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One part Bryan Adams‘s “Run To You” and another part late-’80s BON JOVI, ECLIPSE‘s “Dead Inside”, the bonus track from the band’s latest album, is a window into how contemporary hard rock music might sound today if grunge didn’t brainwash American radio programmers a generation ago into thinking that yorbeling — the vocal “technique” (also known as warbling and yarling) employed by the likes of Vedder, Weiland, Stapp, Kroeger and numerous other acts featured at a Danny Wimmer Presents festival near you — is an acceptable and enjoyable style of singing. The song features five exhilarating minutes of music that begin with a deceptively hooky guitar line that quickly builds into a driving, infectious anthem that would turn the heads of even Desmond Child and Jim Vallance.
It’s also “just” a bonus track on ECLIPSE‘s new album, “Wired”. How any band can write a song this good and consider it a throwaway is a mystery, but apparently Erik Mårtensson — the band’s vocalist, producer and songwriter — continues to reap the benefits of whatever devil he bargained with at his Swedish crossroads a dozen years ago, when the debut album from W.E.T. (his side project with SONS OF APOLLO vocalist Jeff Scott Soto and WORK OF ART‘s Robert Sall) kicked off an incredible run of high-quality melodic rock releases to which he’s contributed. “Wired” is yet another impressive feather in his cap, dripping with instantly memorable anthems (there’s that word again) and a repeat-listenability factor that — with all due respect to H.E.A.T, another excellent Swedish hard rock group who graduated with honors from the university of Mutt Lange and Bruce Fairbairn — is simply without peer in modern AOR.

“Wired” also gives Mårtensson the chance to show off a few new tricks. It might not be as drastic as Dylan going electric, but his recent switch to Gretsch guitars has added a new timbre to ECLIPSE‘s music, much like his embrace of lilting, Gary Moore-like melodies on the group’s recent albums. Advance single “Bite The Bullet” is a perfect example. After opening with an uncharacteristically snarling riff, the song pauses for an extended musical break that eschews a traditional solo in favor of a moody, reverb-drenched guitar passage that sounds like frequent David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti scoring a duel in an imaginary western.

While Mårtensson is a master of building to choruses expeditiously, he’s also continuing to learn that sometimes, giving songs room to breathe makes them even more memorable. “Run For Cover” — which also features the new Gretsch influence, as well as a dazzling, letter-perfect solo by Mårtensson‘s musical Robin, Magnus Henriksson — could have easily been a standard-fare, very good three-and-a-half minute ECLIPSE song, but by giving it more time to plead its case (much like “When The Winter Ends” on 2019’s excellent “Paradigm”), the track becomes a standout. Its final 90 seconds are pure musical bliss that wouldn’t sound out of place on a SAVATAGE rock opera.

Speaking of SAVATAGE, “Twilight” gives Mårtensson a chance to mash up that band’s sister group, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, with his well-documented affection for EUROPE. An uber-melodic, instantly infectious earworm with call-and-response vocals, the song’s coda sees Mårtensson‘s impassioned cries of “whoa” give way to a STEELHEART-worthy scream that’s accompanied by the strains of Beethoven‘s “Ode To Joy”. In less capable hands, the result would be musical goulash, but here, it works to perfection.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of “Wired” is that Mårtensson sequenced the album differently for CD and streaming services than he did for vinyl, and not because of side-length limitations. The analog version of the album opens with initial preview track “Saturday Night (Hallelujah)” , a bouncy and upbeat blast of sonic positivity that pays homage to the likes of “Working For The Weekend” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, followed by the aforementioned “Twilight”. The digital versions, meanwhile, commence with the comparatively aggressive “Roses On Your Grave” and “Dying Breed”. Other songs are sequenced differently as well, which begs the question of how best to consider an album in an era dominated by playlists and singles – that is, is it simply a collection of songs where the arc and flow are now irrelevant? (Repeat listens to both sequences yielded no additional insight, but your mileage may vary.)

Notably, the vinyl edition features another excellent bonus track, “Ain’t No Fun”, that’s exclusive to the format — and even more interestingly, it’s sequenced as song #3 on the LP rather than being tacked on at the end. Thirty-five years ago, a track like this would have topped the “Dial MTV” countdown for weeks, but in 2021, it’s just another standout ECLIPSE song on just another standout ECLIPSE album.

The year began with the release of W.E.T.‘s fourth album, my review of which concluded with this line: “Unless (Mårtensson) has another trick up his 2021 sleeve, fans of melodic hard rock won’t have a more transcendent listening experience this year.” Perhaps it’s fitting that “Wired” is being released in October, as this trick is pure treat.

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