With each album Eclipse’s reputation is finally spreading beyond the confines of the small but loyal melodic rock community. There was a significantly higher crowd to see them at a packed Borderline than on their previous visits, and yet what was meant to be something of a breakthrough London show almost ended in disaster when, just two songs in, the place was evacuated due to a fire alert, which luckily proved to be a false alarm.
With an all Scandinavian triple bill to fit in ahead of an early Saturday curfew, I arrived to only catch the last two songs of Danes Franklin Zoo, but formed the impression they were a mismatch on the bill with a rather alternative sound, particularly the grunge influenced vocals of shaven-headed Rasmus Revsbech. It wasn’t just the music that had a dark tinge – I was shocked at the nondescript black and chrome of the new look Borderline, even though space was used better, and that no attempt had been made to maintain the place’s original character.
At the other end of the melodic rock spectrum, Finns One Desire have made a spectacular entrance onto the scene in 2017 with their debut album gaining traction, and were eagerly anticipated with several people at the front already visibly into the music as if they had known it all their life.
The rich hooks and melody of opener ‘Hurt’ sums up all the classic hallmarks of melodic rock, and it was great to see a contemporary AOR band putting keyboards – from a real player! – high in the mix, especially so on this and the big choruses of ‘Apologize’, yet the live sound and the rhythm section in particular was heavier than the slightly poppy production that marred the album, and gave fresh weight to both ‘Turn Back Time’ and the fun ‘Love Injection’.
Singer Andre Linnan has a confident manner and looks the rock god with his long dark hair and guitar tilted upwards, with an accent that appeared more American than Finnish, although the impact of his and Jimmy Westerlund’s guitar interplay was dulled by some sound issues.
Other than some occasional uncertainties as to when Andre and the backing vocalists were meant to be covering each other, it was hard to believe with their assured stage presence that they have only recently started touring, and the way the big ballad ‘This is Where The Heartbreak Begins’ was followed by the upbeat ‘Whenever I’m Dreaming’ and the metallic Erik Martensson co-write ‘Buried Alive’ showed they can cover a variety of bases too. An all too short 35 minute set confirmed the promise of their album in thrilling fashion.
Eclipse’s approach is rather more primal – sure, their songs have that typical Scandinavian melody but they are an uncompromising live act following the basic guitar-bass-drums format, with no fluffy keyboards in sight.
Like their fellow countryman Ingemar Stenmark, they fairly exploded out of the starting gate with the two swaggering openers from their great new album ‘Monumentum’ in ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Never Look Back’ which already had people chanting along and jumping about, until the unscheduled fire drill.
When they reassembled nearly half an hour later, with a delicious sense of irony the first song was ‘The Storm’, opening with the lyrics ‘this is an emergency’! However the interruption was unfortunate as the gig naturally took a while to build up again.
Quite apart from his noted songwriting ability, Erik Martensson is a brilliant frontman with an energetic stage presence and a fresh faced boy next door image which even a pair of sideburns failed to dispel. Sporting a rather natty hat, guitarist Magnus Henriksson is his perfect foil and it was not just his studiously crouched pose nor the flying V style guitar he played for much of the set that led me to draw Michael Schenker comparisons.
‘Wake Me Up’ showed a blistering pace but it was the new songs which formed a generous proportion of the set including ’Killing Me’ and ‘Jaded’.
One of the few criticisms levelled against Eclipse has been a lack of variety, so in addition to a near ballad in ‘Hurt’ it was particularly welcome when Erik, with acoustic guitar, and Magnus performed a stripped down segment which included not only ‘Live Like I’m Dying’ but a totally rearranged version of the usual celtic-themed stomp ‘Battlegrounds’.
However any new converts would have been surprised just how heavy they were, with a rollicking ‘Blood Enemies’ and ‘Stand On Your Feet’, albeit the latter with a typically anthemic chorus. However new song ‘Black Rain’ epitomised this metallic edge better than any, with Erik’s statement they had been trying to write another ‘Heaven And Hell’ not misplaced.
The set was longer than on previous visits, though I could have done without guitar and drum solos. In addition the sound quality was rather uneven from where I was stood – ‘Downfall Of Eden’ did not quite carry the studio crunch while on a couple of occasions, such as ‘I Don’t Want To Say I’m Sorry’, I felt Erik was struggling to make his voice heard and the fact he was fiddling with his earpiece suggested all was not quite well with the sound.
They closed with an interesting departure in a song ‘Runaways’ which they had written in a vain attempt to bring rock to Eurovision. It was interesting that Erik introduced the final encore of the classic title track from 2012’s ‘Bleed And Scream’ as where it all began, as the set is now exclusively from their three most recent, and heaviest, albums with 2008’s excellent breakthrough ‘Are You Ready To Rock’ rather unfairly ignored.
With a few minor gripes, the show confirmed Eclipse’s status as one of the most consistently excellent of the current generation of bands, and one who deserve the wider audience they are gradually attracting. They certainly lit a fire under the Borderline, even if luckily it was a metaphorical rather than actual one.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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