well, just give in to it, you’ll not regret it.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: