Swedish hard rockers Eclipse have been bubbling under for quite some time now. The quality of the material produced over the years has always been staggering, and it’s puzzling why they have yet to break through the barrier. They play solid hard rock with melodies to die for, totally unfashionable and refreshingly trend-free. It’s Sweden after all. It might not be the birthplace of rock n’ roll, but it can lay claim to be the current residential abode of melodic hard rock. Add the sublime songwriting skills of Erik Martensson to the mix and it’s a recipe for success, or at least it should be. Remember we are living in a time when Ed Sheeran can make the most patronising single about Ireland ever and no-one bats an eyelid about how contrived it actually is. Anyway, tonight brings three bands together from Sweden, Finland, and Denmark… without a tin whistle in sight.
The doors open and the queue snakes up the stairs at The Cathouse. Soundgarden are getting played at full volume on the PA system… but it’s not Soundgarden… it’s the first band, Franklin Zoo. The Danes have taken to the stage as the crowd saunter in, only to realise that there is a band on. With a sound fuelled by the Seattle scene, Franklin Zoo raise a few eyebrows as they are way heavier than the other two bands on the bill. Vocalist Rasmus Revsbech is quite an intense frontman. He has the angry glare of a young Phil Anselmo mixed with the wry sense of humour of Devin Townsend. After a few songs, he asks the crowd if the music makes them want to kill themselves? It’s not quite full-on mournful Alice In Chains, but it is grunge… but grunge 2017 style. The riffs crush, the drums pound and heads get banged. ‘No One’s Slave’ being a perfect mix of all three. Franklin Zoo make enough waves in their short stage time to ensure that next time they come to town, word will have spread.
If Franklin Zoo are influenced by Seattle, then One Desire are heavily influenced by the 80’s. Unashamed, unapologetic, it’s the 80’s all the way for the Finns, and judging by the One Desire (sorry but I refuse to abbreviate it to 1D) shirts amongst the crowd, they have found a following. When the band break into ‘Hurt’, vocalist Andre Linman is genuinely taken aback by the fact that people are singing along. None of that fake not-actually-singing-just-pretending-to that we got away with in school, people are actually singing the correct words! His joy is infectious and heart-warming. Throughout the thirty minute set, he is constantly in a state of bewilderment. Considering that the band have only been together for a short time, and they only just recently played their first ever gig, they are very comfortable on stage. Guitarist, Jimmy Westerlund has an illustrious past as a producer, guitarist, and songwriter, which gives him invaluable experience, but the first steps that a fledgling band make on the live stage are what gives them chops. It’s obvious to all in attendance that these guys have chops by the bucket load. A short but powerful set that meant headliners Eclipse had to bring their “A” game… and bring it they did
Any doubts about Eclipse being overshadowed by what came before quickly evaporated as soon as they kicked into the opening pairing of ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Never Look Back’. A pair of fantastic slices of melodic hard rock that also serve as the opening tracks on current album ‘Monumentum’. Eclipse are masters of stagecraft, with vocalist Erik Martensson covering every inch multiple times in the opening few moments. To his left stands his partner in crime, guitarist Magnus Henriksson. Looking every inch the cool-as-fuck guitarslinger that every rock band needs, he peels off riff after riff, and makes it look so easy. On the opposite side is über-cool bassist Magnus Ulfstedt, the man responsible for laying down the meaty chunks. At the back sits drummer Philip Crusner, the latest recruit to Eclipse, a showman in every sense of the word. Sitting high up behind his illuminated kit, all hair and twirling drumsticks, he is mesmerizing to watch. Anyone who performs a drum solo to Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ gets my attention, no matter what.
‘Monumentum’ is as perfect an example of a classic melodic hard rock album as you’ll hear this year. Forming the bulk of the set, the new songs sound massive live. ‘Hurt’, ‘Killing Me’, ‘Jaded’, and the beautiful ‘The Downfall Of Eden’ all impress, as does the heaviest track on the album, ‘Black Rain’. Beginning with a few softer chords from Henriksson, it quickly ramps up the intensity as the rest of Eclipse crash in. Martensson helps out by strapping on a stunning white flying V that has the musos drooling. Older tracks like ‘The Storm’, ‘Wake Me Up’, ‘Blood Enemies’, and ‘Runaways’ mix in with the newer tracks perfectly. The acoustic segment of ‘Live Like I’m Dying’, followed by ‘Battlegrounds’, is a particular highlight. Martensson is very confident on stage, and constantly converses with the crowd. He is proud of the latest album, and makes sure that everyone knows it, which leads to one of the most bizarre moments I’ve ever seen at a gig. As he’s telling the audience how he knows it’s a cliché but he feels that ‘Monumentum’ is their best album to date, some nugget shouts out “No it’s not! (inaudible) is better!“. It’s not even someone in the crowd having a laugh, the guy is serious. Considering that he’s only a few feet away from the stage, he could be heard. The same guy was constantly telling Martensson to “Turn up the guitars. Turn up the drums“. Again, he could be heard, so Martensson flashed a “What do you want ME to do?” gesture at said nugget. Best comparison I can make is that it was a bit like the asshole in the movie ‘Happy Gilmore’ who is getting paid to heckle Adam Sandler. When Crusner finished his drum solo, ‘Happy Gilmore’ guy shouts out “No more solos! Play songs“. Very, very bizarre. The dude was a fan, as he knew all the words, but sweet baby Jesus, he sure had a funny way of showing it. Thankfully, this didn’t interrupt the evening that much, as the majority of the crowd couldn’t hear him.
As the venue has a club night, curfew was looming, and at one point it looked like no encore. Thankfully, after a brief conference at the side of the stage, the band were able to blast their way through both ‘I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry’ and ‘Bleed And Scream’ in quick succession. Bows were taken, photographs were taken, and Martensson signalled for everyone to turn about and head to the merchandise stand, where the band will gladly sign for everyone. I couldn’t get near them!
This gig was a long time coming… long overdue, but well worth the wait.
Review: Dave Stott
Images used with kind permission from Mark Rutherford and Shock City Productions