While most bands mellow like wine with age Sweden's Eclipse have followed a different trajectory becoming heavier over the course of their thirteen year career. Bleed & Scream, the band's fourth release, showcases these stellar musicians at the apex of their creativity and aggression. Having slowly shed the melodic hard pop of their early days, this album is pure unadulterated metallic rock of the classiest variety.
Each song glimmers strongly with its own unique identity proving the Swedes have worked hard at evolving their craft rather than finding a "formula" and riding it out. Stand out tracks like "Bleed & Scream" "SOS" "Wake Me Up" & "A Bitter Taste" are as different from one another as they are from any other bands in the melodic metal scene. After a decade of writing, this skill deserves more applause than it gets.
The trademark high pitched vocals of Erik Mårtensson are powerful and harmonious without ever grating or sounding cliche. Mårtensson's penchant for hooks, harmonies and multi-instrumental writing are largely why the man has become the go-to producer and backing vocalist for the melodic metal elite such as Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen, W.E.T.) and Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner). This collection of songs features Erik handling four string duties quite convincingly as well as penning his darkest most epic lyrics to date.
As expected the guitar mastery of Magnus Henriksson is on full display. Magnus is one of the most underrated six string virtuosos in the business. His impeccable right hand keeps the rhythms chugging at light speed while the chord choices and phrasing are constantly pushing the boundaries without treading the same tepid waters as many shred-by-numbers metal guitarists. When it comes to guitar solos Magnus has a knack for the tasteful, tearing off subtle neoclassical flourishes and soulful melodic bends with equal aplomb.
Perhaps the most notable advance between 2008's Are You Ready To Rock and this new platter is the prominence of drummer Robban Bäck and his increased role in the mix and tempo of the music. With a crisp, modern metal production that pushes Bäck's percussion to the front of the mix, the songs become more dangerous and immediate. Increased amounts of double kick overdrive and outstanding ride cymbal technique showcase the drums more than previous releases giving the album a power metal pulse that was only hinted at in years past.
Rounding out the production are the layers of lush synth provided by keyboardist Johan Berlin which add both a timeless vintage quality as well as a progressive edge not felt on earlier recordings. As the title implies, Bleed & Scream is not an album for the laid back AOR set to relax to while they read the Sunday paper. This beastly Mach IV version of Eclipse is unapologetically pissed off metal to blast loudly, pedal to floor as you race your car to the edge of a cliff.
RATING - 100/100 - The only thing preventing their past two LPs from perfection was album art that didn't match the quality and style of their music. This time they got it right and the high quality digipak is worth the "add to cart" wait. While Eclipse have cultivated a fresh sound that is 100% unique and identifiable, the nods to the past include: the ferocity of Bark-era Ozzy, the musicality of Odyssey-era Malmsteen and the songcraft of 1987-era Whitesnake wrapped up in an exciting cutting edge package all three bands wish they still possessed. Yeah...it's that good.
This review originally appeared on Pitriff.com