Did you ever buy something without really looking at what’s in the box? Or else, you thought you knew what you got, but the holy unwrapping ceremony brought something slightly different to light?
Such a thing quite often is the reviewer’s fate. Relatively little time is attributed to scouting, there is so much material. And whilst first impressions are often uncannily correct, there are cases where a record reveals its true face later. Sometimes to the point that a promo will finally not get a review.
Eldritch‘s 12th full-length album EOS is one of these special cases. It already starts with the album cover. Look at the illustration with the figure worshipping the sun. Did you spot it? Now, LOOK at it again. What do you see? Some sort of a Janus head, a two-faced being. One turned towards the light, and the other one venerating the darkness.
So, here we go. It’s gonna be Progressive Metal, they said. It’s gonna be good, they said. And indeed, the intro – Dead Blossom – whispers of Haken-esque delights. Yet, once the next track hits, we find ourselves in speedy Power Metal territory. One with a true penchant towards tech, but things already get slippery with cheese. So, that one turned quickly around.
Yet, the RMR crew here took a fancy to a more tech-oriented brand Eldritch presents this time. EOS gorges with insane hooks that run on a foundation of rock-solid drumming. And tech practically guarantees some delightful shredding with a few wild solos all along the record. Which is no different here.
Yet often, the tech element is used to deck otherwise unremarkable tracks out with some spice, so they won’t be sent to the oubliette straight. And that, unfortunately, will take some of the shine and glamour away. Yet, in the great theme of things, those are minor quibbles.
One of EOS‘ main strengths but – yet again – also one of its weaknesses is the songwriting. From the accessible clean voice vocals to sometimes stellar solos with often insane shredding, it’s all there. Refrains to dream for, tech that is good enough to pull you along1), electro, thrash, and full-blown Progressive Metal.
But the piece often feels like that insanely good-looking chocolate pudding you’d like to devour. Only, it’s too rich because the wannabe 5-star dude with the funky white hat stuffed it with a ton of cream and half a dozen chocolate flavors. Not inedible, but lethal to your innards if you overdo it. In other words, the band fills their songs to the brim with all sorts of different style directions. Probably to ensure that everyone will find something they like. That speaks volumes for the great musicianship on display, but it also made this reviewer feel somewhat lost at sea on some stretches of the record.
And sometimes EOS tries a bit too hard to hit that terrible mainstream and sports a tendency to overheat that fondue pot. Cheese is an ingredient of all things Power Metal, of course, but here we’ll soon be in need of a full-blown cauldron. And their taste for glam won’t necessarily make the Gods o’ Metal smile on them, progressive or not. Or how else would one explain that sugar-sweet ballad or the nostalgic appearance of Bon Jovi’s Runaway in cover form? And now you made me listen to the cranky voice of ‘that guy’ all over again, thanks band.2)
All the above notwithstanding, Eldritch landed some truly remarkable tracks on EOS. Fear Me, for instance, gets you a speedy and often patchwork selection of elements that come nearest to some of the wilder Progressive Metal outfits we encountered lately. And that even if that song tries to run away to power and thrash land all the time.
But the band also sacrifices to the harsher realms of the prog multiverse. The Awful Closure could very well have found a space on one of the often difficult Nevermore pieces. And this one sports one of the best solos on EOS. The pretty excellent Circle kind of runs along that same vein. And it does showcase some true prog power that we should have had more of on this record.
So finally, what appeared to us at first sight as one of those red-hot prog pieces, ended in a motley selection of styles, impressions, flavors, and tastes. But: Eldritch sent us a wild but generally well-written piece of Progressive Power Metal on a roll, complete with all those accouterments such records usually contain.
EOS may not be fodder for our annual top 10 right now, but we’ll file this record away with a notice to return to their discography and stay on the lookout for more material from this band. This is a good record that will resonate with fans of this genre and will sound like a friggin’ thunderclap on stage.
Way to go, folks.
Record Rating: 6/10 | Label: Scarlet Records | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 19 November 2021