rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

1. The Hardest Part Is Losing You
2. Got It!
3. Anthem
4. Children of the Night
5. Hearts Collide
6. I Don't Get It
7. The Broken
8. So Long, Farewell, Goodbye
9. High Road
10. One Step Closer to You
11. Forgiven

Over the past 15 years, Erik Mårtensson has compiled a melodic rock track record that's — pardon the pun — second to none. In that time, he's co-anchored three modern AOR supergroups (NORDIC UNION, AMMUNITION and W.E.T. ); collaborated in the studio with the likes of THE CRUEL INTENTIONS, THERION and CHEZ KANE; and now issued seven of the nine albums to date by his primary musical vehicle, ECLIPSE.

The latter group's spunky new release, "Megalomanium", finds Mårtensson and his bandmates in something of a molting phase throughout its brisk 38 minutes, while their more-hooks-than-a-tackle-box brand of hard rock is still as anthemic as ever, they've incorporated some fresh power-pop and borderline pop-punk influences this time around — or as the band themselves put it recently when introducing a new song, "ECLIPSE + Rick Springfield + RAMONES".

On that track ("Got It!") and the album's knockout lead single "The Hardest Part Is Losing You", ECLIPSE has never sounded more urgent. Mårtensson's songs rarely waste time getting to the chorus, but here, it's almost as if he's dared himself to shed any and all unnecessary window dressing — the musical equivalent of no wasted movement — and pack as much punch as possible into potent three-and-a-half-minute earworms. The results are exhilarating, and both are impressive additions to Mårtensson's already master-level portfolio.

It can be a double-edged sword to forge new ground, though, as in doing so, bands risk losing some of their identity. In ECLIPSE's case, the group's previous five albums constitute a remarkably consistent decade of top-shelf melodic rock, during which the band gradually increased the incorporation of lilting, Gary Moore-like melodies first heard on 2012's "Battlegrounds" and later perfected on 2019's "Viva La Victoria". While yes, similar melodies pepper the "Megalomanium" sonic landscape occasionally ("Anthem", "Forgiven" and "Hearts Collide", most notably),  they feel comparatively few and far between. Whether that's a bad thing is in the ear of the beholder, but it's interesting nonetheless that the new album sees the group pulling back somewhat after several records' worth of developing a sonic trademark.

Another missing piece of the puzzle here is a Mårtensson ballad. Songs like "When The Winter Ends", "Shelter Me" and "Hurt" have added depth and color to the band's previous records, but "Megalomanium" maintains its high energy level throughout and prioritizes peppy singalongs over lighter-waving poignancy. Perhaps that's just a residual effect of the obvious chemistry Mårtensson shares with his longtime guitarist Magnus Henriksson and the brothers Crusner, Victor (bass) and Philip (drums); perhaps he was more inspired to write a middle-finger song ("So Long, Farewell, Goodbye") this time around instead; or perhaps he's just saving his next tear-jerker for W.E.T.'s forthcoming fifth album. And speaking of Victor, "High Road" sees the bassist provide lead vocals for the first time, but even without Mårtensson front and center, it admirably still sounds like an ECLIPSE song.

"We are unstoppable; we are unbreakable," Mårtensson sings on "One Step Closer To You", the album's penultimate song. Those words might seem braggadocious, but as long as ECLIPSE keeps making records like "Megalomanium", it's the truth (and a little bit more).

Author: Clay Marshall
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