Review Summary: A highly accessible, yet gloriously epic and cheesy collection of everything you can love or hate about the Swedish guitar phenomenon.
Nowadays in 2018, Yngwie Johan Malmsteen is currently seen as one of the most critically reviled, laughed-out, “past-his-prime” artist in the heavy metal scene which is quite a sad state of things. Of course one has to admit that the maestro himself did everything in his power to devalue his own legacy with increasingly worsening albums over the past decade which were filled with diminished and repetitive songwriting, excessive instrumentals, boredom and Yngwie putting himself in a position which he smartly avoided for many years: trying to sing.
But let us forget the present for a few moments and travel back to the more glorious past. Three decades ago, this man was a bone-fide god of the six-string instrument, an unmatchable force of nature everybody marveled and envied…and also a pretty damn good songwriter and artist as well. It’s not just Yngwie’s blazing speed and violin-like playing that made a huge impact on the metal scene, but his recognizable brand of songs which had the energy, the speed, the orchestral build-up, the cheesy keyboards and the fantasy setting. From “Rising Star” to “Trilogy” and “Odyssey” to his output in the mid 1990’s Yngwie took major part in shaping the neo-classical influenced power metal into the sound we all know and what nearly all present and future power metal bands build upon.
But other than being an influencer and shredding the strings, Yngwie back then hasn’t forgot the major component of a working studio album: Actual songs with structure, flow, and atmosphere. And also these being written and played with band members that all have equally important part in the grand picture. Even though his band was a constant revolving door of different members right from the start, Yngwie would always find the musicians and singers that could complete his musical vision. This was true for native Swedish singer Göran Edman whose contributions to the early 90’s Yngwie albums were significant.
Like his predecessors Edman had the high vocal range but it was the mellow, soulful harmonies that played an important factor in the record’s overall sound. 1990’s “Eclipse” fully embraced the more accessible, commercialized hard rock/shred metal sound that Yngwie stepped on with “Odyssey” where the focus was less on his trailblazing guitar skills and reimagining old classical pieces into extended solos. Almost every song on “Eclipse” have a powerful, dynamic, radio-ready hard rock vibe with precise, robust mid-tempos and ballads cheesy enough to qualify on any 80’s AOR record.
The speed and energy is mostly confined in Yngwie’s solos, but the band’s playing and songwriting is full with confident and diverse approach. One of my favorite examples for the teamwork in “Eclipse” is in the middle section of “Motherless Child” where after the usual Malmsteen arpeggios, keyboardist Mats Olausson (R.I.P.) joins in for a short but witty solo as well. It is a small moment, yet it adds to the song and feels a natural conclusion to a song section before Edman’s vocals return. “Eclipse” has these interactions throughout which makes the usual material all the more enjoyable.
The album oscillates mostly between the energetic power metal tracks like “Making Love” and “Judas”, and the heartfelt ballads such as “Save Our Love”. Personally I find the former more enjoyable, as the latter often pushed the cheese factor to the dangerous line that separates it from unintentional self-parody. But as one can expect restraint certainly can’t be found on “Eclipse” evidenced as such awesomely over-the-top and bombastic rollercoasters such as “What Do you Want” or “See you in Hell” which is a pure speed metal bliss in the vain of the “Trilogy” era Yngwie records complete with multiple solo sections and neo-classical touches.
Aside from Edman’s vocals and the high quality musicianship, “Eclipse” also benefits from a very well balanced and dynamic production thanks to the watchful eyes and ears of legendary sound studio engineer Bob Ludwig whose expertise certainly made sure the numerous instruments don’t become a muddled mess like certain later year Yngwie stuff. The overall consistency both in the songwriting and delivery that makes “Eclipse” a quality and well refined chapter in Malmsteen’s discography. It may not enjoy the groundbreaking cult status of his earliest solo material but it’s undeniable power metal excellence.